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Yoga 4 Classrooms at Peterborough Elementary School

  • Peterborough Elementary School third-graders Wyatt Hutchinson, left, and Jack Craig stretch during their weekly yoga session on Thursday.
  • From left, third-graders Hudson Osgood, Taylor Upham, Wyatt Hutchinson and Jack Craig stretch.<br/><br/><br/>Any others?
  • Sarah Aborn leads Janice Hughes' first-grade class in a boat pose on Thursday.
  • Third-graders Meara McClusky and Fletcher Maggs practice the corkscrew pose.
  • Sarah Aborn, right, leads a group of Peterborough Elementary School third-graders in the washing machine pose.
  • Owen Howarth, Taylor Upham, Gabi Cote, Sarah Aborn,  Avery Pope and Gwen Inglis, from left, sit calmly and focus on their breathing.

PETERBOROUGH — Mairin Burgess was having a hard time as she struggled with a math test. The third-grader at Peterborough Elementary School couldn’t come up with answers as she stared at a couple of questions.

“They were way hard. I got pretty frustrated and started to cry,” Mairin said Thursday in her classroom, as she recalled her feelings. “Then Mrs. LaRoche said to try my breathing. I did my balloon breath. You say, ‘I can do this. I can do this.’ And it worked.”

Mairin learned the techniques she used to calm herself and regain focus during her class’s weekly yoga session with instructor Sarah Aborn, who’s about to complete a 10-week residency at the school. Aborn, a 35-year-old West Peterborough resident who’s licensed to teach a program called Yoga 4 Classrooms, has been meeting for half-hour sessions once a week with each classroom at the elementary school. She leads the students through a series of yoga poses, some while sitting in a circle on the floor, others while standing or seated in their chairs. They focus on breathing and stretching, and while they meditate Aborn talks quietly about how they can use yoga throughout their day.

In Janice LaRoche’s third-grade class on Tuesday, Aborn described how students can cope with anger or frustration.

“Try to remember a time when you were acting negatively,” she said in a quiet voice, as the students sat quietly in a chair pose, eyes closed and focused on breathing. “We have the power to change our channel when we don’t like our behavior or attitudes.... Rather than lashing out, pause and take a deep breath. Turn to a channel of calm.”

In the “Silent Seconds” portion of the session, the class sat cross-legged on the floor, remaining quiet for three minutes and 37 seconds — a new record.

“That’s wonderful,” Aborn said. “You’ve never gone longer than three minutes before.”

During a break between classes, Aborn said the program has been very well received.

“It’s great. I just love my job, it’s so cool,” she said. “Every kid in this school just loves yoga. They are able to use it during tests, for homework, in spats with friends. My goal is to give them tools to self-regulate.”

Each week’s lesson plan has a special focus, Aborn said.

“This week it was about being clean — both inside and out,” she said. “One week was about breathing. One was about being alone.... There’s a lot more to it than just the physical. The kids get really excited about it and they get better every week. And I love to hear their great little stories about how they use it.”

The program works equally well for children in all the elementary grades. A group of first-graders who worked with Aborn on Thursday enthusiastically called out when asked which routines they liked.

“When we hugged our legs,” volunteered Trey Corliss.

“I like the washing machine,” said Sarah Walter, showing how she turns from side to side with floppy arms waving.

“My favorite’s the desk rest pose,” Justin Borges added.

Jeanie West, a fourth-grade teacher at the school, said her students love the yoga sessions — “They are thrilled when they know Sarah’s coming,” she said — and teachers find the techniques useful as well.

“When we’re in transition, from lunch or the playground to the classroom, they may be all wound up. If they need to relax, you can do some yoga,” West said. “The students decide what they want to do. A student will lead them. Afterward, they’re much more focused. It really kind of transforms the energy in the classroom. I think a lot of that is Sarah’s teaching. She is so good at connecting with the kids and responding to them.”

PES Principal Ben Loi said the program, which is partially sponsored by the Parent Teacher Organization with other funding coming from the school’s cocurricular activities budget, fits well with the school’s mission.

“Our goal is to create opportunities for kids to be successful,” Loi said. “This program teaches kids to let go of things — stress, anxiety — and move on. Math and reading are important, but students need these life skills as well.”

Aborn, who has a 3-year-old child keeping her busy, does massage therapy as well as the Yoga 4 Kids programs. Her residency at PES is about to end, but she’s hoping to continue working with some of the students in an after-school program. For information, contact her at sarahannaborn@gmail.com.

“I’d love to do more in other schools,” she said. “This has really been a lot of fun.”

Dave Anderson can be reached at 924-7172, ext. 233 or danderson@ledgertranscript.com. He’s on Twitter at @DaveAndersonMLT.

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