CASSIE ANDERSON, educator for 4-H Youth Development at Hancock County OSU Extension, leads a group of students at Glenwood Middle School through a series of yoga poses Monday. The program was offered through Ohio 4-H Week and specifically targets the needs of youth in relation to breathing, exercise and mindfulness. (Photo by Jeannie Wiley Wolf)

By JEANNIE WILEY WOLF

Staff Writer

Cassie Anderson kicked off Ohio 4-H Week on Monday morning by doing yoga with sixth- and seventh-graders at Glenwood Middle School.

Anderson, Extension educator for 4-H Youth Development at Hancock County OSU Extension, spent several 40-minute school periods guiding students through yoga poses like mountain, tree, warrior and dragon, not to mention the frog and gorilla.

“We’re keeping it fun, keeping it loose,” she said.

Yoga is a type of exercise that combines breath, poses and mindfulness to help strengthen and calm the body and mind. Anderson said this program, called “Yoga for Kids,” specifically targets the needs of youth and does it in terms that make sense to them.

“So we’re thinking about mindfulness, but from a perspective of oneself,” she explained. “And some of the terms might be different. Like we do ‘chill pose’ at the end.”

The program is new to Hancock County, having started in Arkansas in 2013. Anderson was one of four people — including two camp counselors — who went to Columbus for training a year ago to earn their certification.

“By no means would I be what we would call a certified adult yoga instructor,” she said. “I’ve got certification for this particular program, so I can work with kids in this kind of format.”

The program was implemented locally last summer with 4-H camp counselors, with one session offered at camp. When the school year started, Anderson saw a way to bring the program to an even larger audience.

“I’m finding with kids in general, just taking that time to slow down and do their breathing, it kind of just re-centers ourselves,” she said.

Students who participated in Valli Ridenour’s enrichment classes Monday got that chance with Anderson. This was the second of three weekly sessions she’ll be doing with students at both Glenwood and Donnell middle schools.

The students work on yoga mats in a darkened room with quiet music playing in the background. Anderson said the students practice breathing techniques, and she offers positive affirmations to help them work through stressful situations.

“There’s research that proves that breathing helps with so many different things,” she said. “It helps with our circulation. It helps us improve concentration. It helps slow things down when we need to make choices or slow that anxiety down if we’re trying to work through something.”

“And in any yoga practice you’re going to do that,” she added.

Monday’s session included both standing and floor poses.

“Anything you do, if you’re exercising or you’re practicing something, it’s really important that we’re working both sides (of the body),” she said. “Yoga is definitely about balance.”

In addition to more traditional poses like mountain, tree, and warriors I and II, some of the poses are meant to be performed in a more entertaining manner.

“We’re going to do the frog pose,” said Anderson. “So what do you think we’re going to do? Sink down, just like a frog.”

Squatting on the ground, she directed the students to place their hands on the floor between their feet. Then they jumped up into the air, similar to a hopping frog.

“Now just remember, there are people below us. But we are going to go ahead and do a little bit of a frog jump straight up,” said Anderson. “And if you want to ‘ribbit,’ that’s on you.”

From frog, the group moved on to a gorilla pose with their arms swinging back and forth.

“You guys are doing great today,” Anderson said.

She ended the session by telling students that relaxation poses are just as important as active poses because they all promote good health.

“It’s good for our mental health. It’s good for our day-to-day health. It’s good for our bodies,” she said. “Tell yourself, ‘you are strong.’ Tell yourself, ‘you are loved.’ Trust yourself and be at peace.”

The hope, she said, is that the students can go back into their day feeling a bit more balanced and refreshed.

OSU Extension will offer a new 4-H Spin Club based on Yoga for Kids. The program will help youth learn about ways to manage stress in a mix of physical activity, breathing and guided relaxation in six weekly sessions starting April 20. The club meets from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. at the Extension office, 7868 County Road 140. The cost is $5. Register by calling 419-422-3851.

Wolf: 419-427-8419

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