In Patchogue-Medford, yoga is happening on and off the mat

By Christine Brody |

From a yoga mom, I wanted to share with you what yoga looks like in your child’s school. Hint: There are crayons, streamers, wild animals, and essential life lessons.

Yoga in the Patchogue-Medford School District began three years ago involving yoga teacher Sue Murphy, a Pat-Med mom, wanting to give back to her community by doing what she does best.

She collaborated with Superintendent Michael Hynes and his vision of P.E.A.S (physical, emotional, academic, social health) and slowly built a groundbreaking program now reaching all Pat-Med students in grades K-8, eight times a year.

All of this is made possible thanks to the approval of our progressive school board.

“I am proud to say my school district has embarked on a whole child journey,” says Dr. Hynes. “The most important ingredients revolve around our extended recess time — we increased recess from 20 minutes to 40 minutes — yoga, meditation and mindfulness work for students K-8.

“Our staff members have been participating in yoga and mindfulness activities as well, and I truly believe it has been transformative. Sue has a lot to do with this change.”

Murphy’s comprehensive program, inspired by scientific evidence and yoga philosophy, teaches our children and teens not only that they can control their thoughts and actions but how.

Yoga is more than tree pose. It’s breathing, mindfulness, affirmations, and postures. It’s self-esteem, self-awareness, self-regulation, and the tools to do it. Our children are learning it all and taking it with them off the mat.

“One of my favorite things is when I’m out in the community, and I see a parent of a child that we worked with, and they tell me about how they use the tools they learned in the classroom to help them through a difficult situation,” says Murphy. “Knowing that we are there to be able to provide ways for children to help self-regulate makes me feel really proud of all the work that we do.”

As a trailblazer for yoga in the schools, Murphy developed yoga learning standards similar to the NYS Learning Standards, to ensure that, as with any school subject, yoga is relevant and purposeful.

She and her yoga teachers come in with a collaborative thematic effort of lesson plans, poster boards, objectives and strategies.

There are six yoga teachers currently working for Sue Murphy Yoga in the district. Four are NYS teachers. All are Yoga Alliance 200 to 500 hour certified with a multitude of additional special certifications.

They also share a passion for and commitment to working with children and finding creative ways to make yoga accessible to all.

I am proud and honored to be one of them.

The school district recently purchased 180 yoga mats for our schools and requires a designated space for yoga classes to take place. It’s authentic, and it’s working.

Teachers are telling us how they are using our techniques in the classroom. When moving from one subject to the next, they instill mindful pauses using a bell with breathing. This helps to reset the brain and body in preparation for the next task. They are asking for our yoga class playlists for use in their classrooms,  and making note of our guided meditations to calm down and refocus their students.

Teachers are also coming back to us with stories of how much their kids love the yoga classes and how yoga helps change the trajectory of their entire day. In like a lion, out like a lamb. Children are sharing when and how they use their affirmations to ready themselves for bedtime, tests, conflicts, and the sports field.

These are just a few of the many examples of how our kids are benefiting.

When asked what the most fulfilling part of her work is, Murphy answers, “It’s so important to have the resources to find your own resilience. Being able to help children with that is the greatest gift for me.”

So the next time you see your child in tree pose, be sure to ask him or her what his “super thought” or affirmation is this month.

Maybe ask for a breathing technique to help calm you down.

Yoga is here in our schools on Long Island, and Pat-Med is leading the way.

Second graders Brayden Yost and Quinn Brody from Medford Elementary School. (courtesy)