Posted by: Katherine Priore, Founder of Headstand
For 2010, Zobha has focused its community efforts in a partnership with Headstand, a program that brings yoga to the classrooms of youth at risk. Founder of Headstand, Katherine Priore, blogs about her journey.
When I was an eighth grade English teacher, Sunday nights were sleepless. I developed a serious case of acne then, an irksome emblem of my anxiety. Witnessing my stress, my childhood friend Kathleen intervened and insisted I take her yoga class. I thought she was nuts. I didn’t have time to take a yoga class—I needed to respond to student writing. I needed to organize collaborative groups for the 8th grade. I needed to go to Borders and buy more books for my kids because we only had 10 copies of Of Mice and Men for 120 students.
In the end, Kathleen won. Thank God. It turned out to be one of the most profound yoga classes I’ve experienced to date, providing a glimpse of awareness – me without the anxiety and fear that had consumed much of my internal life that year. I wanted more.
Learning how to relax and finding sanctuary in my own body created a surprising impact on my teaching. Not much else had changed other than my own presence in the room, but suddenly the students were more engaged, they were producing more work, and everyone was having more fun.
While I wasn’t cut out to stay in the classroom as an English teacher, I did remain in the field of education. Seven years into my career I landed in a yoga teacher training. The idea of sharing the practice of yoga with kids gripped me.
With visions of a classroom of kiddos in dhanurasana, I wondered: What if we taught our children to value balance, self-awareness, and courage at school, hand-in-hand with the analytical skills of math? What if every student was exposed to yoga and awareness strategies as part of school day curriculum? Would this practice be able to serve kids who might lack boundaries and emotional support at home?
I decided to see for myself and created a non-profit dedicated to spearheading the yoga in schools movement: Headstand. Now I am in my second year teaching full-time to middle school students in a KIPP (Knowledge is Power Program) school. KIPP is a national network of free, open-enrollment, college-preparatory public schools dedicated to preparing students in underserved communities for success in college and life.
Catapulted into the throes of middle-school culture again, the content of my day constantly surprises me and often delights. This morning the seventh and eighth grade practiced in punk-rock garb for Spirit Week, yesterday a student asked me if a backbend counted as an inversion because your head is below your heart, and a few months ago one of my 10 year old students asked genuinely, “How do you keep your soul with you for more than just one hour?”
The road is long ahead, but Sunday nights I sleep like a baby.
In March 2010, Zobha sponsored Breathe, Laugh and Pray – A benefit for Headstand with Circle of Grace member, Stephanie Snyder – at Yoga Tree Castro, San Francisco. For recap and pictures from the event, click here.
Here’s a thank you video from the 5th graders in the Headstand program.
For more information on Headstand, visit http://headstand.org/.
(Pictured above: Zobha Founder and CEO, Jamie Hanna, with Circle of Grace member, Stephanie Snyder, and Found of Headstand, Katherine Priore.)