When Kaitlan Peterson was in her second year of teaching, she felt overwhelmed by the work load and the emotional weight of the teaching profession. She started attending yoga classes at the YMCA, and eventually began practicing yoga consistently at local studios. “It created this peace, presence, and calm that I hadn’t found before and that I was able to bring to different aspects of my work. It helped me prioritize taking care of myself and made working in education more sustainable,” she said.
A few years ago, another YES Prep teacher connected Peterson with In-Powered, an organization that aims to increase health and career sustainability for teachers and richer learning experiences for students. Peterson, currently a Dean of Instruction at YES Prep West, attended In-Powered’s immersive training for educators. She now offers a yoga elective for high school students, as well as a free weekly class for teachers.
Recent research, highlighted by NPR, shows that teaching mindfulness to teachers results in “reduced psychological distress and time urgency — which is this feeling like you don’t have enough time.” The research supports In-Powered Co-founder and Executive Director Dan Houston’s belief that “by adopting the practices of yoga & mindfulness, teachers experience increased levels of resilience to stress, well-being and peace of mind. One of the most important lessons we’re learning is that self-care is not selfish. In fact, when teachers focus on their own mental and physical health, students get sharper, more present teachers.”
In partnership with In-Powered, Peterson is spearheading an effort to train at least one educator per YES Prep campus to teach yoga to their colleagues. Peterson has witnessed how hard it is on students and colleagues when a teacher leaves YES Prep and is passionate about the cause. “I want to help teachers find sustainability in this profession and a path to staying in this work,” she said. Peterson hopes that her efforts will have a ripple effect. “If In-Powered trains at least one staff member per campus, they can share the practices and tools with their colleagues, who will feel more of a sense of calm in the classroom. They can also teach those tools of mindfulness and finding peace using your breath to students.”
Maggie Colson, a teacher at YES Prep West who attends Peterson’s weekly class, has already seen the impact. “Doing yoga has improved my mental clarity, grounded me, and made me more present for my students and fellow colleagues. Since practicing yoga and focusing on our breath and movements, I’ve become more intentional with my actions and am able to focus more productively on the things I can control,” said Colson. Another teacher, John Galvan, agreed: “I feel more relaxed and focused doing yoga from week to week. It gives me something to look forward to and reminds me I should be conscious of my health in order to be my best self for students.”
Are you a teacher or school administer interested in offering yoga to teachers on your campus? Apply to become certified through In-Powered.