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It’s difficult being a child in today’s word. Bullying and violence are national epidemics, and childhood obesity is commonplace throughout schools and communities.
Our kids are confronted daily with harsh environments, difficult social challenges and potentially dangerous situations that erode their ability to perform in school, maintain a healthy sense of themselves, and ultimately enjoy a happy life. The research is alarming.
For children who reside in low-income communities, there are different stressors such as lack of nutritious food, enhanced areas of impoverishment, violence, and even homelessness.
Statistics show that yoga, breathing, and health & wellness programs help to remedy the detriments caused by today’s societal landscape.
Though as school budgets are continuously being cut, programs such as fitness, nutrition, and the arts have greatly diminished, or are sadly non-existent at most schools.
A non-profit called the Sonima Foundation is working with school districts across the nation to provide health and wellness programs free of charge to the students at the partnered school sites.
“I don’t like being around a lot of people and yoga gives me quite, personal space”, says 12 year-old Makayla, a student at Monarch School in San Diego, which serves students impacted by homelessness.
“I like yoga,” Makayla continues “I feel peaceful, and it’s a challenge to my body. I don’t have a lot of time to myself and yoga is a way for me to calm down.”
Founded in 2011, the Sonima Foundation offers children a chance at happy, healthy lives by bringing health and wellness practices to schools and communities. The organization serves 13,000 children grades K-12 across 25 schools in California, New York, Florida, and Houston.
Sonima Health and Wellness curriculum provides children with skills that minimize stress, lower incidences of bullying and violence, improve school attendance and academic performance. Programmatic offerings consist of: best practices in health and wellness, including exercise based on yoga, mindfulness practices; and nutrition education to help address both wellness and high levels of childhood obesity.
In New York, Sonima programs are offered at five schools in Harlem. The school sites host Title I students from underserved communities.
The joy and exuberance on the students’ faces is apparent to anyone who visits Sonima yoga classes in Harlem. Learning yoga and mindfulness helps students in compressed urban areas focus on their internal dialogue, enabling students to distance themselves from the continuous movement, noise, and congestion of their city.
Students are introduced to the concept of self-discovery. Through group discussion, nutrition, character education, breathing exercises, and yoga… students learn to focus their attention, calm their minds, reduce stress, and think before reacting; which also contributes to reducing violence.
“Yoga has helped me to connect with my classmates in a better way. Learning how to breathe has helped me to be more mindful of everyone else throughout the day in school and at home too,” says a Harlem student.
With the help of these tools, Sonima Health and Wellness students are better to develop the healthy habits that will allow them to overcome many of the obstacles that might hold them back in school and life.
The Foundation’s hope is to expand to as many schools as possible, positively impacting young lives and inspiring the future leaders of tomorrow.
For more information, please visit: sonimafoundation.org.