A cluster of first-grade students found a place in the shade with enough wiggle room for each of them. Fidgety bodies sat down on the lawn, little arms reached up to the sky and deep breaths were taken, then released.
This was yoga time for Susan Quesada's class at Vinewood School. Students learned stretches, poses and breathing exercises to settle the mind and calm the body.
"They learned some things and I learned some things and I think we're going to keep it up in class," she said.
Quesada was inspired by the new reading and language arts curriculum. "California Treasures," the textbook for reading, has a themed unit for teaching first-grade children that physical activity is an important part of their lives.
Quesada asked her students what physical activity means, and they came up with baseball and basketball. A few suggested yoga.
Rochelle Holder, bikram yoga instructor and mother of triplets Kendall, Sienna and Elle Holder in Quesada's class, visited the class on Thursday to lead a short yoga session. Holder has taught at Bikram Yoga Stockton for over a year, and has practiced yoga for four years.
The class began with breathing exercises. Then the kids moved through eagle pose, tree pose, wind-removing pose, full locust pose and half tortoise pose. It ended with a quiet cool-down breathing exercise on the lawn. Lastly, each child made sure to get a drink of water and learned the importance of staying hydrated during exercise.
The 6- and 7-year-olds did their best to stay quiet, but a few giggles escaped.
"They had a good time, but they did the best during the breathing," said Holder, who does a few yoga poses at home with her children.
Deep breathing exercises will likely become a regular classroom feature, said Quesada. Students will take a calming moment to start the day, then again after returning from recess to get into the classroom mindset.
"My class is very active," said Quesada, who teaches 30 children this year. "That's why we need some calming breaths. I told my students, 'If you see me standing up here doing breathing exercises, you know I'm trying to calm myself down.'"
Next, Quesada plans to invite a Jazzercise teacher to come in to share an exercise different from calm yoga, then use a Venn diagram to compare the two. Since field trip opportunities have faded over the years. Quesada invites guests into her classroom to broaden lessons.
Yoga can be a good practice for children, especially those with boundless energy, said Holder.
"Yoga allows the children to thrive and find happiness. It builds self confidence," she said. "They need less stimulation and more meditation."