ST. LOUIS PARK, Minn. -- A St. Louis Park school is using therapeutic yoga to help its students succeed.
Academy of Whole Learning is the only school in Minnesota specifically designed for students with autism spectrum disorder or related learning differences. This is the first school year AOWL has used therapeutic yoga in the classroom.
"So we teach them that they may not be in control of the first thing that happens to them but they can be in control of the second thing," said Wyayn Rasmussen, head of school.
Stephanie Vos, a certified yoga therapist, visits AOWL every Wednesday. She spends a half hour in every class and works with all 55 students, K-12.
"So one of the things you'll note in our classroom is that I never call it yoga with the students because for so many students it brings up this sort of cartoon image of closing your eyes and putting your hands a certain way and chanting 'om' or doing some kind of crazy pose. And the breadth of what yoga really is, is so much bigger than that," Vos said.
The school calls it self-regulation. On Wednesday afternoon, Vos went through the exercises with seven students. A teacher associate also participated.
At the beginning of the class, students expressed how they were feeling. They then did moving exercises, spent time resting and being still, while focusing on their breathing. At the end of class, students went around the circle again and expressed how they were now feeling.
"We had a student one day that said, 'I'm feeling really stressed because I had a difficult test this morning.' I said, 'Well thanks for letting us know' and by the end that student said, 'Now I'm feeling cleansed,'" Vos said.
Danielle Brown is a seventh grader at AOWL and said, "Something that I like about it is the resting time. Because I think that's relaxing and you don't have stress in you anymore."
Nizar Kalaaji, an eighth grader at AOWL, added, "If you're mad or something, it makes you get calmer."
Rasmussen said she has noticed many of the students use what they learn in self-regulation class to help them tackle stressful situations both inside and outside of the classroom.
Vos added, "Everybody needs to learn how to watch how they're feeling and how they're choosing to react."