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Children get in a cat twist

Pupils are being taught yoga moves to help them concentrate and handle stress at school. Helen Ward reports

Children from London's East End are having yoga lessons to help them manage stress and improve their concentration.

Halley and Ben Jonson primaries in Tower Hamlets have piloted an eight-week course of yoga exercises for nine and 10-year-olds.

The authority is evaluating the scheme to see whether it should be introduced to other schools in the borough.

Yoga teacher Lidia Flisek, who is running the course with her colleague Annie Calverley, said: "The children do not have to change from their day-to-day clothes, which tend to be tracksuit bottoms, although they do take off their shoes and socks.

"We do exercises such as turning from the waist and looking at one of your hands, then you stretch your arms, and look at the other hand.

"Then there is the cat twist, which involves going down on all fours and arching your back, using your eyes to guide your focus into the navel, then you breathe in and look up to the ceiling letting your back bend.

"We also teach a bit of anatomy, talking about stretches and what happens to that part of the body."

Ms Flisek, who has also run yoga classes in schools in other London boroughs, said an essential part of the scheme was for the teacher to learn the techniques and then use them in class.

Martin Grant, a Year 5 teacher at Halley primary, Stepney, said: "I am trying some of the techniques in the class. We do an exercise Lidia has taught us called "tall mountain". You stand making a triangle shape with your hands across your stomach, and concentrate on your breathing. It calms the children down when they come in after the lunch break.

"Children have a much greater understanding of what relaxation is. We do quite a bit on how stress makes you feel and how you can use yoga to combat stress."

Ms Flisek said: "The programme is being evaluated by us and Tower Hamlets with a view to starting a pilot in September which would run for five school terms."

Nikki Pullinger, healthy schools' advisory teacher for Tower Hamlets, said:

"There is some evidence that these yoga classes are making a difference.

Now we are running a trial to see if we should spread the teaching to other primary schools in the borough."

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