A Pickerington elementary school this year has implemented voluntary yoga sessions to help relieve students' minds and prepare for classroom lessons.

A Pickerington elementary school this year has implemented voluntary yoga sessions to help relieve students' minds and prepare for classroom lessons.

If you visit Tussing Elementary School during the lunchtime hour on Mondays, you're likely to come across a room full of young children stretching and lying on mats, but the activities have nothing to do with mid-day napping.

Rather, it's part of School Counselor Kathy Baird's group of growing students in grades 1-3 who are giving up their recess breaks to take part in yoga.

Instead of hoping kids will blow off steam during recess, Baird seeks to relax them from the stresses of coursework and other anxieties that might have arisen before students even got to school during her "Mindful Mondays" sessions.

"The coolest part is watching their little bodies move and their minds unwind," said Baird, who started Mindful Mondays at Tussing this year after recently taking up yoga herself.

Through calmness brought by her own experiences with yoga, Baird was sought to start the voluntary program at Tussing where students first learn yoga stretches and positions and then teach them to their fellow classmates.

Baird then went to DonorsChoose.org, an online charity that allows public school teachers to publicize and raise money for projects they hope to bring to their schools.

After using the site, Baird said, a number of local businesses and others in the community donated enough money to purchase 40 yoga mats she uses for Mindful Mondays.

Each Monday lunch period, students can forego their recess breaks for 15-minute yoga classes, which include mood lighting and music.

"We know about adults and stresses in their lives, but we don't realize that with kids," Baird said. "They come in sometimes and they're just crazy.

"We get them in there and teach them all these yoga positions, and for the last 5 minutes they're in silence. It's really neat to watch their little bodies slow down and their minds relax. I've even had some fall asleep."

Baird often is assisted by Peg Miller, a recent retiree from the Pickerington Local School District.

The two teach have been teaching students new yoga poses throughout the first nine-week grading period.

"It's not a matter of teaching them anymore," Baird said. "They know the moves.

"Truly, it's the best part of my week."

Baird said she plans to continue Mindful Mondays throughout the school year as long as students continue to attend.

Although Tussing Principal Jeannette Henson already endorsed the program, Baird hopes to get more input from teachers to see if they've found students who take part in the sessions are more attentive or have fewer disciplinary issues.

"I always try to bring something new and fun to the school each year," Baird said. "With this, the kids don't know how to relax and they don't have time to relax.

"They come to school with a lot of worries and this is more just helping them to be mindful and just relax. It's just clearing their minds for a few minutes."