The second National Kids Yoga Conference took place in November 2015 and brought together some 300 people to Washington to discuss bringing yoga and mindfulness practice to children to help them focus, learn how to cultivate calm in face of stress, and develop strategies and skills that will serve their emotional and physical health needs well beyond childhood.
The conference is especially wonderful for teachers to build community and rationale for their efforts, but it is also very inspiring for parents trying to make a difference for children in schools, in the home and everywhere. This event is a project of the Alexandria-based non-profit organization YoKid, which was co-founded by Alexandria mom Michelle Kelsey Mitchell.
Mindful Healthy Life was proud to be a Joy & Kindness sponsor of the 2015 conference. We previewed the 2015 event and this recapped the 2014 conference as well. Both years have been so rich. There is nothing else quite like being in a room of people who all believe with such deep passion and conviction in helping children be at peace with their whole selves and with the world.
The 2015 conference included six keynote sessions and nearly thirty breakout sessions Saturday and Sunday in addition to a Friday night yoga class and opening networking party. The conference schedule was packed with offerings of keynotes and four breakout sessions at each time slot. With poses, breath work, meditation, partner activities, and even dance, the conference transforms as it educates. Every session was both instructive and a living, breathing reminder of why we as parents, teachers and educators care about serving children through and with yoga.
The event opened on Friday evening with a class called “Expanding Into Your Excellence” led by Kundalini yoga leader Gurmukh Khalsa. It was followed by a networking kick-off event for presenters and attendees to meet and talk one-on-one.
Saturday opened bright and early, with an 8:15 a.m. panel that included teachers trained by Bent On Learning and teens who had received yoga instruction at Northside Charter High School. The youth shared how learning yoga in school had helped them feel more calm and centered and better able to handle stress.
In the Business track’s first session, Donna Freeman of Yoga in My School shared tips for spreading our vision by leveraging social media and had us get started immediately putting our knowledge into practice. The other breakouts I attended were in the Schools and Tools tracks, including a mind-blowing session on children’s self-regulation with Move with Me Yoga Adventures, whose co-founder Leah Kalish authored a guest post here on Mindful Healthy Life on self-regulation in the digital world. We practiced a coordination task that became dramatically easier after spending just 3 minutes on brain games that activated our neurons! We also got present to the power of connection between people and the importance of hydration. The session provided experiential evidence and research about how movement improves learning. I left with lots of tools for supporting my children as learners and helping them feel ready to meet whatever challenges they face.
Gurmukh Khalsa took the stage again for an impassioned keynote address.
Over the lunch break, I talked with other parents in my community and then made my way to the vendor Marketplace where I learned about new products and businesses and had the chance to thank some of the people I had learned so much from last year, including musicians Bari Koral and Kira Willey and author Gail Silver.
Yoga musician Wah! gave another keynote address before the afternoon breakouts. For me, these sessions included a rousing – and sweaty! – hip hop yoga session followed by a panel on sustainability with Yoga In Schools director Joanne Spence, Kelli Love, Leah Kalish and Lisa Flynn that gave me lots of ideas about how to bring and then keep mindfulness instruction in my children’s school.
Former NFL player Prince Daniels Jr. also shared words of wisdom about integrating mindfulness into his work on the field.
I closed out the day with a Dee Marie of Calming Kids who helped us think about the different types of children we teach — and people we are at different stages — as she taught us about Ayurvedic doshas through music and dance.
And that was just the first day!
Sunday began early again with a panel that provided an overview of research on yoga in schools. Sat Bir Khalsa, Catherine Cook-Cottone, Tamar Mendelson and Iona Smith reviewed qualitative and quantitative studies and shared how they mesh with other research about the many benefits of yoga. Noted in the presentation was the book Best Practices for Yoga in Schools (Yoga Service Best Practices Guide) and Yoga In the Schools Symposium that was to be held again in March at Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health.
I also got to attend the School Track breakout session with Jennifer Mueller of Yoga 4 Classrooms and Childlight Yoga (and locally Breathing Space Yoga on Capitol Hill), and Edmunds Elementary (Des Moines, Iowa) principal Jaynette Rittman.
There were so many other panels and sessions I didn’t get to. It was truly a packed weekend with something for everyone.
“Love” sponsors for the event included GWU’s Milken School of Public Health and KIND Snacks, which set up a counter at the back of the grand ballroom and provided gluten-free snacks throughout the morning and afternoon. Attendees were offered healthy grain clusters with Cabot yogurt, Cabot cheese, fruit, Tazo tea and a wide variety of KIND bars and KIND healthy grain bars, including the company’s new line of Breakfast Bars.
“Peace” sponsors of the conference included the Sonima Foundation and Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health, which, as noted above, hosted its third Yoga in Schools Symposium March 8-11, 2016 at its center in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. Many of the speakers from the NKYC were involved at the Kripalu symposium as well.
“Happy” level NKYC sponsors included Yoga Kids, Gaiam, Pile of Smile Wish Fund for Kids with Cancer, and Yoga Service Council, which put out the book Best Practices for Yoga In Schools. Many of the exhibitors and speakers were “Joy & Kindness” sponsors, as was Mindful Healthy Life. It was an honor to be part of this event, and a lot of fun, too!
Registration is open for this fall’s upcoming 3rd annual conference, which will take place September 30-October 2, 2016 at The Catholic University in Washington D.C. Early bird registration closes June 30, 2016.
Jessica Claire Haney is the founder, publisher and editor of Mindful Healthy Life. She is a writer and editor and the founder of the Arlington/Alexandria chapter of Holistic Moms Network. Her personal blog is Crunchy-Chewy Mama and her writer’s site is JessicaClaireHaney.com. See the Team Mindful Healthy Life page and Jessica’s Mindful Healthy Life Q&A for more on Jessica.