During the day, Jeanine Gallina’s classrooms at Jackson Avenue School and Mineola Middle School are filled with students painting and drawing. But after school, her art room is transformed into a yoga studio, as students lay down yoga mats for an hour set apart to relax and unwind.
Since October, Gallina has been hosting weekly after-school yoga sessions. The hour-long sessions have been extremely popular among the third through seventh grade students, many of whom are being exposed to yoga for the first time.
Gallina, a certified yoga teacher who has been practicing for 15 years, said she wanted to introduce yoga as an intramural activity because of the numerous benefits she saw it had on her own family. The first day she presented it at the Jackson Avenue School gym, 50 third- and fourth- graders showed up.
“It was intense, but they were so cooperative,” Gallina said.
Sessions now take place in her classrooms and to accommodate the high demand, Gallina offers the class twice a month for third and fourth graders, and caps the sessions to 25 students. At the middle school, about 15 to 20 kids come to each session, which takes place once a week.
Gallina uses many of the same techniques and language that a professional studio would use. She talks to students about how yoga can be used in day-to-day life, conducts breathing exercises and helps them reflect on their feelings.
“We talk about the importance of strengthening your body, but also the strengthening of the spirit and mind and being able to cope with whatever is thrown at us,” Gallina said. “We talk a lot about virtues and how we can apply yoga to our daily lives.”
Gallina said the benefits to yoga are numerous and include better focus and concentration. She related how one student said that after doing yoga afterschool, she was able to do her math homework better. In addition to physical benefits like flexibility and strength, Gallina said yoga also helps students increase their self-esteem and confidence, as well as their coping skills and how to regulate their emotions.