HOUSTON – It may be difficult for many parents to imagine a classroom full of 4-year-olds sitting cross-legged with their eyes closed in complete silence, but it’s something instructor Christine Galib sees in her class every day.
"Reach fingertips all the way up to the sky,” Galib said, offering gentle instruction to her students as she walked in between rows of yoga mats, each child lifting their hands above their heads with their chins pointed upward.
It looks a lot like a class you’d see at your neighborhood yoga studio, but with a notably younger crowd donned in checkered school uniforms.
"They're able to link their mind where their bodies are through yoga, and that exercise helps them build self-awareness,” Galib explained.
If it isn’t immediately clear, Galib is not your run-of-the-mill teacher. She comes to class in workout pants and a cotton T-shirt, and a sunny outdoor balcony serves as her classroom.
She is the director of entrepreneurship and wellness at The Village School in west Houston, and a hallmark of her three years at the school has been the ever-popular yoga program she helped to establish for kids from kindergarten through 12th grade.
"With Kindergartners, it looks like a room full of happy, screaming, laughing children who are learning how to regulate their body as well as their mind,” Galib said. "We'll do something like down dog, and they immediately start barking, because that's what a dog does.”
Her yoga classes seem to be a delight for the children, who let out little cheers when Galib instructs them to do their favorite poses.
Some even fall asleep during the meditation portion at the end of the class.
"It clears your mind,” said Sarah, a fifth-grader.
For juniors and seniors, Galib teaches a class on mindfulness, which goes beyond the practice of yoga and hones in on the physiology of stress and the nervous system. She has students record logs of their feelings and emotions, and teaches them important coping skills to deal with the demands of homework and tests.
"One of my seniors as they were doing their final presentations, he said, 'I learned how to balance equations in chemistry and I learned how to balance life in mindfulness,'” Galib said.
They are skills that Galib feels extend well beyond the classroom. She said she’s heard from graduates who tell her that they use stress-management techniques in college and as they prepare for future careers, a point of pride for Galib.
To learn more about Christine Galib and her work at The Village School, click link here.