KENNEBUNK, Maine — A few years ago Danielle Gorman was conducting research in classrooms as she prepared to develop workshops for public school teachers in the use of music and creative movement in the classroom.
She grew concerned as she observed many students struggled to focus, control their bodies, be mindful of others around them, transition to new activities and experience quiet and calm in themselves.
“I realized that I couldn’t begin to enrich learning with music and creative movement until these issues were addressed,” Gorman said. “These teachers and students needed fundamental support.”
That was four years ago, and a few months after her evaluations, Gorman began teaching yoga for children. She became a registered children’s yoga teacher with Yoga Alliance with certifications from YogaKids International, Child Light Yoga and Namaste Institute of Wholistic Studies. She is currently working toward her certification in yoga therapy with Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy of Burlington, Vt.
Gorman said she felt it necessary to teach children the values of yoga in order to help stabilize their moods, allow them to become more focused and center themselves.
She offers classes throughout the week in Westbrook at Living Well on Main Street and at Port Yoga on Western Avenue in Kennebunk on Tuesdays.
Her classes are designed for three levels of children: Little Kids for ages 3-6, from 3:15-4 p.m.; big kids for ages 7-11, from 4:15-5:15 p.m.; and for teens, from ages 12-17, from 6:15-7:45 p.m.
Gorman integrates teaching life lessons with yoga in each class to educate the students’ bodies and minds.
“We could be doing the tree pose, for example, and I will start asking questions about trees and why the leaves are changing and why they are falling to the ground,” she said. “Then we will mimic that and all drop to the ground. It’s about connecting the body and the mind.”
When Gorman first observed the students in the classrooms four years ago, she said she wasn’t surprised at what she discovered. She said that children are overexposed to technology and become over stimulated. She also said that children are like “sponges” who soak up the worlds adults around them create. If the adults’ lives are hectic, then the children will most likely adopt that hectic behavior.
Gorman said that she finds a lot of children today don’t go outside enough and play, which is important to developing a sense of balance and understanding of the world around them.
“I would interview the teachers, especially veteran teachers, and I asked them if this was just a symptom of childhood or if this is getting worse,” she said. “Most of the teachers said they have seen the behavior worsening in the past 10-15 years. I felt I needed to bring this to the kids and realized they needed some real fundamental, educational work.”
While classes are geared toward children, Gorman said she tries to incorporate the parents into the lessons to get the entire family involved, as well as increase their understanding of the need for children to gain focus and clarity to help them in school and life.
“I try to work with the adults to integrate them into learning these fundamentals,” she said.
Her class sizes are relatively small with about eight students for the little kids, and 10 students per class for the older students.
In addition to helping children with fundamental education, Gorman sites a study from Dee Marie, CYT, Grac Wyshak, Ph.D., and George H. Wyshak, Ph.D., that found yoga and meditation seems to reduce aggression and bullying.
“Yoga can give [children] the tools to cope with everyday life,” Gorman said. “It helps learn more about who they are.”