Giving Compass' Take:

• Yoga Foster is a nonprofit organization that helps teachers become yoga-certified instructors and aims to help reduce stress levels for students at low-income schools in NYC. 

• What are the benefits of student yoga? How will the implementation of more mindfulness and meditative practices help create positive youth development experiences?  

• Read about new research showing the benefits of mindfulness education. 

At schools in lower-income areas, students often report greater levels of stress and anxiety. Outside the classroom, students living in poverty may be more exposed to trying situations, from their family struggling to afford housing and food to witnessing substance abuse. These experiences can add up to what’s known as “toxic stress,” which can continue to affect a child’s mental health and well-being for the rest of their lives.

Poverty alleviation efforts, like raising the minimum wage and providing a stronger support system for families facing financial difficulties, are the most critical component to addressing the issue of toxic stress in children. But in her time volunteering in low-income public schools in New York City, Nicole Cardoza recognized another way to help students in the nearer term: giving them a healthy way to de-stress in schools.

Schools that serve lower-income students often provide kids less time to unwind, either through recess or physical education classes. This fact is often cited in the context of research around childhood obesity and physical health, but a number of studies have found that children learn better and report lower levels of stress if they’re given regular breaks and time to be active.

Five years ago, Cardoza, 29, was at the start of a promising career in tech: She’d learned how to code and was breaking into the industry in New York City. But in her spare time, the trained yoga instructor was teaching classes to students in New York City public schools.

So instead of pursuing a career in tech, Cardoza founded Yoga Foster, a national nonprofit to enable school teachers to integrate yoga into their classrooms.

Cardoza says that teachers who’ve incorporated yoga into their classrooms report lower levels of stress and anxiety among students and greater engagement with other lessons.

Read the full article about bringing yoga to low-income classrooms by Eillie Anzilotti at Fast Company.