PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A non-profit is teaching some Philadelphia public school children a technique they can use for the rest of their lives.
The lesson comes from a man who has been where they are. Miles Turner is a yoga instructor who grew up in Philadelphia schools. Now, with the support of the studio where he works, he is being sent to teach a new generation.
For 45 minutes, middle schoolers leave their desks behind for a lesson on the mat in the Chester Arthur School auditorium at 20th and Catherine.
“Sit up nice and tall,” Miles says. “Get comfortable. Close your eyes. Nice, steady, calm breaths.”
School counselor Megan Brigaman watches from the seats. “It just does my heart good as a counselor to hear them say, ‘Is today yoga?!'” she said.
On Mondays, Miles brings this ancient art to school.
Student Miya Higgins, a 6th grader, said Mondays are a good choice. “It’s back from the weekend and you just need to wake up and relax,” she said.
Miles is part of the non-profit Raja Yoga and Meditation Center of Philadelphia. Raja’s owner, Wesley Tudor, teaches regular yoga and meditation classes in his studio, and also raises funds to send yoga instructors to Philadelphia public schools.
“Often the communities that need this the very most have zero access to it,” Wes said.
Miles agreed. “I just want to give the kids a place where they can just relax and be at peace,” he said.
Aniya Norris, a 6th grader, demonstrates the deep breathing technique she learned, relaxing her arms, tipping her hands upward, closing her eyes, and drawing in a deep breath. She slowly exhales with a smile. “I’ll just close my eyes and let all the bad air out,” she said.
Teachers and other employees are welcome to join the class. Miles said, “The teachers need it, the students need it. Everybody needs yoga, but in the school setting it’s really important because, you know, it needs to be about more than just a curriculum.”
It costs about $2,500 to send a yoga instructor to a school for a year. It’s a sum few schools could afford.
The school counselor Megan said, “I think yoga helps them to learn how to be still, learn how to be calm.”
Near the end of the class, Miles tells his students to sit and draw their knees to their chest, wrap their arms around their legs and rest their heads on their knees.
“Tell yourself out loud that you love yourself,” Miles said. “‘Self, I love you, self.'”
Raja Yoga and Meditation Center has other outreach programs, including for senior citizens and hospitals. You can find out more about the outreach programs and donate to outreach classes at http://www.rajayogaphilly.com/outreach/.