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Mindful : April 2013
things for kids but explicit in the discussions they have. It’s very hard to separate the philosophy, the worldview, a nd the practices themselves.” Greenberg and Mendelson’s study looked at approximately 100 children going through a 24- week program at four different schools where HLF provided instruction during the school day, as opposed to after school. The results were promis- ing. The kids participating in the program showed sig nificantly improved abilities to respond to stress and reported fewer intrusive thoughts and less rumination, the tendency to hash over thoughts in a negative way. As a result, a second, more in-depth three-yea r study is now in progress at six Baltimore schools involving 250 children. “ We’re going to see whether it helps prevent or reduce the initiation of early sub- stance use and if it helps with social and emotional functioning, behavior in class, a nd relationships with peers and teachers,” says Mendelson. But as much as she’s excited by the prospects, she is cautious not to overplay what they’ve learned so far. “There are many skeptics out there who may dismiss yoga-based prac- tices because they sound new-agey, not scientific. It’s really importa nt that we do good science so we show the public at large that this kind of program may have real benefits for physical a nd mental health.” Ali and Atman stand in front of 12 children, all sitting cross-legged on their yoga mats in the gym at Robert W. Coleman elementary school. The kids vary in age, boys and girls. One boy is yelling for attention; Ali places his hands on the boy’s shoulders. “ Everybody, front of your mat. We’re gonna do a sunrise.” The children stand, though many are rest- less. They walk around their mats, talking loudly. But when Ali gestures, they all clap their hands together. “I wa nna see a good backwa rd bend, y’all,” says Ali. Before long, the children are doing their downward dogs. “Crystal, that is great!” says Atman. “ I wanna hear more breathing!” When an older child is distracting some of the younger ones, Atma n tells him: “Just stop messing with the kids and do your exercise.” When the children do the poses correctly, they get a lot of “g reat jobs,” high fives, and thumbs-up from Ali and Atman. And while chaos overcomes the class from time to time, after 30 minutes of yoga all the children are silent on their mats for a period of meditation. “ Remember, still on the inside a nd still on the outside,” says Ali. “If your mind’s not still, your body’s not going to be still.” Across the room sta nds Darrius Douglas. A graduate of HLF’s program and now a volunteer → Andy Gonzalez, Ali Smith, and Atman Smith in West Baltimore, where most of HLF’s programs take place. April 2013 mindful 49