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School is tough business. There's a lot kid are juggling, and it's important to counter the stress of studies, classes and homework with a bit of release, focus and physical activity.
That's the very premise of Danialle Karmanos Work It Out – known as DKWIO for short. Getting its start as a general fitness program, this nonprofit group, created by Oakland County mom of three Danialle Karmanos, now aims to bring nutrition education and yoga training to local schools. It works with third- through fifth-graders during 10-week sessions in fall and winter and a six-week session in summer. Its goals are to curb stress, prevent childhood obesity and amp up self-esteem.
Its formula includes four elements. DKWIO's lessons are structured on a one-hour model that organizers say increases impact: A 10-minute intro, five minutes for nutrition education, 30 minutes yoga activity, 10 minutes to relax and a five-minute recap.
Breathing techniques learned in yoga are an important piece of the puzzle. It helps kids improve their focus and concentration – both in yoga practice and beyond.
"We have found that they are using these skills and techniques outside of the classroom to manage their emotions" like anger or anxiety, says executive director Laura Mackiewicz.
Another great perk of yoga? It doesn't require fancy equipment. Even a towel works as a mat. So kids can easily replicate their practice at home.
DKWIO's lessons focus on weekly themes. During "strength" week, for example, kids learn what foods help build healthy teeth and bones, then learn yoga poses to develop muscle strength. A take-home workbook includes recipes and games to share with their families – again, to take the lessons home in a realistic way.
Whether learned through DKWIO or not, kids need time to be quiet and away from stimulation, says Mackiewicz. "It doesn't have to be a 30-minute meditation; it can be just taking a few moments in the car, three deep breaths in the car before you get out, or in the morning when you wake up. It can be that simple." Shavasana, a resting pose, is one of the kids' favorites during yoga practice, she says.
Interested in getting DKWIO at your kid's school? Contact, or encourage the school to contact, Mackiewicz. She'll work to coordinate times and a volunteer yoga teacher. Mackiewicz says she hasn't yet had to turn down a school's request due to lack of instructors.