June 2017
Youth Matters

4-H Extension Corner: Stretching Boundaries

Alabama 4-H Outreach Programs Now Include Yoga

Alabama 4-H is stretching boundaries as it rolls out a new program for in-school and after-school 4-H clubs. Inspired by the Arkansas 4-H yoga program, Alabama 4-H administrators have been hard at work to develop a program to benefit and intrigue young participants.

Alabama Cooperative Extension System 4-H and Youth Development Specialist Nancy Alexander said the focus of the program is to help kids achieve optimal physical, social and emotional health.

 

Regional Extension 4-H Agent Wendy Padgett does a yoga move.

"While 4-H Yoga is geared toward kids, it is for people of all ages – including the flexible and inflexible," Alexander added. "4-H Yoga is sillier, noisier and faster than traditional yoga. The curriculum includes desk yoga, as well as traditional poses."

They developed the program to align with Essential Elements of Youth Development and the National Health Education and P.E. Standards, making it a promising venture for in-school clubs.

This research-based curriculum is currently delivered in 16 other states. Because yoga can be done on the floor, at a desk or on a towel, the program can be delivered at low or no cost.

4-H educator program training began in the spring of 2017. Extension educators and volunteers will implement programs in varied settings in the fall of 2017. 4-H volunteers and teachers will have opportunities to train throughout the summer months.

Alabama 4-H Program Director Dr. Molly Gregg is excited about the implementation of the program in clubs and schools throughout the state.

"The benefits of yoga for young people are enormous," Gregg said. "Physically, their flexibility, strength, coordination and body awareness are enhanced. In addition, yoga can improve their concentration, sense of calmness and relaxation techniques."

4-H Yoga Youth Development Principles include belonging, mastery, independence and generosity.

Students are bombarded with distractions inside and outside of the classroom. Gregg hopes the 4-H Yoga program will be a tool to help parents and educators teach their children about healthy living habits.

Daniel Sullen, 4-H REA from Macon/Bullock, shows a yoga pose.

 
   

"In our hurry up world, it is not enough to encourage young people to eat right and exercise to be healthy," Gregg said. "Youth need to be able to regulate their emotions, manage stress and calm themselves. The research suggests yoga can help."

Alexander, who has worked to develop Alabama’s new program, said implementing a yoga curriculum within 4-H has the potential to affect students academically – as well as mentally and physically.

"Yoga is much more than just a physical activity," Alexander said. "Yoga practice promotes a connection between mind and body. Studies suggest practicing yoga can help reduce stress, improve stress management and coping skills, increase confidence, promote a healthy body image and improve social skills."

4-H staff trainings wrap up in mid-June. Opportunities for volunteer and educator trainings will be available for interested parties later in the summer. For training information, contact your local Extension office or 4-H agent.

 

Katie Nichols is in Communications and Marketing with Alabama Cooperative Extension System.