How 'Yoga Jo' kept students' spirits up with Zoom classes
- Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown
When the first Covid lockdown struck and schools were forced to close, yoga teacher Jo King was tasked with delivering Joe Wicks-style remote classes to students.
Mrs King was approached by the headteachers of primary schools in Leiston, Easton and Aldeburgh and the Sunflower Montessori and Granary nurseries at the start of the pandemic as they looked to provide their pupils with a form of release amid the crisis.
The teachers were aiming to offer their students an alternative to traditional physical education sessions while at home.
Having taught yoga in traditional classrooms for around 20 years, Mrs King was forced to adapt her teaching methods and communicate with the youngsters over video software such as Zoom.
But the switch meant classes could continue while the children were learning from home - and Mrs King believes it really helped them through the turbulent and emotional times of spring 2020.
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The sessions, hosted from her home in Monewden, near Framlingham, have also proved a hit with families as parents have taken part alongside their children.
Mrs King said: "I was in my first yoga class when I was very young. I must have been about 18.
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"I was inspired to carry on because of my mum. We used to talk about becoming a teacher - I always wanted to work with children. I started teaching yoga when I was about 30.
"Covid has been a real challenge for everyone - children, adults and families. We have had to adapt with how we connect with children.
"Some children have shared with me that they are feeling isolated and they are worried about their parents. I do see that it's highlighted everything for young children. It's so sad.
"There's been losses and grief, but there's so many tools we can teach through yoga that can help them. It's very important that their emotional needs are looked at."
The video classes have proved a real hit with the children, who have given their teacher the nickname "Yoga Jo" in recognition of her efforts throughout the pandemic.
Mrs King, who has previously outlined her ambition to make yoga part of the school curriculum, has been sent several pieces of artwork from the students as a thank you for her classes.
She has created what she calls a "yoga frame", which showcases all of the art and is in view whenever pupils log on and take part in the classes.
With the easing of Covid restrictions, Mrs King has returned to delivering in-person sessions and has begun to see the impact the pandemic has had on children first-hand.
She said: "Part of me was really excited about seeing children again, but I was anxious about how it would go. But the children kept coming back for more.
"It's very interesting now coming back into the school environment. There's a lot of anxiety, uncertainty and stress and I've really seen the impact of Covid.
"Yoga gives them a bit of freedom. It helps them to get to know who they are.
"I had an email from a parent saying it was really helping their son sleep. I've got to know the parents more as I saw them in their homes. I've been able to connect with their parents.
"I have really noticed that the majority of the children have come out of their shell. After they've finished yoga, they say they really needed to find that quiet place within."
Mrs King, whose two sons also practise yoga, believes the activity has been the perfect tonic amid the stress of Covid.
She added: "Yoga gives you the tools to help you live well - you get to know yourself. You understand why you feel happy, angry or sad.
"If you practise often, it will also really boost your immune system - in this time, that's good to know."