“Namaste” is a deeply respectful greeting in many Eastern religions and
It’s also a word well-known by students in Cindy Clo’s special-needs
classroom at Stephen and Harriet Myers Middle School.
Clo’s students know about namaste because twice a month, for about
an hour, they push their desks to the classroom perimeter and take part
Moga, the brainchild of Clo and instructor Peg Clark of Whispering
Willow Yoga, morphs together meditation exercises that focus the
attention (mindfulness), slow and deliberate exercises (movement), and
poses and stretching (yoga).
Clo’s 10 students, who have varying degrees of disability, fully take
part in moga. They love it, and she has observed improvement in their
social skills, balance, focus and ability to follow directions.
“They’re open and ready to learn,” Clo said.
Led by Clark, who also is an occupational therapist, Clo and her
students proceed through a series of exercises in mindfulness, movement
“I really push them to be independent,”Clo said. “I will help and
support them, but they’re motivated to do it on their own.”
Several City School District of Albany schools, including Myers, do
mindfulness exercises twice a day throughout the building. A handful of
individual teachers also do yoga and relaxation exercises in their
Clo initiated moga in her classroom during the 2015-16 school year.
This year, Clark also is working with Special Education teachers and
staff at Montessori Magnet School to implement moga there for students
with autism spectrum disorder.
Research exists on the positive effects yoga, mindfulness and
movement each have on student learning, Clo said. But there’s no solid
data yet on a combination of all of them. Clo, who sees first-hand the
benefits of moga for her students, intends to collect and provide that
“You can incorporate moga into all subjects,” she said. “It really
gets to the whole child. It increases their language skills. They start
talking to each other and other people in the classroom. They know
they’re loved, and that can take them anywhere.”
A recent moga class drew to a close with students bowing and saying
“namaste” to each other. The word and moment were particularly
significant for one mostly non-verbal student: “Namaste” was the first
word he ever spoke to his classmates.