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'Moga' the way for Myers students

“Namaste” is a deeply respectful greeting in many Eastern religions and philosophies.


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 in “moga.”


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 and yoga.


“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 classrooms.


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 data.


“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.

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