Every month since the new school year began, Leah Rose Gallegos and fellow instructors from People’s Yoga have been visiting Accelerated Charter Elementary School in Los Angeles and teaching children yoga and meditation to help them feel safe and at ease in a world turned upside down by the pandemic. Over the past two years, many students at Accelerated Charter faced additional stressors besides poverty and being from communities of color. Many experienced social isolation, as well as overall disruptions in schooling and family life. Some even experienced loss of family members to COVID and witnessed parents who were essential workers risking their health every day. When the school reopened for in-person learning, Accelerated Charter Principal Karin Figueroa realized that her students will need extra help in bolstering their mental health and well-being. She hired a counselor and a social worker. Moreover, she reached out to People’s Yoga in East Los Angeles. Gallegos, co-founder of the yoga studio, accepted the invitation. “I felt this huge pull to do something that would support children, especially during this time when everything is crashing down on all of us,” Gallegos said. According to teachers and administrators at the school, Gallegos’s mindfulness class has made a difference in how students relate to their own emotions and how they respond to stress. Students also appreciate Gallegos and fellow yoga instructors’ help and support. Jabet Ibarra, 10-year-old student at Accelerated Charter, feels that things are looking up. “We’re not in Zoom or home school, and we have yoga,” he said. “So I was grateful that we have something to calm us down.” Giving students tools to help them manage their own feelings is just what Gallegos had in mind.

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