Pittsfield and Kripalu expand yoga program to all city schools


PITTSFIELD — An innovative new program, designed to create a better learning environment for teachers and students, is being rolled out in the Pittsfield Public Schools.

Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health is partnering with the district on Rise — a program meant to improve stress management, reduce educator burnout and turnover, and "develop a more humane and emotionally intelligent school environment," according to a press release from Kripalu.

The program is an outgrowth of a collaboration between Kripalu and Pittsfield High School, which offered yoga to its students during physical education over the past five years.

Students reported feeling less stressed, improved sleep and academic performance as a result of their yoga practice, Kripalu said.

The initiative with the district is just one component of the center's mission to cultivate conscious leadership among high-stress, high-stakes communities — not only in education, but also in law enforcement, health care and social services.

Rise will be taught to teachers in the city's high schools and eventually expand to the entire district.

"We're excited — and hopeful — for what this will bring to our community," said Pittsfield Public Schools Superintendent Jason "Jake" McCandless.

Developed in partnership with researchers at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, Kripalu's Rise program represents nearly a decade of research by leaders in mindfulness, brain science and human performance.

Through scientific evaluation of the program, Kripalu has seen increases in educator well-being, resilience, and mindfulness.

It also saw decreases in student behavior issues, test anxiety and drug use risk factors.

"At a time of heightened stress, burnout, and turnover among educators — and the pivotal political discussions surrounding the future of education in our country — there has perhaps never been a more important time to launch our Rise program on a larger scale," said Kripalu CEO Barbara Vacarr. "We are proud to be working with such an influential and forward-thinking school system right in our backyard.."

The organization is now offering mindfulness training to a number of other educational institutions in the Berkshires, including Monument Mountain Regional High School and Mount Everett Regional High School.

It also hosts an annual yoga in the schools symposium.

The curriculum Kripalu uses to promote self-regulation in the schools is recognized by the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning, which is at the forefront of promoting that type of integrated learning.


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