University of Wisconsin–Madison

Breathe for Change

We are pleased to announce an exciting new project that will be happening this summer, titled, “Breathe for Change.” Read below for more information.

Breathe For Change is an organization that aims to improve the wellbeing and relieve suffering for children, teachers, and communities around the world. Our mission is to empower educators to model balance, flexibility and wellbeing so that students have access to happier, healthier classrooms and communities.

To do this, we developed a 3-tiered approach: 

1.    We train teachers in powerful mind-body practices; 

2.    Teachers use these practices daily with their students; 

3.    Students learn to transform themselves, their communities, and the world. 

            This summer, Breathe For Change will be launching our first yoga teacher training aimed at the development of conscious teachers and engaged learners. This community-based, 16-day training program is designed specifically for educators (of all types). Training will take place on June 23-July 8, 2015 at Memorial Union and the School of Education at University of Wisconsin-Madison, and participants will receive a 200-hour Yoga Alliance Teacher Certification with a Children’s Yoga emphasis. Our program will conclude with an outreach event at the Playful Learning Conference, during which trainees will lead a yoga class for 250+ teachers, followed by Breathe for Change’s community-wide celebration at Madison’s Majestic Theatre.     

            Breathe for Change’s unique program is much more than just a yoga teacher training: it is a community call to action. Each day, trainees will have opportunities to practice teaching yoga to diverse children and families from the local area. By involving members of the community, we aim to raise awareness and provide learning experiences that improve the health and wellbeing of everyone involved. This completely new concept of training teachers through yoga aims to bridge gaps between the field of education, health, policy, and mindfulness. By preparing teachers to integrate enriching physical, social and emotional practices that deepen students’ connection to their own environments and lives, we believe we can change the world.

            Our vision does not end here. After our first training this summer, it is our intention to provide continuous mentorship and additional training opportunities to help teachers effectively integrate yoga and mindfulness into their everyday classroom practices, and, for those interested, gain the skillset and certification necessary to train other educators and leaders in their schools, districts and communities. The ongoing training and coaching programs will ensure that our work with teachers continues to positively affect the health, wellbeing, and academic performance of diverse teachers and students, especially those who currently do not have access to such practices within their under-resourced schools. Our core team of amazing yoga instructors will serve as mentors for our first cohort program graduates; as our programs expand, we will recruit more expert yoga mentors to support the Breathe for Change teachers in infusing what they learned from our programs into their classrooms. Eventually, we hope to provide some of our initial teachers with additional training that will enable them to mentor and certify more teachers in their schools and districts. This ongoing support structure for educators will result in a ripple effect across communities and open up new possibilities for students, teachers, and families for generations to come.

            This next year, we plan to design and implement a continuing professional learning program that helps our participants effectively integrate the techniques they learned in our yoga teacher training into their instructional practice with hundreds—and over time, thousands—of students throughout the world. This professional development pilot program will be led by Ilana Nankin’s core team of expert yoga instructors, who together have over 100 years of experience in the field of education, yoga, policy, and health. Ilana has also recruited a team of incredibly brilliant colleagues and close friends from across the UW community and her life to help Breathe For Change create a long-term educational model that enables us to expand our purpose and programs exponentially, and bring critical conversations that bridge the gap between socially just teaching and physical education, mindfulness and yoga to the forefront of education.

             Another major component of this project will be conducting research so that we can assess the impact of our program and participants, and in turn, their students. By following our program participants into their classrooms, we will investigate how these educators translate their experiences from our yoga teacher training into actual practice with students across diverse educational contexts. We also intend to assess changes in the physical wellbeing of the teachers trained in these powerful practices. Using the rich quantitative and qualitative data we collect as a foundation, our team aims to develop a viable educational model that will help us to successfully grow this initial project into a groundbreaking international organization.

             As the leader of Breathe For Change, Ilana’s intention for 2015-2016 will be to launch this project, develop a sustainable professional development model for educators, and build an organization that enables our work to sustain and grow, while also finishing her dissertation. Ilana’s dissertation study explores how eight of her former students (who will be trained through Breathe For Change this summer) negotiate ideas about social justice as they transition from teacher education into teaching in diverse pre-k-5th grade classrooms throughout the world. Their individual and collective teaching stories serve as the research foundation for and inspiration behind the creation of Breathe for Change.

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