A Word from Our Founders

Feb 01, 2016, Sonya Patel

The brand new video yoga series, amaZEN U, launches this week as one of the first products of its kind. Targeted at school teachers for use with kids aged preschool through high school, it empowers teachers to bring yoga into their classrooms to teach children mindfulness.

amaZEN U was founded by Sonya Bapna Patel and Joie Scott, both of whom have a background in education and using yoga in the classroom through their work with ZENworks Yoga. They are also passionate about utilizing yoga to reach under-served communities and families. We caught up with them to learn about what we can expect from amaZEN U during its launch and in the future.

How did you come up with the idea for amaZEN U?
SP:We were getting a lot of requests from classroom teachers in our [not-for-profit] ZENworks Yoga programs to provide training that they could us in the classroom to implement short yoga sequences or mindfulness activities. We also created a few classroom materials like posters and post cards, but realized that delivering the content electronically through the web would be much easier to use and more powerful.

JS: When Sonya approached me with her idea, we explored the project from the classroom teacher’s perspective. We asked the questions:

  • “What’s the problem?”
  • “Who is the target audience?”
  • “What value are we adding?”
  • “What design principles do we need to include?”

It was great process and surprisingly clear as we got into it.

What is the purpose of amaZEN U? What do you hope to achieve?
JS: We set out to demystify yoga for the students and the adults, make the videos available to use within three or four keystrokes, consider space constraints, provide clear instruction using real children as models in high quality videos, make the activities accessible to various grade levels and abilities, and allow the teacher to choose length of time and type of activity for the class.

SP: We want classroom teachers to be able to use yoga and mindfulness throughout their school day to help shift the energy or mood in the classroom for more desirable outcomes. So if their classroom energy is really high and chaotic, but needs to be focused, hopefully they can do a couple calm and focusing exercises with the students to create a more calming energy.

What is the target audience for amaZEN U?
SP: Students in preschool through high school. We want teachers to use this in their classrooms. Parents are also able to create accounts to use at home.

How will this benefit kids and their teachers during day-to-day classroom activities?
JS: Mindfulness activities, breathing exercises, and physical yoga poses are tools to foster self-regulation, self reflection, empathy, and focus as well as cardio-vascular health, strength, flexibility and balance.

SP: Teachers and students will be able to take short “brain breaks” throughout the school day as all of the activities are around 5 minutes long or less. Research shows that taking these breaks; whether physical or mental, help increase student outcomes. Everyone needs a moment of ZEN throughout the day!

What are the future plans for amaZEN U?
SP: In the near future we are looking to include a student log-in, adding an element of tracking usage and continuing to add content through videos we create ourselves as well as working with other experts in children’s yoga and mindfulness.

JS: I envision anyone playing, living or working with children having access to the videos. For example: after school clubs; day care centers; physical and occupational therapists; tutors; grandparents; coaches; bus drivers; car pools; and waiting rooms. “Dream Big” is our motto!

Educators and parents can sign up for amaZEN U at www.amazenu.com. The first month is always free. Subscriptions are $9 a month or $99 per year for unlimited access to all of the videos. There are special rates for schools or districts that want to sign up all of their staff.

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