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From prisons to primary schools: teaching spiritual freedom

Meet ‘Miss Karen’, as her young students call her; the pioneer who brought yoga to high security women’s prison in Queensland.

Her outside school programme has proven popular with infant school age children

Humbled by the women she worked with, Karen also taught yoga in the juvenile justice system, which inspired her to teach younger children at early learning centres and primary schools around the state.

“Everyone benefits from a practice of self-love and that inspires me to help young children build a structure of mindfulness.”

Children can learn to self-regulate emotions and impulses if they are taught mindfulness

Her time teaching yoga at the women’s correctional facility in Brisbane taught Karen something she now practices with her young students: everyone experiences inner chaos on some level but mindfulness builds a foundation for peace. “The ability to bring spiritual freedom to people that are incarcerated confirmed for me the power of this practice.”

Her students call her Miss Karen and her classes centre around positive affirmations and structured yoga. She created a set of angel cards for the children to draw from when they arrive to class. “They hold the cards to their hearts, take three deep breaths, choose a card and read the message.”

Miss Karen’s angel cards were inspired by the children she taught

Those messages include ‘I am always trying’, ‘I am thoughtful, ‘I am a good friend’, and ‘I am kindness’ and the children’s response has been heart-warming. “Their eyes light up and their confidence blooms.” Karen says she created the affirming cards she wishes she could’ve had.

“As a child, I did not have the structures that allowed me to feel support, freedom or happiness. I struggled with self-love and as a result of this, I created a world of escapism to cope with loneliness.

“As an adult, I discovered yoga and began my journey of self-love, acceptance and the balance I was craving as a child. I realised that the mindfulness I was learning as an adult, could have quite easily been taught to me as a child and I wondered why it wasn’t.

“So, my passion and mission is to give children the tools to connect with themselves. As I tell them, the beautiful in me sees the beautiful in you.”

Rosie Clarke

Rosie is the managing editor here at Multimedia Pty Ltd, working across School News New Zealand and School News Australia. She has spent 10+ years in B2B journalism, and has spent some time over the last couple of years teaching as a sessional academic. Feel free to contact her at any time with editorial or magazine content enquiries.

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