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Yoga class for 400 boys promotes gender equity and celebrates women

It’s not something you see at UCC every day — hundreds of boys in Grades 7 through 9 lying on their backs in the Hewitt Athletic Centre with a white ribbon tied around one arm.

In a demonstration led by Moksha Yoga Uptown on Dec. 3, the boys were introduced to such concepts as “masculine and feminine energy,” body awareness and wisdom from famed nun turned mindfulness guru Pema Chodron.

That’s all familiar stuff for your average yoga enthusiast, but it’s a novel experience for a young boy who isn’t generally focusing on his breath and “the way the belly rises and falls” on a typical morning before 9 a.m. Organized by Laurie Fraser, whose mandate is to integrate opportunities for character development into the curriculum, and English teacher Jeff Hill, the demonstration aimed to promote peace towards women. It’s timed to coincide and align with the goals of the White Ribbon Campaign and the United Nations’ “He for She” initiative which asks men to pledge to take action against violence towards women and the discrimination they face.

“This event really demystifies the stereotype around men doing yoga,” said Primary Division Centre for Learning coordinator Tina Jagdeo. “At UCC, boys explore many iterations of masculinity and this can be one too — learning how to be mindful and meditative, how to take a quiet moment before greeting the challenges of their day.”

To initially introduce the topic of gender stereotypes and equity, IB1 and IB2 boys created and facilitated an advising class for the younger students in the week preceding the demonstration.

“Yoga supports mindfulness and self-control, but can be stereotyped as female,” explained Fraser. “For the boys to practise yoga, they must be courageous and open-minded.”

To conclude the demonstration, the yoga teacher asked students to “honour the women in your life who matter deeply to you and who support you.” While certainly yoga takes practice, especially the lying perfectly still and focusing and not fidgeting part, the boys gave it their best effort.

“They were their best selves today,” said Fraser proudly as the boys filed out of the gym with a complimentary pass from the yoga studio to give to an important woman in their life.

Click here to read a transcript of teacher Carl Beaudoin’s assembly speech urging an end to violence against woman, Monday, Dec. 1 in Laidlaw Hall.

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