Classroom Yogi

There's a warmth to Kevan Bryant (BA/BEd '12) that's impossible to overlook

Her eyes smile when she speaks. The tone of her voice is calm and assuring. Her skin practically glows. You feel good just being around her, and deep down you want to know what her secret is.

Yet Bryant’s radiance isn’t a secret at all. In fact, it’s something she’s intent on sharing – yoga. The mental, physical and spiritual disciplines aimed to transform the mind, body and spirit. 

"Yoga completely changed my life. The mental aspects of the practice alone are life altering," says U of L graduate student Kevan Bryant (BA/BEd '12)

As a certified yoga instructor, a junior high school teacher and a graduate student in the Master of Education Counselling Psychology at the University of Lethbridge, Bryant is working to introduce yoga to students across southern Alberta.

“Yoga completely changed my life,” says Bryant, who’s been an instructor since 2011. “The mental aspects of the practice alone are life altering. Yoga taught me to be more compassionate – to myself as well as to others. It made me curious about who I really am, taught me how to look within and really get in touch with what’s going on inside me. It changed the way I look at everything for the better.”

Bryant graduated from the U of L in 2012 and taught for a year before returning to U of L in pursuit of a Master of Education degree. She’s currently working full time as a teacher counsellor while she completes her graduate studies – a position that will continue once Bryant graduates from the U of L for the second time next spring.

“The Faculty of Education is renowned for its programs,” says Bryant. “When I completed my undergraduate degree I felt thoroughly prepared to be a teacher, so I know that when I leave the master’s program I will be thoroughly prepared to be a counsellor as well.”

Bryant began looking for ways to bring yoga into schools since she decided to become a teacher. Maybe it was karma, but she landed in the right place to do that during her PS3 teaching internship. Bryant’s teacher-supervisor was also a yoga devotee, and she encouraged Bryant to follow her instincts about bringing yoga into schools. Bryant created an after-school yoga club and began teaching techniques to students two days a week. The experiment was a huge success, and the effect on students was incredible. 

“I had the students fill out surveys on how they felt coming into yoga class versus how they felt afterward,” says Bryant. “The feedback was incredibly positive. Students reported feeling less stressed, their anxiety levels dropped, and there was increased self-awareness among all participants. From that point on, my goal has been to bring yoga into mainstream education.”

Bryant hopes to create a yoga-for-mental-health program for physical-education classes at public schools. According to Bryant, the implementation of such a program could address serious mental-health conditions such as anxiety, stress and depression, and give students tools to help cope with these and other related issues day-to-day.

“Yoga is a preventative practice,” says Bryant. “If integrated into the education system, it could help alleviate mental-health conditions before they arise. The simplest techniques can have amazing results, and students will take those techniques forward with
them throughout their lives.”

After seven years of education at the U of L, Bryant is anxious to delve into professional life. She is already offering a variety of yoga classes for both students and teachers at her school, she’ll be running a mental health group for students later this year, and a proposal that Bryant put together for implementing yoga at schools has been approved for the 2015 Alberta Teachers’ Convention – all positive signs that educators everywhere are interested in what yoga can do for students. 

“When people start to see the benefits of teaching students yoga, it’s pretty hard to ignore,” says Bryant. “Young people today have a lot going on; their minds are very busy, and yoga helps to calm that mental whirlwind. It gives kids important tools at a critical age, which can wind up making a huge difference to them both short-term and long-term. There is amazing potential in bringing yoga into schools, both on campuses and for society at large.”