A former physical education teacher is helping to bring a successful project of teaching yoga to high school students to schools across New Brunswick.

Jenny Kierstead works with Breathing Space Yoga in Halifax and helped design the Yoga grade 11 and 12 curriculum for the Nova Scotia Department of Education.

The program's success is now prompting schools across Canada to pick it up.

She said Nova Scotia was the first place in North America to offer yoga as a high school physical education credit.

Classes are already available across Nova Scotia as well as at Kennebecasis Valley High School in the Saint John area.

Kierstead said she’s already taught more than 200 teachers to implement this course and they are seeing impressive results in the classroom.

"Kids are being kinder and more compassionate and we're noticing that the whole culture of schools is changing,” she said.

“So teachers are finding it easier to really deliver the message of kindness, compassion and respect."

The former physical education teacher said the results are having positive effects beyond the classroom.

"There was a testimonial written from a girl who's had a very challenging upbringing with alcoholism and whatnot. And she's noticing through yoga that she's actually able to sleep through the night,” she said.

SEE: Yoga poses that can help with insomnia. Story continues below:

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  • Forward Bend

    The most basic of yoga asanas, the forward bend or Uttanasana involves bending over and attempting to have your knees touch your forehead. It can be good for releasing tension in the legs, back and shoulders.

  • Wide-Legged Forward Bend

    Wide-legged forward bend or Prasarita Padottansana is similar to the forward bend but involves the legs being spread a few feet apart. It's known to calm the brain and stretch the back legs and spine.

  • Child Pose

    Child pose or Balasana involves tucking your feet under your buttocks and bending forward with your hands stretched out in front (or resting lightly on either side). Child pose is good for relieving anxiety and fatigue -- by promotion relaxation -- and for stretching the hips, thighs and ankles.

  • Seated Forward Bend

    Seated forward bend or Paschimottanasana is similar to the forward bend but is done while sitting instead of standing. It stretches the shoulders, spine and hamstrings and can be especially effective at relieving anxiety and insomnia.

  • Plow

    Plow or Halasana is a more advanced yoga pose that involves lying down, bending one's body from the hip and placing the legs above and beyond the head. It stretches the shoulder and spine and can work for anxiety and stress-relief.

  • Supine Spinal Twist

    Supine spinal twist or Supta Matsyaendrasana is a gentle reclining twist that involves lying down and twisting the upper body. The pose relaxes the back and spine and can help with insomnia.

  • Shoulder Stand

    Shoulder stand or Sarvangasana is an advanced yoga position that involves bending the body from the shoulders and lifting and holding the legs in the air. Sarvangasana improves digestion, stretches the shoulder and neck and helps reduce fatigue and alleviate insomnia by promoting relaxation.

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She's now helping to bring the practice to New Brunswick high school students.

People from all over New Brunswick are enrolling in the $250 workshops in Moncton, which will run on weekends through August.

The yoga classes will be offered in the schools in September.

Kierstead said she believes the classes are an important addition to a physical education curriculum.

She said there are benefits to students who normally do not participate in gym classes and other activities.

“Students are more fit, especially the students that typically sit on the sidelines in phys. ed. Girls are responding very positively to it because of its non-competitive nature,” she said.

“It's a very complete form of physical activity. So it's targeting the big physical challenges that kids have today: obesity, diabetes and inactivity.”

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