‘Energy medicine’ helping students

Sam Odrowski

“Energy medicine” seems to be a hot topic at St. Michael’s School of late.
Or at least it is for more than 90 of its students who voluntary met at the beginning of recess to participate in energy healing exercises each day.
It all started with a Wellness Day held back in January when kindergarten teacher Cheri Tolton-Whatley first introduced students to Donna Eden’s five-minute daily energy routine to reduce anxiety and promote self regulation.
“Then from there, I offered the students that I presented to a two-week challenge to see if they would come and practice with me,” Tolton-Whatley noted.
“I didn’t want it to be something where I just presented to them one day for half-an-hour and then it kind of goes by the wayside,” she stressed.
“I wanted them to be able to use it.”
With the support of the school principal Kelly Forbes, Tolton-Whatley held another presentation on energy medicine to all of the classes in the school that she didn’t yet present to.
She again posed another mindfulness two-week challenge to the students to practice energy medicine with her at morning recess for a few minutes to start their day.
“In the very first challenge, I had 42 students,” Tolton-Whatley recalled.
“I was thinking that I might get 10 so I was very happy about that.”
During the second challenge, she was blown away to see 96 students participating, in addition to some staff who also found it to be beneficial.
“When those challenges were over, the students were telling me they wanted to keep coming so I have just created a group now,” Tolton-Whatley explained.
She has over 60 children in the group–and it is steadily growing with more permission forms coming in each day.
Tolton-Whatley meets with the students each morning and teaches them different techniques so they can come up with their own energy medicine routines.
“I want them to be the presenters and take turns during our meetings every day or once a week . . . so they can be the leaders,” she noted.
At the beginning of each session, they set their intentions before participating in the energy healing exercises that involve tapping techniques, holding certain poses, and crossing over energies.
“One of the activities that a lot of kids have used–they call it ‘the calmer,'” Tolton-Whatley said. “It’s just putting one hand on your forehead and one hand on the back of your head that’s level with the one on the front while taking some breaths.
“That connects an energy loop in your brain.
“By putting your hand on your forehead, it also brings awareness to your frontal brain and it brings the blood back into your frontal brain, so that your primitive brain isn’t the one working if you’re under stress, anxiety, or tension of any kind,” she noted.
At the end of each session, the students are much calmer and ready to go about their day, Tolton-Whatley said.
“The teachers and the students and parents are reporting back that they are noticing a difference in the children being able to use these techniques throughout the day or at home,” she lauded.
Since doing the energy healing challenges, Tolton-Whatley has received tons of unsolicited feedback on how beneficial it has been.
“I cannot express enough praise for the Mindfulness Challenges and groups that Cheri Tolton-Whatley is providing at St. Michael’s School,” said parent Sarah Olsen.
“The techniques that Cheri has taught my eight-year-old daughter and six-year-old son have been life-changing.”
Olsen’s daughter has been diagnosed with anxiety and up until three weeks ago, she was having panic attacks that left her hyperventilating every night.
“The mindfulness techniques have undoubtedly resulted in an improvement in her ability to manage her anxiety,” Olsen said.
“She has not had a panic attack in the past two weeks!
“We have struggled for years to help her manage her anxiety with little success,” Olsen added. “This has been a truly life-changing experience for us.”
Many of the students are using the techniques in the classroom when they get overwhelmed, and the teachers and educational assistants all say it has been a huge help.
The group has students from year one of kindergarten all the way up to Grade 3, and the techniques have been beneficial to all ages.
Tolton-Whatley said it’s important to have children develop healthy coping mechanisms when they begin to feel anxious or overwhelmed.
“I think the kids sometimes need to understand that they are the ones that can be in charge of how they feel in a certain situation,” she reasoned.
“By giving them these tools at a young age, hopefully it just plants a seed.”
Tolton-Whatley also noted how supportive staff and students have been over the past few months in allowing her to build the energy medicine into something more than just a one-time presentation.
“I’m super grateful for that and I think that’s huge because this didn’t really have to go the way it went, but everyone was just really positive and open to it,” she enthused.
Moving forward, Tolton-Whatley will continue to meet with the students at the beginning of morning recess and by the end of the year, she hopes they will learn how to facilitate their own sessions.
“I want to build it so by the end of the school year, those kids are able to teach their friends or their parents, or practice it on their own without a second thought,” she said.