LIVINGSTON, NJ – Hillside Elementary kick-started 2018 in a healthy way by offering students and families the opportunity to participate in its first-ever PTA-sponsored “Healthy New Year Series.”

The series spans four weeks and includes programming that is carefully crafted to promote “healthy kids, healthy family and a healthy community” and to encourage families to focus on increasing their overall well-being in the new year. 

Bollywood dance, yoga, a mindfulness workshop and a Hillside skate night are the four events that constitute the series. 

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Bollywood dance instructor Manila Goyal hosted the first session on Jan. 3, during which she taught dance steps appropriate for all ages and set to light, featuring uplifting Indian-inspired music with the aim of connecting and coordinating the mind and body. 

Last week, Powerflow Yoga instructor and Hillside mother Melissa Giordano led attendees through a number of yoga exercises. Livingston-based Powerflow Yoga specializes in hot yoga and is open to all levels. Its instructors have the similarly mindful goal of aligning the body and mind to create an inner space of calm and peace. 

The yoga session was able to bring the district’s concentration on mindfulness to life by demonstrating ways participants could practice breathing and purposeful mindfulness while concentrating on being in the moment.

Nestled in the middle of the three active sessions is the upcoming for-parents-only Mindfulness Workshop, to be held in the Upper Gym of Hillside Elementary from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. this Thursday evening. The workshop will be led by former educator turned mindfulness expert Peter Emr. 

During Emr’s workshop, parents will delve into the concept of mindfulness and become educated on the benefits mindfulness provides to their children.  Participants will walk away with some practical ways of incorporating mindfulness into daily living.

Mindfulness is now a district-wide goal, which all schools are tasked with incorporating into their curriculum.

“We are in our second year of practicing mindfulness, which fits well under our character education program—specifically social-emotional learning, where we teach students to be self-aware and to manage their emotions,” said Hillside Elementary principal Carlos Gramata. “Practicing mindfulness helps us be our best selves, and helps to support responsible decision making.”

The series concludes with a community-wide skating event for families at Florham Park Roller Rink on Jan. 25.

Local businesses that have supported the series include: Frutta Bowl, which has donated samples of its fresh, healthy items; Aramark, which has donated fruit and water; and registered Livingston ShopRite dietician, Elle Bernardo, who has provided healthy advice.

There is still time for those Hillside parents wishing to participate in the Mindfulness Workshop to sign up by RSVPing to PTA Co-President Coco Sung at cocosung@gmail.com as soon as possible.