Students in a PE classroom practicing Yoga

PHED127 – Poses, Purpose, and Partnership

Highlighting the collaboration between JEP’s Little Yoginis and Dornsife’s Physical Education and Mind Body Health Department
ByKathrin Rising

This semester marked a highlight in one of our programs: “PHED127 Principles of Yoga Through Community Outreach.” This class, seamlessly blending the practice of yoga with the art of service, was led by none other than Tina Koneazny, the visionary behind this concept and our cherished JEP Associate Director.

Koneazny’s brainchild, the JEP Little Yoginis curriculum, was initially designed to bring the myriad benefits of yoga to children in our neighborhood communities. What began as a popular volunteer assignment option for USC students has evolved into a robust partnership with Dornsife’s Physical Education and Mind Body Health Department. Reflecting on the journey, Koneazny shared, “I’ve observed many great student success stories of our JEP assignments being paired with academic classes here on campus, and I knew we could find a great match for Little Yoginis as well.”

Countless hours over multiple semesters were devoted to ensuring that the class would be educational, meaningful, and transformative for everyone involved. Indeed, PHED127 is more than just a yoga class; it’s a comprehensive journey featuring 7 weeks of yoga instruction followed by 8 weeks of “seva,” the yogic practice of selfless service. This course seamlessly integrates postures, breathing techniques, relaxation, and meditation with children’s literature, creating a service-learning experience in neighborhood grade schools.

The learning objectives are as diverse as the practice itself, covering the Hatha and Karma yoga paths, the philosophical principles of yoga on and off the mat, and effective teaching of meditation and breathing techniques to children. Students not only gain personal mastery of yoga poses but also learn to introduce and guide community children in these poses, weaving yoga themes into children’s literature.

Student reading book to other students
Mehr presenting her lesson plan to the other students in her PHED127 section.

Mehr Kotval, a sophomore studying Archaeology and Political Science, shares her compelling journey in this transformative class. Her decision to enroll stems from a prior positive experience with Kundalini yoga at USC, which instilled discipline, focus, and tranquility into her daily routine. Recognizing the profound impact yoga could have had on her academic journey if introduced earlier, Mehr was drawn to JEP’s program for its potential to empower young minds from an early age.

For Mehr, the class was more than just yoga poses and techniques. It became a platform for personal growth, enhancing her comfort level in the spotlight and teaching her how to create a safe and welcoming space, even with a room full of third-grade students. The experience deepened her patience and communication skills, fostering a connection with a younger demographic and providing valuable life lessons.

2 USC Students teaching Yoga to K-5 Students
Mehr and her classmate presenting a fun and challenging partner pose to their class.

Mehr’s insights extend to the positive impact witnessed at the Alexander Science Center, where her team of students engages with a class of 3rd graders to which her team was assigned. The palpable excitement and growing comfort among the kids during each visit are heartwarming. The class not only challenges students with yoga poses but also provides a welcome break from routine, fostering friendships and connections among the children.

Some of Mehr’s favorite memories include the joyous “Yay!”s and excited cheers from the kids each time yoga is announced, along with the satisfaction of seeing students overcome challenges and develop new friendships. On the last day of class, she noted, a student expressed their love for yoga and excitement to share what they had learned with their parents, highlighting the lasting impact of introducing a new practice into young lives.

One might say that Koneazny’s three-fold hopes for the class are definitely being achieved:

  1. University students are connecting with themselves amid the college stress, finding peace in their minds, bodies, and hearts. 
  2. The concept of Seva, as university students bring stillness to K-5 classrooms, is internalizing the benefits of yoga for both university and young students. 
  3. The children taught by USC Yogis are finding inspiration, peace, and love through shared yoga practice.


To read more articles that were featured in the Fall 2023 Edition of “What’s new at the JEP House?” please click here: What’s New at the JEP House? – Fall 2023 – USC Joint Educational Project