Ditteke Ederveen-Gorman sat at the front of the room with her legs crossed and her eyes closed.
Her 2-month-old infant, Fiona, was lying on a mat next to her.
Occasionally, Ederveen-Gorman picked Fiona up and cradled her between her knees as she led her six students in breathing exercises.
Before her, the students sat on yoga mats with their hands on their stomachs to “notice” and focus on the breath going in and out of their bodies.
“Noticing is a great skill to have,” she said to the class. “Noticing positive things instead of negative things.”
In her weekly mindfulness class at the Keene Family YMCA, Ederveen-Gorman, 43, said she strives to help her students become more centered and grounded.
Mindfulness, she explained, is the practice of living in the moment and not being consumed by thoughts about the past or future.
She helps her students achieve this by leading them through breathing exercises as well as stretches and movements.
But YMCA members aren’t Ederveen-Gorman’s only pupils.
Since September, the Keene resident has been teaching mindfulness to children at Keene’s Fuller School.
Every other week, she said, she spends 15 minutes in 14 of the school’s 18 classrooms.
She teaches students about breathing techniques and movements to help them improve their focus and deal with frustration and anxiety.
Throughout the country, the use of mindfulness techniques in schools is becoming increasingly common.
A public school in Baltimore recently began teaching breathing techniques to “disruptive” students in lieu of punishing them, according to an article in Newsweek.
A California-based company, Mindful Schools, has trained schools in 48 states and 43 countries in meditative practices and other techniques, the article said.
Someday, Ederveen-Gorman hopes she’ll be able to bring her techniques to classrooms in all of the Monadnock Region’s schools; already, she said, she’s talking with officials at the Marlborough School about leading classes there next year.
Ederveen-Gorman often thinks back to the first time she discovered the difference taking a deep breath can make.
While in elementary school, she was taking a math test when her nerves got the best of her.
Even though she had spent days studying for the exam, when she started to take it, her mind went “blank.”
Half an hour into the test, her teacher came over to her and told her to breathe.
“And as soon as I started doing that, I could remember things again,” she said.
Although people of all ages can benefit from mindfulness techniques, she said teaching them to individuals at a young age can help them throughout their lives.
Ederveen-Gorman said she wishes she had known about mindfulness as a child.
“If I only had the skills, if only I knew that when I feel this kind of tightness in my chest and when I feel … angry or sad or whatever … how helpful would that have been,” she said.
Ederveen-Gorman grew up in Utrecht, a city in the Netherlands, but moved to Los Angeles at the age of 19 to pursue a career as an actress.
She studied acting at the Lee Strasberg Theater & Film Institute and the American Academy of Dramatic Arts and also received a bachelor’s degree in communications from the University of California, Los Angeles.
While searching and auditioning for acting gigs, Ederveen-Gorman took up modeling as well as other jobs, including at a restaurant and a club.
Eventually, modeling became a career focus and something she has continued; although it is no longer her priority, she still occasionally takes modeling jobs when they’re offered to her.
Ederveen-Gorman first learned about mindfulness techniques in Los Angeles when she became an avid yoga practitioner. Much of what she teaches her students about composure and breathing comes from her knowledge of yoga.
After spending 12 years in Los Angeles, Ederveen-Gorman moved to Miami, where she lived for eight years and continued to model. She also worked as a concierge in the city’s five-star Setai hotel.
She characterized her life during this period as unpredictable, but this made it thrilling.
“I was never bored because there were always new people. It’s exciting,” she said.
She moved to Keene in 2013, planning to attend Antioch University New England’s Waldorf Teacher Education program.
She was accepted, and while searching for apartments, she met her future husband, Josh Gorman, a real estate professional. Four months later they were married. This year, the couple had their first baby, Fiona. She also has a son, Parker, who is 7.
Ederveen-Gorman finished more than a semester of the teaching program at Antioch, but didn’t end up completing it.
After settling into Keene, Ederveen-Gorman realized she wanted to focus on teaching mindfulness — and not only at Waldorf schools, where she would have been certified to teach if she’d completed the program.
“I said …’Why do I want to help certain kids? I want to help every kid,’ ” she explained.
So she decided to teach mindfulness in public schools.
Emily Hartshorne, principal of the Fuller School, said Ederveen-Gorman’s mindfulness techniques are catching on in many of the school’s classrooms. Teachers are beginning to use them with students daily, even without Ederveen-Gorman’s presence. And many students are regularly requesting them.
“They like the fact that they feel calm. They like the fact that they have this … quiet time in their day when they can get more focus and be more centered,” she said.
Hartshorne also complimented Ederveen-Gorman’s teaching style.
“She definitely commands a presence, but in a very calm and gentle way,”
Ederveen-Gorman said she hopes mindfulness will catch on not only in the Monadnock Region, but in schools and businesses throughout the country.
“Think about how your life would change if every school had this … every company had this,” she said. “It would be a more peaceful world instead of screaming and shouting.”
Xander Landen can be reached at 352-1234, extension 1420 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @XLandenKS.