Mindful moments in your classroom part 5: yoga
This is the fifth and final post in a series on how to bring mindful moments into your classroom. Today we look at classroom yoga. Please see this post for the first step towards introducing mindful moments (meditation), this post for the second (reading), this post for the third (writing), and this post for the fourth (coloring).
As I mentioned in all of my previous mindfulness posts, I am not a mindfulness expert. I do not have a special certification in mindful teaching, but I do have 14 years of experience teaching students who struggle with trauma, anxiety, depression, ADHD, and mood disorders. Additionally, not all of the activities I share with my students are specifically mindfulness techniques, but they have all been scientifically proven to help reduce anxiety and stress, and improve quality of life.
Today we are going to look at classroom yoga to reduce stress. Just like meditating/reading/writing/coloring, if a student finds yoga particularly difficult or anxiety producing then it will likely not be their top choice of a Zen Time activity, but I do ask that all students try yoga on the day that I introduce it.
In fact, I am particularly lucky because we have an administrator in our building who is a trained yoga instructor. She spends an entire block with each of my classes teaching them breathing and yoga techniques that can help reduce stress.
As with meditation , reading, writing , and coloring I like to share some research to support classroom yoga as a relaxation technique. I show this video which depicts a high school which has instituted yoga. Then I share that research done by the Mayo Health Clinic has found that the potential health benefits of yoga include:
- Stress reduction. A number of studies have shown that yoga may help reduce stress and anxiety. It can also enhance your mood and overall sense of well-being.
- Improved fitness. Practicing yoga may lead to improved balance, flexibility, range of motion and strength.
- Management of chronic conditions. Yoga can help reduce risk factors for chronic diseases, such as heart disease and high blood pressure. Yoga might also help alleviate chronic conditions, such as depression, pain, anxiety and insomnia.
I make sure I share this research with students the class period before we spend a block with our in-house yoga expert.
I also like the do this guided yoga series (usually only the first 10 minutes) with the whole class on a separate day as an example of how yoga can be done with no mat, shoes on, and without even touching the “icky” school floor. I also stress that any movement can be modified to fit their ability and comfort level.
After you try it, make sure to talk to your students about how it felt to try yoga. Ask what they struggled with or what went well.
Share how doing yoga (you must do it with them!) made you feel. Some students who struggle with movement may find it more frustrating than relaxing and that is totally ok. They will find another one of the Zen Time techniques that feels right to them as you introduce them.
This year, I have a group of girls who have really latched on to yoga and now go in the hallway together during Zen Time each class to try new group yoga poses. I love it because not only are they building strength and stress resilience, but they are also building communication and collaboration skills.
After you’ve worked through each of the strategies, your ultimate goal is now to be able to provide 10 minutes each class period for students (and you) to use a technique in order to clear your minds, decrease stress levels, and help you all be more prepared for academics (and life in general).
If you’ve worked through each of the five strategies with your classes, then it’s time for a temperature check. Are they ready to decide which they want to do during Zen Time each day? Remind them they may choose something different each class, or do the same thing each time. Do they want to try one or two of the techniques again as a whole class? Ask them. See how they feel.
I like to do a check in every few weeks to see how it is going. Do they still feel like Zen Time is useful and purposeful? If it’s not, we either need to revisit the strategies or come up with something new.
I’ve never had a class tell me they didn’t want the time anymore. In fact, on days we have to skip Zen Time due to schedule changes or other impediments students grumble. They want that time!