Reaching the Whole Student by Teaching Yoga and Mindfulness in School
Research has noted a difference in stress levels among students nationwide. While some students can deal with the stress from a temporary academic or emotional setback, others suffer chronic stress and have difficulty moving forward. These chronically stressed students exhibit a negative focus and are often lacking in impulse control or the skills to self-regulate their emotions. They also fixate on the setback and cannot think about solutions.
“If you want students to learn from their mistakes and overcome obstacles, think about ways to encourage them to adopt a growth mindset." Quote from The Science Behind Student Stress by Youki Terada
As a result of many such studies, educators are addressing this rise in anxieties among our youth by introducing social-emotional learning programs in the schools to teach students coping skills.
In Sayville School District—thanks to a grant through a wonderful partnership with the Great South Bay Coalition, a local organization that focuses on mental wellness, drug and alcohol prevention and overall health—the District has initiated yoga (a movement methodology, not a religion) and mindfulness trainings for the staff, starting with Yoga4classrooms.
“These critical life skills essential to success at home, in school and throughout life,” according to Yoga4classrooms website, “can be learned when taught in a developmentally appropriate, engaging way. Sharing yoga and mindfulness techniques, specifically designed for the time and space crunched classroom, is a convenient, engaging and effective way to promote these skills while cultivating a positive, peaceful productive classroom climate.
“Through the framework of Noticing, Mindful Choice, Practice, Reflection, Integration, you will learn how to empower your students and yourselves with increased self-awareness, the foundation for the development of skills of self-regulation and cognitive control. You will recognize signs of imbalance, and will have the confidence and skills to effectively implement 6sixty-seven yoga and mindfulness-based activities, specially chosen for their suitability for the typical classroom space and schedule. This means all activities can be done standing beside or sitting at desks, while hands and bodies remain off the floor, away from dirt, germs and chemicals. Yoga4classrooms is easy for teachers, students, parents and therapists to use, and helps to create a more harmonious, learning-friendly school day."
relaxation techniques for the classroom
After Meg Durkin offered the Yoga4classrooms training session in November, the class participants—fifteen Sayville employees representing all buildings, along with the one Bayport-Blue Point school employee and the four members from YES (Youth Enrichment Services)—were confident they would be able to share these methods and mindfulness movements with other colleagues, but most especially in every classroom.
Yoga4classrooms was only the beginning. The next step in this personnel-development plan will continue with IMPLEMENT Leader Training (see description below). Student Services Director Jillian Makris explained that, “fifteen key faculty members have been selected and will participate in the weekend training. The idea is that all teachers and staff will be equipped with skills and techniques to use these methods anywhere at any time. After the weekend training those fifteen participants will ‘turnkey’ the training to their colleagues.”
"The IMPLEMENT program was developed to inspire and empower schools to affordably, effectively, and sustainably integrate yoga and mindfulness school-wide by providing training and resources to encourage and support implementation from the inside.
“Our IMPLEMENT Leader Training is our advanced training program for school-based teams and individual school professionals who wish to launch and maintain Yoga 4 Classrooms as a school-wide initiative supporting physical, social and emotional health and wellness, learning-readiness and a positive school climate. Join us for 6 hours of online home study, plus 2.5 days of engaging education, support, planning and teaming. Go back to your school ready to LEAD and IMPLEMENT!"
While the potential benefits of implementing yoga and mindfulness in schools is still in its early stages, the overall well-being from such programs is very promising.