Mindfulness and Yoga
Learning how to cope with stressful situations and everyday challenges is an important life skill for all children and youth. All children and youth experience stress to varying degrees as a result of situational challenges (e.g. taking a test, entering a noisy environment, being teased, completing a difficult assignment, etc.). Feeling stressed and anxious can negatively impact student learning (e.g. difficulty concentrating) and everyday functioning (sleeping, eating, and socializing).
Mindfulness, yoga and relaxation approaches are found to be promising practices in school settings for improving coping abilities and reducing anxiety.1,2 Such practices help students 'step back' from stressful situations by teaching them how to purposefully and non-judgmentally 'be in the moment'.3 Kabat-Zinn (2003) suggests that mindfulness helps calm and clear the mind and help focus attention.4
Refer to the Offer Calm Moments tab for simple suggestions and resources. Think about how you can embed these in your daily interactions with students.
Coming soon! The Calm Moments Cards: Simple Strategies to Promote Well-being Throughout the Day will be available in this Embedded Strategies tab. These downloadable cards will provide a variety of strategies (thinking, mindfulness, and sensory) that school providers can implement specific to school stressors (e.g. taking a test, entering a noisy auditorium, etc.).
How to promote mindfulness?
Consider embedding whole-class and/or whole school mindfulness strategies during transitions or before tests. These activities can be as short as 1-2 minutes or as long as 5-10 minutes. Important calming strategies include: deep breathing, yoga, short meditations, sensory strategies, creative arts activities, and time spent in green spaces.
- Deep breathing – Have students take 3-5 deep belly breathes. Most instructions call for taking a slow breath in for about 4 seconds, holding the breath for 1-2 seconds, exhaling slowly through the mouth for 4-5 seconds, waiting 2-3 seconds and then, repeating several times. Consider using visualizations such as 'The six sides of breathing' and 'lazy 8 breathing' from the Zones of Regulation (Kuypers, 2011, p. 118-119).
- Yoga – Have students stop and do a yoga pose. Suggested program: Yoga4classrooms Card Deck and training programs (www.yoga4classrooms.org)
- Life Skills4Kids: Relaxation Skills4Kids eBook. This includes a variety of calming strategies including deep breathing, sensory strategies (deep pressure), and progressive muscle relaxation. Retrieve from http://www.sensorystreet.com/uploads/life_skill_4_kids__Relaxation_for_Kids_book__small_file.pdf
- Deep pressure (weighted lap pad, hand massage or self-hug) and other sensory strategies may be calming. See The Kid’s Guide to Staying Awesome and in Control: Simple Stuff to Help Children Regulate Their Emotions and Senses (Brukner, 2014).
- Consider using The Drive Thru Menus for Relaxation and Stress Busters Posters (Teri Bowen-Irish, OTR/L) in your classroom with elementary school students. Each poster consists of a menu of 10 short exercises that can be embedded throughout the day. A Leader’s Manual provides complete instructions for implementing each activity. Available for purchase from Therapro (http://www.therapro.com/Drive-Thru-Menu-Programs-P209352.aspx)
Whole school training:
- Mindful Schools (www.mindfulschools.org) provides online and in-person courses for adults to learn mindfulness and share with youth. Visit the website to learn more about mindfulness in schools and course offerings. Read the one-page brief at http://www.mindfulschools.org/wp/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/MS_OnePager_R5_v1.pdf
- Mindfulness in Schools Project (www.mindfulnessinschools.org) provides professional development on the be mindful curriculum (10 lessons). Developed in the UK with some trainings in the US. Read the FAQ for more information at http://mindfulnessinschools.org/faq/
- Calm Classroom program. Thirty second to 3 minute strategies are used during normal school transitions to help students develop self-awareness, mental focus, and inner calm. Since 2008, this research-based curriculum has been implemented extensively throughout Chicago Public Schools. Learn about this program at www.calmclassroom.com.
1 Zoogman, S., Goldberg, S. B., Hoyt, W. T., & Miller, L. (2014). Mindfulness interventions with youth: A meta-analysis. Mindfulness. doi: 10.1007/ s12671-013-0260-4
2 Wall, R. B. (2005). Tai chi and mindfulness-based stress reduction in a Boston public middle school. Journal of Pediatric Health Care, 19(4), 230-237.
3 Rempel, K. D. (2012). Mindfulness for children and youth: A review of the literature with an argument for school-based implementation. Canadian Journal of Counseling and Psychotherapy, 46(3), 201-220.
4 Kabat-Zinn, J. (2003). Mindfulness-based interventions in context: Past, present, and future. Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice, 10(2), 144–156. doi:10.1093/clipsy/bpg016