Yoga and Mindfulness Educates the Whole Child
There's no arguing that students today need wellness as a component of their education more than ever before. From a super-size food culture to screen-time saturated entertainment to an increase in trauma in our communities, the experiences in which children are immersed when they leave the care of their schools are often lacking in sound health, social engagement, and safety.
This shortage of wellness might manifest in a variety of ways in the classroom: inattention, hypo/hyper arousal, academic challenges, interpersonal difficulties, and a host of other problems that affect classroom management and student learning. As educators, it is easy to get stuck in a frenetic and stressful cycle of reacting to problems that surface in the classroom or larger school community when what most truly desire is an opportunity for their students to learn skills that will challenge them to contribute to the world in a meaningful and productive way.
Using yoga and mindfulness in schools can do just that.
Yoga is a system of connecting the whole self: body, mind, and spirit. Through movement, breath, and mindfulness meditation (the act of paying attention to what is happening in the moment without the need to change the experience), students and teachers alike can cultivate a safe space in which to build a practice that supports patience and compassion for oneself and others and empowers positive decision making. In addition, classroom culture organically transforms into a place that encourages self-awareness and emphasizes distress tolerance, mood regulation, and empathic interpersonal skills.
The physiological benefits of yoga are numerous, including stabilization of the autonomic nervous system, lower blood pressure, improved posture, increased energy and endurance, better sleep, and a healthier immune system overall. A growing field of research in contemplative awareness practices like yoga and mindfulness meditation in schools is also experiencing findings that support psychological benefits. Resoundingly, the research concludes yoga in an educational environment is beneficial for psychosocial well-being. In addition, recent studies have shown that meditation in schools improves executive functioning, particularly in self-awareness, self-control, and attention and reports outcomes such as reduced anxiety and stress, as well as reduced aggression and misbehavior in students.
Incorporating yoga and mindfulness meditation into the classroom needn't come at the expense of academic lessons. In fact, in brief 5–10 minute intervals, these approaches can be used as a classroom management strategy to engage student energy and enhance those tricky transitions that often divert so much time away from student learning. By embedding just a few minutes of yoga into the daily classroom routine, teachers create a safe and positive classroom environment, improve the holistic health of their students (and themselves!), and nurture the connection between student achievement and wellness. Encouraging long-term, sustainable physical and emotional health, the practice of yoga and mindfulness in schools educates the whole child.
Lara Veon is a team member at Mindful Practices. She is a body-centered psychotherapist, educator, writer, and yoga instructor who has been teaching and counseling in educational and community settings for more than 10 years. Veon enjoys sharing the transformational effect of yoga and wellness with students in all stages of life. Contact Mindful Practices at admin@MindfulPracticesYoga.com.