As my upcoming Yoga and Mindfulness Tools for School workshop rapidly approaches, I’ve been contemplating my Top 5 ways to simply and effectively bring yoga into the classroom.
1. Start with Yourself! In my humble opinion, having your own practice is the number one way to positively influence your students and your colleagues. Be the change that you wish to see. Find 3 minutes before class begins to do some kind of meditative centering practice to start the day right. Lock your classroom door so no one can interrupt or practice in your car or in the bathroom. Don’t let the myriad things you have to do be an excuse to avoid practice. Commit. You may want to do a simple mindful breathing practice to get grounded. Loving-kindness meditation can be a beautiful start to the day, sending kind thoughts to your students and colleagues, particularly those you may be struggling with. Notice how your morning unfolds on the days your practice versus the mornings you don’t. Over time you may want to extend the length of your practice, or add a similar practice at recess and lunch time.
2. Transition Mindfully. Transition times are wonderful opportunities to sneak in some practice and set the tone for what is coming next. When students arrive in the morning do some mindful movement coordinating with breathing to channel the hustle bustle into focused awareness. Stand in mountain pose and feel the feet to get grounded. Simply move the arms overhead with a slow inhalation and move the arms back down to the sides with a slow exhalation to find calm and focused mind set. Tree Pose and Warrior Poses can be done beside desks before transitioning to sitting down to start the day. Try a minute or two of mindful breathing after recess to settle in. Guided visualization before a writing or art activity can foster introspection and may awaken creativity. Include gentle seated yoga poses at the end of PE to stretch out the body and calm the mind, followed by Savasana (lying down to rest on the back or belly) to find a balanced state of being.
3. Choose a Weekly Class Theme Inspired by Yogic Wisdom. Each week you can have a class theme that guides your actions inspired by yogic philosophy. You might choose Karma Yoga to encourage yourself and your students to become aware of the effects of one’s actions. Kindness, honesty, patience, self-discipline, cleanliness, and perseverance are all wonderful yoga-inspired themes to explore at school and at home. Give you class examples of themes and let them choose which ones they want to work on. Themes can be integrated into assignments and act as guidelines for interactions with others and how you treat your environment.
4. Create a Peace Corner. Have an area of the classroom designated for quiet retreat. It might include a pillow to sit on to practice mindful breathing, something beautiful to look at to practice mindful seeing, mandalas to colour, even a yoga mat and some yoga cards for mindful movement. Let your students help design the space and agree on guidelines as a class for how it should be used. Retreating to the Peace Corner should always be a choice – not imposed by others.
5. Provide Time for Stillness. The school day is a busy one. Provide some time for introspective silence. This might simply be giving students a minute to think before they put up their hands to answer a question. After recess or lunch, perhaps give a few minutes for students to rest their foreheads on their desk for a short classroom Savasana. Take mindful breathing breaks. Start a routine of beginning the day in silence. Start your quiet time from the moment students walk into the cloakroom. Encourage them to walk mindfully to their desks. Allow them 5 or 10 silent minutes to work on something quiet that inspires them, for example journalling, drawing, reading a book, daydreaming, or simply resting. Ask them to reflect afterwards how they feel getting to start their school day with a sense of calm and quiet. If students forget, gently remind them without being judgmental – silence is a practice, not perfection. This also gives the inevitably late students time to settle in, allowing you to start the day as a class. Reclaim silence as a treat rather than a punishment.
The November 14th workshop is sold out. Contact me if you would like to attend the next workshop on Feb. 20, 2016.