Yoga and Mindfulness – coming soon to a classroom near you!

It’s proven – being mindful, which is being fully present, enables our brain to function optimally! Our executive functioning is enhanced, allowing us to think rationally, be aware of rising emotions and self-regulate our behaviour accordingly – in essence, we think more clearly, make better decisions, listen to people properly and are able to keep calm in potentially stressful situations… and what is one of THE BEST ways to learn and practise mindfulness? You guessed it – yoga!

We want those qualities for ourselves, and who wouldn’t want them for our kids? I’ve taught yoga to thousands of children in schools – with impressive results from weekly classes… But, what if all our school class teachers were trained in basic yoga and mindfulness skills…?? Just think how much influence this would have on the children!

After parents and carers, it is clearly school teachers who spend the most amount of time with our off-spring, playing an important role as role models in their young lives. I’m a great advocate of specific yoga and mindfulness classes being taught in schools with all the benefits and joy it brings, however I also know that children learn best through modelling. In fact, research shows that a teacher who practises mindfulness, and models mindful behaviour in class, has a much greater positive affect on the pupils around them than those teachers specifically teaching mindfulness techniques! (Jennings and Siegel, 2015)

What does this mean for our schools?

Luckily, we have some forward-thinking, enthusiastic, compassionate and dedicated-to-their-pupils’-wellbeing schools, such as Hillfort Academy in Liskeard, Cornwall. The Head, Assistant head, a Class Teacher and an HLTA joined me last week (in their summer holidays!) for a one day training in teaching basic yoga and mindfulness to children in school.

“This was an excellent and inspiring day! My colleagues and I learnt a lot and we now feel eager and confident to include elements of yoga and mindfulness into our day, in order to calm and re-focus our learners. We are now also thinking about including it into the PE curriculum to combine the physical with the mental and emotional side, we can really see our pupils benefitting from it.  Tim Cook, Head Teacher.

In an ideal world…

Every school teacher would be practising yoga and a form of mediation – for their own benefit. The peace, calm and rational thinking that comes from their personal practise will automatically come through in their teaching.

“This calm, broadened awareness will help you to recognize and respond to teachable moments and develop creative ways to present your content to your students, enlivening your teaching and stimulating your students’ learning.” (Jennings, 2015) 

The teachers’ mindful and calm behaviour is modelled by their pupils, who find that they can then concentrate and focus more intently and for longer periods of time because they are learning in a calm environment, where they feel safe and secure. The teachers receive training in how to share simple mindfulness, breathing and yoga techniques within the classroom. In addition, the pupils receive regular yoga classes from a yoga teacher that reinforces the attitude and behaviour that they are learning subconsciously from their class teachers, whilst adding to the physical mindful movement, which enhances bodily awareness, coordination and raises self-confidence. They can self-manage their behaviour, able to notice when negative emotions are arising, they are thriving: academically, socially and emotionally.

The staff from Hillfort came to visit me at my local studio for a 1 day training, to be followed up with a more in-depth 5 day course next year. Schools can find out more about the Teaching Yoga and Mindfulness for Schools Training here.

References:

Mindfulness for Teachers: Simple Skills for Peace and Productivity in the Classroom. Patricia A. Jennings and Daniel J. Siegel. 2015. Norton.