Yoga in the Classroom – Why Not Try It?

I recently posted about managing teacher stress. It is important for us as teachers to ensure this so we are highly functioning and energetic in our dynamic classrooms as well as able to emotionally handle situations rationally.

But what about our kids? How can we get them to manage their stress? We’re all suffering from sensory overload, our minds racing at a thousand miles an hour. For a teenager, chuck in hormones and a high sugar diet and you have one highly wired child. I see it everyday and it worries me. Many of our student’s are not resilient and not coping with the challenges that schooling, their social life and home life can bring.¬† I believe yoga is one way of uncoiling us from our stress and finding stillness.

I discovered yoga almost two years ago now and have reaped the benefits of a healthy body and mind. Many gyms offer it as part of their regular group fitness timetable and there are many yoga ashrams that offer classes specifically for children and teens. If you can get it incorporated into your PDHPE or Sport program, do it!

Last year I decided I wanted to vary up my usual 10-15 minute drama warm-up with some yoga practice instead. I wanted the kids to become more aware of themselves and how they were feeling that day and to offer them simple, easy to do exercises that would allow them to manage any discomfort they may be feeling.

So I took a day to do some TPL to see what another, experienced yoga in the classroom teacher felt was a good way to go about it. I then went back to school and experimented with my then Yr 9 student’s. I thought I’d share with you what I have tried doing. Maybe you will consider giving it a go. If anything, it really is a very simple alternative to playing a drama game.

1. Awareness of the Breath – Lie in corpse pose and concentrate on taking deep full breaths for 5 minutes in and out through your nose. Start to relax the muscles and feel the earth support your weight.

2. Salute to the Sun – Here is a clip explaining how to do the Sun Salute. A standard start of practice exercise to bring heat and energy into the body:

3. The Triangle

4. The Tree

5. Reaching for the Toes – Sit on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you. Sit nice and tall. Breath in and reach forward and grab the outside edges of your feet. Bend your knees if you can’t reach. Hold for five breaths.

6. Beginner’s Shoulder Stand – Lie on the floor with your legs straight up and leaning against a wall. Keep your eyes closed and concentrate on the breath for five minutes.

Try this routine for a couple of weeks and then vary certain poses by removing one and replacing it with another. Initially you will need to establish routines and expectations just like you would any other classroom activity. However it is important to emphasise in these exercises that you work where your body is at and that it is not a competition to see how flexible you are. If anything it is about the breath.

For those student’s who may be reluctant to participate, a really great suggestion I was given was to get some dot matrix paper from the Maths department and get the student’s to draw lotuses by connecting the dots. You could also just have them lie in corpse pose and concentrate on their breathing or sit cross legged (half or full lotus if they can manage it), hands resting on their knees, eyes closed and breathing.

Some teachers may like to burn some incense before the student’s enter the room, others may like to play music.

I have also tried this in my English classroom. This was a room full of desks and chairs. We meditated with our heads resting on the desk and tried tree standing behind our chairs. It was five minutes of yoga after a crazy lunchtime. It settled the student’s a little and helped them focus. With continued practice I’m sure I can get better results. Give it a whirl yourself. You might be surprised by your student’s reactions.

For more informatin on Yoga in the Classroom try these links:

Have you tried yoga in your classroom? What has been your experience? Comments appreciated.

Image Credit:The Pink Panther’s Yoga Mat / Christian Yves Ocampo /