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Teachers and students throughout Western Australia are turning to yoga, brain breaks and other methods of mindfulness to enhance their classroom experience and ward off stress. The practices are being used across all grade levels.
Experts say even Early Childhood students can reap the benefits of learning how to sit and focus on their breathing. “I explain to educators that these are tools to prime the brain for learning,” says Regina Cruickshank, Executive Director of Yogazeit, who has trained educators since mid 2018 in Western Australia with the evidence-based Yoga Ed. Tools for Teachers.
“By relaxing the nervous system, we activate the Prefrontal Cortex – the thinking part of the brain,” says Regina who has also been trained in the Mindful Schools curriculum. “Teachers from all areas report that students enter the classroom with emotional stress, anxiety and frustration. From Neuro-Science we know that a stressed mind is not learning-ready!”
Year two teacher Lauren starts each school day with a three-minute class meditation. The kids find their places on the chairs or sit crosslegged on the floor, close their eyes and hold one hand on their belly and one on their heart to help them anchor themselves.
“It’s the most beautiful thing to witness,” says Lauren. But she admits, it hasn’t always been easy. “At the beginning of the school year we started with one minute and slowly built up on that,” she says.
The response from her students has been overwhelmingly positive. The classroom uses singing bowl or tibetan bell to help transitions and mindfulness practice.
THE BENEFITS OF BRAIN BREAKS
Teachers use yoga movements and mindfulness activities during “brain breaks” throughout the day. Kindergarten students participate in yoga on an ongoing basis, too.
“The reaction from Australian teachers is very positive,” Regina says. “Teachers, parents and students realize how movement and mindfulness tools can help students release stress and anxiety, build the muscles of focus and enhance resiliency.”
YOGA ED.’s Tools for Teachers empowers schools from the inside so they’re implementing yoga and mindfulness throughout the day in a way that supports their own school goals and structures.
“We know that the curriculum is very full and teachers have a lot to cover in school year. The Yoga Tools are not meant to add anything to the already full currucillum, but they’re tools teachers can use at their discretion to SUPPORT EVERYTHING, ” says Regina.
CALMER IN THE CLASSROOM
“If students learn in the ECE’s how to take a few breaths to pull themselves back from the neurological and chemical reactions that bring us to a point of stress, that’s something they’ll follow the rest of their lives”, says Maria, who also teaches Yoga in Schools.
Mindfulness in the classroom also helps teachers manage their own reactions and responses, she says. “I had one teacher in particular who told me within the first week, ‘You’ve changed me as a teacher,’” Regina recalls. “She said, ‘I never realized how much I used to scream in my classroom to get their attention—and that got them upset and stressed. Now they’re calmer, happier and ready to learn. And so am I’”
HOW YOU CAN INCORPORATE MINDFULNESS
In 2020 YOGAZEIT will be offering further trainings and Professional Development with Yoga Ed.’s curriculum in Western Australia. Additionally there are a number of Mindfulness Courses (for parents and School Communities) on offer. So keep an eye out and remember to subscribe to the Newsletter to not miss out.