Yoga in the Classroom
Yoga can be a way for students to improve classroom performance by learning how to meet challenges calmly.
By Shay Kornfeld
One day an elevator broke down in New York City, and while the grownups panicked about what to do, a ten-year-old girl slowed down her breathing using yoga techniques she had learned from her fourth grade teacher to help her remain calm until help arrived. This lesson, which was learned in the classroom, was useful outside of it. While yoga may seem like a topic unrelated to classroom curriculum the techniques can actually help students do their best in a variety of situations.
Take a Breath and Relax
Breathing techniques can help induce relaxation and may calm students before important tests or after lunch recess. While breathing is something we do instinctively, many students don't know how to breathe in a way that promotes a sense of calm.
Taking yoga breaks throughout the day can help calm students and give them much-needed mental breaks. The ultimate goal of yoga in the classroom is to teach students to take deep breaths when facing difficult situations so that they can address an issue in a more relaxed manner. Furthermore, it is particularly beneficial for students who have meltdowns, panic attacks, or issues with aggression.
Here's How You Do It
You can teach students to breathe properly by telling them it is like taking an elevator ride up and down your body. As they breathe in, ask students to imagine the air as an elevator starting in your nose. As they breathe in they should feel the elevator expand in your belly. Tell them to hold their breath for three seconds and exhale out their nostrils. Next tell them to breathe in and imagine the elevator ride stopping their chest. They should hold their breath, and then exhale the air through your nose. Next have them take the elevator to the top floor of their forehead. Tell them to hold in their breath and then release.
You can start off the year by teaching students to breathe in for two seconds, and holding it for two seconds, exhaling all the air for two seconds, and holding it for two seconds. Then they should repeat the process. We can call this quad two breathing. As the year progresses, try quad three breathing, maybe even quad four breathing, if your students are enjoying the process.
An adaptation you could do with quad breathing is to have students close their left nostril with a finger, and breathe in with their right. Then they should hold it, and switch fingers. They should close the right nostril this time and exhale through the left. Repeat by breathing in this time through the left nostril and exhaling through the right.
Ways to Incorporate Yoga in the Classroom
- Have a carpeted station with flashcards of different yoga poses that students can do when they are done with their work, or need a break due to anxiety.
- When coming in from recess, play relaxing music, and spend five minutes stretching.
- During transitions have students do yoga exercises.
Have Students Do Yoga in Their Seats
- Give me a five: Students raise their hands to the sky, while releasing one finger at a time, and exhaling. Do the reverse as they breathe in, pulling the fingers into their palms.
- Volcano: Students put palms together in front of their heart as they breathe in. When breathing out students should have their arms "explode" into the sky and stretch.
There are many ways you can find ideas for incorporating yoga in the classroom, including websites that feature ideas for teaching students these exercises. What follows are more lessons to teach yoga in the classroom.
Yoga Lessons and Activities:
In this lesson students learn about the connection between mind and body. They discuss how some baseball players use yoga and meditation to improve their play. It is a great way to get students thinking about ways to improve classroom performance by harnessing the energy of their minds.
Students play tag and practice yoga poses. This is a great way to have students exercise and practice yoga.
Students use yoga to enhance their flexibility. This is a great way to get students ready for physical fitness tests.
This lesson suggests using videos to help students learn yoga poses.