Yoga and Play in the Elementary Classroom

 

Yoga and Play in the Elementary Classroom 

 

 

 

What is Yoga?



"Yoga is a holistic system of mind-body practices for mental and physical health involving multiple components such as physical postures and exercises to promote strength and flexibility, breathing exercises to enhance respiratory functioning, deep relaxation techniques to cultivate the ability to mentally and physiologically release tension and stress, and meditation/mindfulness practices to enhance mind-body awareness and improve attention and emotion regulation skills" (Butzer, 2015). Yoga can create a sense of peace and rest, but can also be energizing. Yoga can affect people in different ways, both helpful and beneficial to the person doing it.

What Can Yoga Help With?

Control: Yoga primarily focuses on relaxing and having control over the body and mind. The mind is calmed and cleared and the body should be taking deep breaths and stretching while holding poses, which can help take away any negative feelings students may be feeling. "Most of us take shallow breaths, so when we concentrate on taking nice deep breaths, the extra oxygen gives our bodies a kick in the backside. Some of the benefits include a sense of well-being, increased energy levels, anxiety reduction, and less irritability" (Turis, 2018).

Concentration: With yoga, kids are concentrating on the pose they are doing and taking deep breaths. "When kids concentrate on their breath or feel a stretch in their arms, they learn body awareness. This teaches them to keep their minds in one place, instead of all over the place" (Turis, 2018). For students who are living in poverty and don't know where their next meal will be coming from and are worrying about things that children should not have to worry about, yoga can help them clear their mind and give them something else to concentrate on.

Confidence: Yoga is something many children do not practice on a regular basis. "Kids gain confidence by trying new poses and developing new skills. By learning self-control and self-calming techniques, they are likely to grow confident in interacting with other children" (Turis, 2018). By implementing a daily routine of yoga in the classroom, teachers will be giving their students another opportunity to grow in their confidence. According to Erik Erikson's stages of psychosocial development, children between the ages of 5 and 12 (elementary age) are in the industry vs. inferiority stage which is where they are learning to become more independent and growing their self-esteem and confidence (McLeod, 2018). This is such a crucial stage in the development of children and yoga is a great way to help with this.

Behavior Issues: Students with ADHD, on the Autism spectrum, daily stressors, etc. tend to experience behavior problems in a school setting. "School-age children experiencing such stress would benefit from positive measures that support their self-regulation, both in and out of school settings" (Accardo, 2017). Yoga can reduce cortisol levels and having those levels reduced will help relax students, which will then help lower behavior issues.

What Would Yoga Look Like in the Classroom?

Ultimately, the teacher makes the decision of what yoga will look like in the classroom and it doesn't have to be the same every day. Yoga can be taking deep breaths, practicing mindfulness and meditation, doing yoga poses, dancing, etc. By using resources, including the ones mentioned below, teachers could integrate yoga at the time that best suits them (morning, brain break, indoor recess, end of the day). Teachers should take into consideration what their students need and then decide what would work best for their class and benefit them the most.

The idea is that yoga would become a part of the daily routine. For teachers who aren't exactly sure how to start implementing yoga in the classroom, this list from https://www.kidsyogastories.com/yoga-in-the-classroom/ helps give some ideas of where to begin:

"SO, WHAT DOES IT LOOK LIKE TO INTEGRATE YOGA INTO YOUR CLASSROOM? Follow your own interests and passion, and the children will feed off of your enthusiasm. Remember yoga is a lifestyle, not something to perfect overnight. Your classroom yoga experience will be personal to your classroom depending on what you are interested in. For example  

1. If you love yoga postures, print out a yoga poster below and practice a five-pose sequence based on a particular theme.

2. If you are inspired to start a daily meditation practice at home, then maybe you'd like to introduce a "sitting silently" practice in your classroom after recess to help refocus.

3. If breathing techniques help you calm your own anxiety, try introducing Flower Breath before each class meeting to help your students slow down and calm their bodies.

4. If you're more into playful games, then grab a deck of yoga cards and play yoga card games with your students.

5. If you're a book buff, then try reading and acting out a yoga book in your reading corner or projecting a PDF yoga book on your smartboard."

A great way to monitor and see the effects of yoga in and out of the classroom would be to have the class take this survey after implementing a daily yoga routine and sticking with it for a while. In order to get the most accurate results, display the questions on the smartboard or document camera and read/explain the questions to the students. For younger students, modify the numbers and make it a 1, 2, or 3.

"Student Self Survey Questions:
1= Strongly disagree  2= Disagree 3=Neutral  4=Agree 5=Strongly Agree (these can be modified to be more appropriate for students and their grade level and should be done together as a class)

Comparing myself to how I was before my classroom teacher began using Yoga tools in the classroom:

I have become more relaxed in daily living.

I have had fewer or no behavioral problems at school.

I have become more responsible in managing my daily tasks.

I am more focused on school work.

I can sleep better.

I am more energetic.

I am more aware of what I eat.

I have gained more knowledge about nutrition.

I start to eat more healthy foods.

I am getting along better with my family and friends.

I am a better listener today.

I can calm down more quickly once I feel upset.

I know more about my body.

I have better body postures.

I feel more confident in myself.

I am happier and laugh more often.

I enjoy school work and sports more than before.

I like myself more."



Some Fun Resources:

Cosmic Kids Yoga: A resource teachers can use to incorporate yoga in their daily routine. It includes options for less than 10 minutes, less than 15 minutes, or more than 15 minutes to make it more flexible for teachers. There are mindful relaxation videos, active videos, stories, etc. that teachers can pick for students. This website also provides a training to help teach children how to do yoga, lesson plans, blogs, and apparel/accessories you can purchase. WEBSITE: https://www.cosmickids.com/

GoNoodle: Go Noodle is a great way to get kids moving without really even realizing they are exercising and practicing mindfulness. This site gives "challenges" to classes each time they log in and do a certain amount of exercise in order to win a new character for the class. Students get to dance to more upbeat songs and also stretch and relax with slower and more peaceful songs as well. Students really enjoy this site and a lot of teachers use it during indoor recess or for a brain break during the day. WEBSITE: https://www.gonoodle.com/

Yoga Calm: Yoga Calm "fosters emotional intelligence, resilience, confidence, and self-control. It helps teachers become more effective by getting kids focused and ready to learn." This site provides resources for not only teachers but also for families and health professionals. There are trainings and workshops available that equip teachers to positively affect their students and their co-workers by giving them the tools they need to help students succeed. This program helps students with physical movement, mindfulness, and regulation of emotions. WEBSITE: https://www.yogacalm.org/

References:

Accardo, Amy. L. (2017) Yoga as a School-Wide Positive Behavior Support, Childhood Education, 93:2, 109-113, DOI: 10. 1080/00094056.2017.1300488

Butzer, B., Day, D., Potts, A., Ryan, C., Coulombe, S., Davies, B,. ... S., S. B. (2015). Effects of a Classroom-Based Yoga Intervention on Cortisol and Behavior in Second- and Third-Grade Students: A Pilot Study. Journal of Evidence-Based Complementary & Alternative Medicine, (20(1), 41-49. https://doi.org/10.1177/2156587214557695

Chen, D. & Pauwels, L. Benefits of Incorporating Yoga into Classroom Teaching: Assessment of the Effects of "Yoga Tools for Teachers."

McLeod, Saul (2018). Erik Erikson's Stages of Psychosocial Development, Simply Psychology. https://www.simplypsychology.org/Erik-Erikson.html

Shardlow, Giselle (2018). Kids Yoga Stories https://www.kidsyogastories.com/our-team/

Thomas, Erica Marie, "Yoga and Breathing and Relaxation Techniques Used During The School Day And Their Effects On School-Aged Children" (2014). Wayne State University Theses. 357.

Turnis, Stacey (2018). Say Yes to Yoga for Kids With ADHD, ADDitude. https://www.additude.com/yoga-for-kids-with-adhd/