Teaching Yoga to Teachers
Are you working with a unique population or perhaps you are on a personal mission to make a difference through yoga and mindfulness education? Let us know how we can help!
Friday, April 10, 2015
Friday, March 27, 2015
We're excited to share the recent Yoga In My School podcast featuring special guests Lisa Flynn (Yoga 4 Classrooms), Leah Kalish, MA (Move with Me Yoga Adventures) and Kelli Love (Girls Prep Bronx Elementary).
These women have a passion for sharing yoga and mindfulness with students, educators and families. In this interview, they discuss how to help build integrated self-awareness and regulation in our young people.
Learn what's happening with yoga in education, including how school-based mindfulness practices are helping students with test anxiety, supporting family health and prompting research.
As host Donna Freeman notes:
“The mindfulness revolution has begun in classrooms everywhere. Students and educators from California to New York are discovering simple and effective tools that promote calm, clarity and peace of mind.”
Also, be sure to check out the following resources referenced by the participants in the discussion…
Please share this post with friends and colleagues who care about whole-child health and development. Let’s continue the conversation and support one another as we strive to create positive change in our schools. Contact us today!
Written by Amy Taylor, Ph.D., Director of Communications and Licensed Trainer, Yoga 4 Classrooms
Tuesday, March 17, 2015
As a school psychologist, I’m lucky to get to share yoga and mindfulness education every week in an amazing elementary school in Indiana. This school isn’t amazing because it has wealth or prestige. Quite the opposite, in fact; many students at this school have had few privileges or perks in their young lives.
The other day, a first-grader tugged at my sleeve.
“Guess what? I don’t have any parents.”
I fumbled for a reply, finally settling on, “Well, I’m really glad you are here today.”
And I was, because we were getting ready to do Yoga 4 Classrooms. We were learning how to breathe and move and calm ourselves. We were learning to be mindful, gain the ability to regulate our emotions while creating a safe, productive classroom climate.
The teachers at this school are significantly challenged on a daily basis, but they are just as amazing as the kids. Last week, several told me they planned to use techniques from their Yoga 4 Classrooms Activity Card Decks to help their students get through ISTEP+, our state’s version of the annual, high-stakes assessments. Of course, the “new and improved” version of the test is longer and more rigorous than the previous one. My understanding is that most adults would be lucky to pass the assessment for third-graders!
So, yeah, stress levels at this school have been high of late. A little girl plucked out her eyebrow hairs, one at a time, due to anxiety over these tests. Many students wither and fade. Some lash out; others engage in serious self-harm.
I sometimes wonder if we are fueling a mental health crisis in our children. But no one asked my opinion on the value of the new mega-assessments. If I were asked, here's what I'd say:
While we try to find more reasonable ways to assess student growth and progress, we must give young people the tools needed to thrive in a fast-passed, high-pressure world. I'm talking about real-life, in-the-moment things they can do when anxiety begins to peck.
Many educators out there are working to shift the climate of their classrooms and schools to a more positive place. At my school, I help equip my beloved teachers and students with self-regulation techniques which help improve their resilience and well-being short and long-term. Whatever demands the state hurls at these good folks, I believe they will be okay.
Here are a couple of inspiring stories from educators who took action in their schools:
Jacqueline Killorin is a kindergarten teacher and Licensed Yoga 4 Classrooms Trainer who decided to do something about assessment time stress in her home state of Massachusetts. She offered before-school yoga classes to 3rd and 4th graders to help prepare them to cope with the stress of upcoming state assessments.
Afterwards, she asked students for their feedback via surveys. All agreed that yoga helped reduce their stress. Why did they choose to sign up for the class? Of the possible answers offered, 85% answered “to reduce stress and relax”. Ninety-two percent said that they used the tools they had been taught and 96% said that yoga helped them with the assessments.
Other studies have found similar results. Students (and educators) tell us that yoga helps them feel better and manage their stress more effectively. In addition, teaching students strategies for relaxation and self-care has been linked to improved academic performance. Reducing stress and improving self-regulation ability bolsters learning.
This year, Jackie is volunteering her time again at the request of the students who want to start off their mandatory testing days with yoga. She's hoping to continue to "plant the seeds" that will grow into a garden of yoga and mindfulness in her school. Her survey results show that her students would like to see this happen.
Licensed Yoga 4 Classrooms Trainer and special education teacher Jennifer Griest Hayes recently made the local news in Ohio for the second year describing the week of yoga and mindfulness she designed to coincide with testing week at her school (read also our blog post about Jen's efforts last year). During the week, Valley View students did physical activities during gym class and in their classrooms during art and music class they did quieter activities such as making Zen gardens or making stress balls. And, because yoga is just as much about taking care of the mind and our relationships as it is the body, students and staff reflected on a special word each day of the week, many of which were inspired by the 'Be Well' section of the Yoga 4 Classrooms Card Deck. Her principal was thrilled.
“I am very excited to see we have something that helps our kids learn to relax especially this week when we have testing,” said Valley View Principal Paula Trenta. “This is the first time for the testing and teachers and students were stressed. I see this being a good benefit for our kids.”
Second-grade teacher Mari Beth Tinley agreed.
“I feel like they are more focused and ready to learn,” she said. “You can see the difference on the days when the students do have yoga compared to the days when students don’t.”
I was fortunate to have my school approach me about Yoga 4 Classrooms, viewing it as a natural part of Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS). Some mindful educators won't be so lucky. Like Jackie and Jen, you may have to start small and be creative in order to show what a big difference yoga and mindfulness practices can make to the educational process. But these efforts will pay off. Before long, you may have administrators singing your praises and wanting more for the benefit of their students and school.
As Yoga 4 Classrooms founder, Lisa Flynn, says often, "Have a mindset of planting seeds and just do what feels natural for you and your students." Inevitably, those seeds will sprout and grow. Let us know how we can help!
Written by Amy Taylor, Licensed Trainer and Director of Communications for Yoga 4 Classrooms
Sunday, February 15, 2015
To help combat the winter blahs, I decided to design a yoga-focused winter Field Day. Many teachers and students in our building had already learned about Yoga 4 Classrooms so a yoga-themed spirit day felt like a natural fit. When I realized that I could not pack all the desired events into a single day, I changed my vision to a week-long yoga and mindfulness celebration culminating with Yoga Recess Day. Yoga Health Foundation sponsors Yoga Recess Day and Yoga 4 Classrooms is a proud educational partner of the annual event.
Thursday, June 26, 2014
What does research say?Among many studies linking yoga and mental health, there is a significant research agenda studying the effects of contemplative practices specifically on teachers.
A recent study published in the Mindfulness Journal by Dr. Patricia Jennings, examined data from early childhood educators on indicators of well-being, mindfulness, and self-compassion. The results from the teachers' self-report surveys, independent observations of classroom quality and interviews about the most challenging children in the classroom, suggest that teachers' self-care practices significantly impact their ability to create and maintain effective and supportive classrooms.
The bottom line is this: it is not enough to teach mindfulness to students - at Yoga 4 Classrooms, we believe school leaders, teachers and other school professionals need to nurture themselves. Embodied contemplative practices can provide an amazing opportunity leading to personal transformation, providing the foundation for systemic transformation. Embracing the concept of self-care and personal mindfulness, teachers will not only improve their own well-being, but also support their classrooms and the larger community.
For more information about contemplative practices for educators:Developing Mindfulness for School Leaders - Education Week
Marina Ebert, MA serves as Director of Research and Relationship Development for Yoga 4 Classrooms. She also is a research assistant at the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence.
Lisa Flynn, E-RYT, RYT 500, RCYT, is the Founder and Director of ChildLight Yoga and Yoga 4 Classrooms. Lisa's books include the Yoga 4 Classrooms Card Deck (2011) and Yoga for Children: 200+ Yoga Poses, Breathing Exercises, and Meditations for Healthier, Happier, More Resilient Children (Adams Media, 2013).
Tuesday, June 10, 2014
Did you know that only 4% of elementary schools provide daily physical education and less than half of US schools offer recess? While in its Physical Activity Guidelines Advisory Committee Report (2008) the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends at least 60 minutes of physical activity for all school aged children, only half of kids meet this guideline.Shocking as it is, those are the results of two nationwide studies. That is the reason why, last week, the Society of Behavioral Medicine released a powerful statement advocating that elementary schools provide as many of the recommended 60 minutes of moderate-to vigorous physical activity during school hours as possible.
Thursday, June 05, 2014
Shelly McGrath, a retired preschool and kindergarten teacher, had been teaching yoga for many years when she decided to research ways to expand her practice. She came across Yoga 4 Classrooms and knew she had found her answer.
“As a retired classroom teacher and yoga teacher, Yoga 4 Classrooms immediately made a lot of sense to me. It is a clear and concise program that can be implemented in the classroom, as needed, without any special equipment,” says McGrath.
With the training and support she received as a Licensed Yoga 4 Classrooms Trainer, McGrath has been inspired and empowered to share what she has learned with educators and children's health advocates in Canada. She sent out over 200 letters to schools and area health organizations along with Yoga 4 Classrooms educational materials. She was also pro-active and successful in obtaining media coverage with the mission of educating the public about the power of yoga and mindfulness in the classroom to support learning, behavior, attention and classroom climate.
While facilitating the Yoga 4 Classrooms residency curriculum in a Grade One class at Buena Vista School in Saskatoon, which is in the Saskatchewan province of Canada, she contacted the local paper. The result was an article in the Star Phoenix.
"While participating in the Yoga 4 Classrooms training I learned that Lisa Flynn, its founder, is a rare person in that she has the yoga heart and a sharp business mind. She has done all the hard work needed to make Yoga 4 Classrooms trainers successful. No detail has been missed. Anyone who is interested in helping children, educators and schools simply and sustainably integrate yoga and mindfulness techniques into the class day should consider learning more about the Yoga 4 Classrooms program.”
McGrath's outreach led to an invitation by leaders of the federally funded Health Promoting Schools project to offer Yoga 4 Classrooms as a health program option to schools in the city of Saskatoon. To date, she has provided professional development to the staff of four Health Promoting Schools. She also shared the 10 lesson residency component of the program in each classroom, sometimes teaching five classes per day. "It was a tiring experience at times, but extremely rewarding!"
“I know I can’t help the children I work with with many of the challenges they face, but it feels good to be able to give them the tools to cope with whatever comes their way,” says McGrath. Recently, her work with Health Promoting Schools was featured on a local TV news channel, Go! Saskatoon.
Learn how you can attend a one-day professional development workshop held in 50 locations across the country or online, become a Yoga 4 Classrooms Licensed or Schoolsite Trainer,
or bring Yoga 4 Classrooms to your school.
Sunday, May 25, 2014
• University Professors, who are conducting research studies focused on the questions of: What are the outcomes of integrating yoga and mindfulness practices into the classrooms in public, private and charter schools? In other words, what are the benefits for children and youth (and for teachers)? What are the best practices/approaches for bringing yoga practices into the pre-k-12 classrooms, as well, for integrating the practices into the school culture?
On the first afternoon there was a Research Panel. The panel included Researchers from Western Illinois University, University of Buffalo’s Graduate School of Education, John Hopkins University School of Public Health, Research Triangle Institute International, University of Virginia’s School of Education, and Sat Bir Khalsa, Ph.D., of Harvard Medical School. (Sat Bir Khalsa, Ph.D. and Bethany Butzer, Ph.D. collaborated with Lisa Flynn and the Yoga 4 Classrooms team to complete the Yoga 4 Classrooms pilot research study: Effects of a Classroom-Based Yoga Intervention on Cortisol and Perceived Behavior in Second- and Third- Grade Students.)Mark Greenberg, Pennsylvania State University, moderated the panel. Mark and Tish Jennings, University of Virginia are conducting the CALM (Comprehensive Approach to Learning Mindfulness Practices) pilot study. Mark and Tish are testing whether a short daily intervention involving yoga, somatic breathing, intention-setting and caring practices results in reduced psychological and physiological symptoms related to stress and burnout among school teachers.
Saturday, October 19, 2013
With growing concern in the society on finding ways to improve mental well-being, including the ability to focus, ability to constructively reflect, and ability to choose most adaptable strategies to cope with stress, mindfulness has become the hot and timely topic.
At the forefront of school-based programming, mindfulness and yoga curricula are not only highly beneficial, but also affordable ways to improve school outcomes - see more on this discussion in recent Forbes Magazine's article.
Now Greater Good Science Center at University of California, Berkeley brings us the research round up of the most recent scientific papers published on school-based mindfulness programs.
"The last decade has seen a huge spike in secular applications of mindfulness, the practice of focusing our attention on our thoughts, feelings, and environment in the present moment. While the first wave of mindfulness-based programs were for adults, more recent efforts have targeted the well-being of children and adolescents; as a result, mindfulness programs in schools are becoming more and more widespread.
But until recently, “enthusiasm for promoting such practices [outweighed] the current evidence supporting them,” to quote a 2012 review of the research on mindfulness practices with children and youth.
That has changed in the past year with a spate of new studies: Researchers have been aggressively testing the effectiveness of school-based mindfulness programs, and they are starting to publish their results."
To read the article in full, visit the Greater Good Science Center website.
Other notable articles on cognitive benefits of mindfulness for kids:
Can Mindfulness Really Help You Focus, Time Magazine, March 2013
Forget Delayed Gratification: What Kids Really Need Is Cognitive Control, Time Magazine, October 2013
Tips for Teaching Mindfulness to Kids, Greater Good Science Center, May 2010
Monday, September 23, 2013
All components of the program are
carefully designed and tested to ensure long-term program
sustainability in the school. In many cases, Licensed Trainers and
Schoolsite Trainers work together in the school before and after
implementation to ensure longevity and ongoing support.
Learn more about becoming a Y4C School.
Here is what others say about Y4C in schools and more testimonials on our website:"Yoga 4 Classrooms seems to be the missing link our schools need to bring all types of learners together. Present, grounded and ready to learn!" J Gauer, ADHD Coach
Also, check out the great stories about two Y4C Schools covered by mass media: Greater Catholic School Board in Saskatoon, Canada and Peterborough Elementary School in New Hampshire.
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