Emotional intelligence, social competency, adaptable coping strategies, compassionate and positive attitudes, ability to focus – all these skills are cultivated by the consistent and supportive practice of yoga and mindfulness techniques. Overall, it has been shown by scientific researchers that yoga and mindfulness practices, made developmentally appropriate for use with children of various ages, address the whole child, thus maximizing the academic, social and emotional development in educational settings.
Our program, Yoga 4 Classrooms®, is anchored in well-validated evidence-based classroom pedagogies, developmental science, cross-sectional research in cognitive affective neuroscience, tenets of positive psychology and secular contemplative practices
One of the most important pillars supporting Y4C programming is the social-emotional learning model, which we would like to address specifically in a series of blog posts, beginning with this brief overview.
What is SEL?
Social and emotional learning (SEL) is an umbrella term for a variety of skills-based programs designed to help young people improve relationships with peers and adults, and to develop emotional understanding, self-control, and healthy values. SEL is not a single program, but rather a concept that can be integrated by various school programs, such as, for example, Yoga 4 Classrooms®.
As a burgeoning, important field of education research, SEL links students’ social and emotional skills with their academic achievement. The leading authority in the field of SEL, the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning, CASEL, states on the organization’s website:
“Providing children with comprehensive social and emotional learning programs characterized by safe, caring, and well-managed learning environments and instruction in social and emotional skills addresses many of the learning barriers through enhancing school attachment, reducing risky behaviors and promoting positive development, and thereby positively influencing academic achievement”.
The key concept is creating a school environment that is supportive of and conducive to healthy social-emotional development of children and healthy mental habits.
A large body of scientific research has determined that effective SEL in schools significantly improves students’:
• Social-emotional skills
• Attitudes about self and others and positive behavior
• Academic performance and attitudes toward school
• Social interactions
Thus, SEL promotes young people’s academic success, health, and well-being at the same time that it prevents a variety of conduct problems such as alcohol and drug use, violence, truancy, and bullying.
How does yoga and mindfulness support SEL concepts?
The short answer to this question is self-evident even by looking at five core components of SEL, which are self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision making.
In line with core goals of social-emotional learning, researchers indicate that short but regular formal yoga and mindfulness training exercises, combined with informal mindfulness awareness practices, can strengthen children’s innate capacities for being mindful to any experience (whether pleasurable, neutral, stressful or difficult) in ways that are responsive rather than reactive and reflexive.
Such practices are now being widely explored in schools and educational systems.
Research continues to show that yoga and mindfulness decrease stress, attention deficit issues, depression and anxiety in children, and benefit physical health, psychological well-being, social relations, and academic performance. Numerous studies show that sustainably introducing techniques promoting core concepts SEL is profoundly beneficial for the development of children.
Therefore, synergistic collaboration between contemplative practices and educational programs designed to foster SEL among children is clearly going to benefit everyone involved.
Durlak, J. A., Weissberg, R. P., Dymnicki, A. B., Taylor, R. D., & Schellinger, K. B. (2011). The impact of enhancing students’ social and emotional learning: A meta-analysis of school-based universal
interventions. Child Development, 82, 405–432.
Roeser, R.W. & Peck, S.C. (2009). An education in awareness: Self, motivation and self-regulation in contemplative perspective. Educational Psychologist. 44, 119-136.
Davidson R.J., Dunne, J., Eccles, J.S., Engle, A., et al (2012). Contemplative practices and mental training: prospects for American education. Child Development Perspectives. 6 (2).146-153.
For more overview info on Social-Emotional Learning read this accessible article on Edutopia.
COMING UP: In the next blog post aimed at bridging the SEL and secular contemplative practices in classrooms we will focus on the first component of social-emotional learning, self-awareness. Stay tuned!
In addition, learn about Academic, Social and Emotional Learning Act of 2011.