Yoga 4 Classrooms®

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Yoga 4 Classrooms Joins Yoga Recess as an Educational Partner

Friday, December 14, 2012

Yoga-Recess in Schools is a national campaign coordinated by the Yoga Health Foundation to bring yoga-based health education into classrooms. By providing free online resources like instructional videos and lesson plans that will make it easy and fun for school teachers to integrate yoga into their teaching schedule. This allows children to benefit from balancing their body and mind through breathing and stretching exercises.

The national campaign will peak with Yoga-Recess Day, Friday January 25, 2013 with hundreds of school teachers and organizations participating.

Learn more HERE.

Featured educational partners this year are: Yoga 4 Classrooms, Yoginos, Next Generation Yoga, Playful Planet.

“Since we started Yoga-Recess 2 years ago over 10,000 school teachers expressed interest in bringing yoga into their classroom. With the new Yoga-Recess in School campaign we encourage school teachers to integrate breathing, stretching and other short yoga exercises into their daily class schedule.” says Johannes R. Fisslinger, president of the Yoga Health Foundation.

Considering budget cuts in schools across the country and the elimination or reduction of physical education, school officials are looking to find cost-effective ways to bring PE back into their schools. Physical exercise alone does not seem to be enough anymore. Children of all grades are more stressed then ever and yoga seems to be the perfect form of exercise to balance the body and mind.

According to the University of Indiana’s Sound Medicine, children who practice yoga, often experience healthier sleep patterns which allow them to relax more than children who don’t practice yoga. A study conducted by the Journal of Attention Disorders found that ADHD children who practice yoga are much more likely to remain focused and are less hyperactive, which in turned reduced the amount of emotional outbursts and their oppositional behavior.

Learn more about the benefits of yoga and mindfulness in classrooms and download free research resources.

How to get involved?

Schools, Parents and Organizations: Raise funds for your school by engaging your community through building a fundraising team. It's simple - learn HOW now!

Register your school or classroom (to start a team) and opt in to raise funds for your school using the convenient online platform, which allows to reach out to your community via email and social media and keep track of your team supporters. Note that all net proceeds (minus 10% expenses and hard costs for credit card transactions, platform, hosting, server expenses) will reach your classroom. The funds raised are to be used for yoga related programs in your school, such as Yoga 4 Classrooms! 

Additional Resources for School Teachers: Access free educational resources to bring yoga into your classroom. The national campaign is funded by passionate school teachers, principals, parents, yogis and people wanting to improve the quality of life for children and youth.

Yoga 4 Classrooms is proud to support the mission of Yoga Recess and provide school professionals with a great downloadable resource incorporating the teaching tips and specific yoga and mindfulness activities through a selection of visuals from our acclaimed Yoga 4 Classrooms Card Deck.

Also, see an inspiring review from the 2012 Yoga-Recess Grant Recipient - The Bright School in TN!

Enter your school to become the next grant recipient HERE.




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Top 10 Take Aways from the Contemplative Teaching and Learning Symposium at Garrison Institute

Friday, December 07, 2012

Heading back from the weekend spent at the Garrison Institute’s symposium “The art and science of contemplative teaching and learning: exploring ways of knowing”, filled with information, energy and contemplation, we couldn’t help but feel the profound sense of validation and encouragement in the work that we do bringing yoga and mindfulness to the classrooms.

The amazing group of scientists, researchers, authors, educators and others presenting and present at the symposium created the atmosphere of ‘being seen’, supported and reassured that secular, developmentally appropriate and proven contemplative practices shared in school settings are bound to make a difference in the minds and hearts of children and those who support them.

Although it is impossible to provide an all-encompassing overview of the ideas shared during the weekend’s gathering, we noted some recurring themes that substantiate our mission and efforts and also aid in demystifying the field of contemplative education, or as Garrison Institute titled it, Contemplative Teaching and Learning (CTL).

1. Take care of yourself.
On the path to sharing life-changing contemplative ways of learning with others, it is important not to let your personal practice become non-existent or weakened. As obvious as this is, the pace of the modern world often absorbs our best intentions in the name of service. This is bound to backfire, though. Do take time for yourself to connect with your inner self, nourish your body and soul so that you can more authentically share with and model for others.

2. Invite.
Offer the children, colleagues, parents or anyone else around you a non-intrusive way to join you in your own contemplative practice. Perhaps it's a yoga class before the start of a school day, a lunch-time meditation, mindful eating or walking, engaging in arts or reflective journaling at the end of the workday, or other ways to engage and monitor the inner world. The simple act of inviting someone may be life-changing: your open heart and hand may lead to someone’s mind to open to transformation, thus gradually changing the fabric of the school, and ultimately society. Importantly, such hands-on experience helps to lift the veil of unknown and perceived esoteric at times and demystifies contemplative practices for those whom it may be unfamiliar.

3. Share ideas.
Engaging in conversations with like-minded people and colleagues, attending conferences, reading relevant literature and being an integral part of the overall discourse and dialogue in the field of contemplative teaching and learning is necessary and quite rewarding. This was felt on the deepest levels during the Garrison Institute’s event: the atmosphere educed collaboration, not competition, among the contemplative education programs (just to note, representatives from Yoga 4 Classrooms, Niroga Institute, Inner Resilience, Bent On Learning, CARE for Teachers, Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health and others were present among the attendees). A powerful yet simple idea of interconnectedness can be described by what Dan Siegel dubbed the “MWE” (ME + WE). The move to integrate the identities, acknowledge the fact that we are all profoundly interconnected and let go the delusion that we are separate was evident during this symposium. Healthy integration while honoring the differences – this motto sums this idea up, and can be applied to all complex systems, from individuals, to organizations, to countries.

4. Go slow to get there faster.
The idea of taking “time in”, calming the racing mind, allowing time for mindfulness and reflection, thus creating the coherence and harmony in order to see the world and the self clearly, is at the core of the contemplative mind. According to neuroscientists, our brain must slow down to differentiate before integrating and getting ready for action. We'll accomplish more by taking our time, rather than forcing or racing to some imaginary 'finish line.'

5. The classroom can be a sacred space.
Many programs similar to our own Yoga 4 Classrooms share the mission of creating a peaceful, calm and trustworthy classroom. Teachers often create a “peace corner” or “quiet place” in their classrooms to encourage “time in”.  Silence can give us a sense of protection, and that physical space in the corner where a child can come for calm and peace can help him embody this peace in their minds and hearts. This can help prevent the new emotion term called “overwhelmedness” from becoming the default state of mind.

6. Don’t hesitate to take action.
A wonderful point made during the symposium encompasses this idea: the majority of the wonderful things happening in classrooms right now has never been and will never be scientifically validated. If we apply the logic of always needing scientific evidence to take action in the classroom, then saying “Good Morning!” to our students each day must have an evidence-based foundation before we can believe in its positive effect!  Silly, right? Anecdotal evidence, centuries of tradition, personal subjective experience and yes, the scientific research as well, -  all are important when considering integrating new techniques in schools. We wrote about the importance of research on the effects of yoga for school children, however there is no need to wait for years before all the research is completed to start improving the classroom climate now!

7. Start small, keep it simple.
Doing “balloon breathing” is one of the simplest, most beneficial ways to promote mindful awareness, providing a great option for someone just starting out to share yoga and mindfulness practices in the educational setting. Let’s lose our attachment to needing to change the world overnight. (See #4 above)

8. Give them the nut, not just the shell.
While encouraging the action and simple steps on this path to transform schools with contemplative techniques, we need to remember the depth and the breadth of these practices. Simple doesn’t mean superficial, hollow or mechanistic. A beautiful South African greeting used a lot during the symposium: “ I see you” – “ I am here” allows children and school staff members to “be seen” and to learn “ to see”. This is a holistic approach in action, to be able “to feel felt by” your teacher. And this is argued to be the most important moment in the contemplative education – the moment of being SEEN. No reductionist approach can create these moments, and we must remember that the practices and strategies we utilize are only the vehicles that carry these underlying ideas.

9. Bridge sacred and science.
The renowned scientists presenting at the symposium, Dan Siegel, Mark Greenberg, Tobin Hart, Linda Lantieri and others, like Adele Diamond, Patricia Jennings, Jennifer Frank showed that contemplative education has been receiving considerable academic attention and validation. The accounts from the fields of neurobiology, developmental psychology, health science, cognitive social neuroscience all contribute to the scientific study of yoga, mindfulness, empathy training, contemplative art, music and writing, among others. Yet the roots of these practices are very deep in various spiritual and mythological traditions. We have the ability to witness the beautiful architecture bridging the sacred and the science.

10. Disciplinary crossover is key to success.
“Integration is a fruit salad, not a smoothie”, noted Dan Siegel during his keynote talk. The academic disciplines, classroom pedagogies and various teaching and learning approaches addressing the whole person through social-emotional learning, emotion regulation, mind-body alignment, mindfulness, attention training - all have common grounds. Being aware of the commonalities, translating the various languages used by these disciplines, and creating ways to integrate them is important for bringing the mission forward.

Overall, the symposium promoted secular and accessible presentation of mindfulness, yoga and similar contemplative practices, with an emphasis on compassion, reflection time and stress reduction. Bringing these essential life skills to as many young people as possible has always been our goal and we were delighted to partake in sharing this vision with so many others. Using Dan Siegel’s words, we believe that “paying attention to your intention” is important to stay focused on this vision. While there are several approaches to cultivating the healthy inner world and fruitful relationships with the outer world, we feel empowered as we continue our work under the umbrella term “contemplative education”.

 

Lisa Flynn, E-RYT, RYT 500, RCYT, is the Founder and Director of ChildLight Yoga and Yoga 4 Classrooms, and is author of the Yoga 4 Classrooms Card Deck.and Yoga for Children, to be published Spring, 2013 by Adams Media, an F+W Media Company.



Marina Ebert, MA serves as Director of Research and Relationship Development for Yoga 4 Classrooms. She also is a research assistant at Khalsa Yoga Research Lab at Brigham and Women's Hospital/ Harvard Medical School. 





You can also view the videos from the 2011 inaugural symposium, “Advancing the Science and Practice of Contemplative Teaching and Learning”,  which brought together teachers, principals, researchers, neuroscientists, psychologists, health professionals, professors, graduate students, non-profit organizations and others. The 2012 videos will be available soon. 




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Interview with Y4C Advisory Board member Dan Huston: bringing contemplative education to all settings, from preschool to higher education

Thursday, November 29, 2012

I recently had the good fortune of sitting in on one of Professor Dan Huston’s communication classes.  Upon arrival, I could feel the sense of trust Professor Huston and his students had established after just four weeks of classes.  They were beginning with their usual routine: discussing portions of students’ “Awareness Notebooks”–a journaling activity that encourages students to direct attention to present moment sensations, feelings and thoughts as they go about their daily life. “It’s amazing what focusing on our breathing can do!” – exclaims one student. Others shared more personal experiences, such as using awareness of physiological sensations to avoid an anxiety attack, or using mindfulness to help deal with a family member’s recent death. Dan’s students also say mindfulness allows them to experience a feeling of awe, for example, noticing the beautiful snow fall as if seeing it for the first time.

The Awareness Notebooks activity is part of the Communicating Mindfully curriculum Professor Huston has been developing and implementing over the last fifteen years, which infuses mindfulness into the standard communication course offered to students at NHTI, Concord’s Community College.  His unique approach includes mindfulness meditation, which is useful in all life situations and scientifically studied in research laboratories. In fact, Dan is one of these researchers, having co-authored a peer-reviewed paper, “Mechanisms of Mindfulness in Communication Training," on the results of a controlled study on his Communicating Mindfully curriculum.

During the class I observed, Dan and his students explored the cause-and-effect relationship between self-talk and communication behaviors. “What we say to ourselves has a big impact on how we communicate,” Dan points out, “but we’re not always aware of that inner monologue.  As we become more aware of it, one of the things we often notice is the contribution it makes to habitual patterns of communication that aren’t serving us very well.”  As his students begin to discover their unproductive habits, Dan invites them to consider the communication concepts they have studied to help them “think of alternatives to those habitual behaviors that manufacture our reality.”  Opening to the moment more fully can help, too, in order to avoid ruminating on unproductive thoughts.  His students know that opening to the moment means becoming more aware of both the pleasant and the unpleasant experiences in their lives.  “When we wake up to life, we wake up to both the smell of flowers and dead mice…But by making a commitment to experiencing even the unpleasant experiences of life, we make room for important observations and insights,” Dan notes in his textbook, Communicating Mindfully, which he created for the course.

At the end of the class, Dan leads students through an optional 15-minute Loving-Kindness Meditation.  All of the students choose to participate. Completely secular, this practice is offered to all without assumptions or required postures. Some students decide to use their yoga mat to lie down, some are sitting at their desk with heads down on their hands, some are standing with eyes closed. This time is taken as an opportunity, not always present in students’ daily busy lives, to connect with their inner selves and generate the feelings of peace and compassion. Those are especially needed when we allow ourselves to notice things we don’t like about ourselves, which observation of our self-talk often reveals.

Dan has been incorporating mindfulness, meditation, and emotional intelligence into his communication curriculum for fifteen years. His work is informed by training he received at the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School founded by Jon Kabat-Zinn. In addition to fulfilling his teaching responsibilities as a Professor of the English Department, Dan works tirelessly to increase mindful communication throughout NHTI’s campus community: advising the student meditation club, providing training to faculty and administrators, leading workshops at the Business Training Center, and working to infuse mindfulness throughout a variety of curricula.


Serving on the Yoga 4 Classrooms Advisory Board, Dan Huston is inspired by the movement to bring the techniques of yoga and mindfulness to the younger generation in order to set the groundwork for a lifetime of learning through careful, mindful observation and mind/body awareness.

We met with him to ask a few questions about his vision for contemplative practices in education, encompassing the lifelong learning from preschool to higher education institutions.

 

 

Q: The field of contemplative education is slowly starting to gain grounds in traditional educational settings. A lot of programs focus on just one or two guiding philosophies or practices. Do you believe it is possible to create an integrative approach taking into account the concepts of Social-Emotional Learning, emotional intelligence, character education and mindfulness?
 
Dan Huston: 
That’s a good question.  Yes, I do believe it’s possible.  However, about ten years ago when I began going to conferences for educators who were bringing contemplative practices into their classrooms, I realized that people were often using the term “mindfulness” in very different ways.  One of the keynote speakers at one of those conferences, Amishi Jha, who studies the effects of mindfulness meditation on the brain, expressed concern about that phenomenon--at least that’s how I took it.  She pointed out that the field is in its infancy and that it’s important for educators and researchers to join forces and to be very specific about the application of contemplative practices and the outcomes.  At NHTI, I have provided training to over sixty full-time faculty members (some more than others).  We now have a common foundation on which we can build.  With that common understanding, common vocabulary, common experience, we are now beginning to explore a variety of contemplative practices.  Teachers from a wide range of disciplines have studied mindfulness with me.  Those disciplines include literature, human services, information technology, math, biology, dental, nursing, and orthopedics.  I am very excited to see where things go from here, and I’m encouraged by how thoughtfully and deliberately people are moving forward with their ideas.  I suspect Y4C is establishing a similar kind of foundation in the schools with which you work.

Q: Generating compassion, empathic concern for others and subsequent prosocial behavior is an ongoing theme in contemporary school settings (especially in light of bullying prevention). How do you see self-communication skills such as self-awareness and emotional competence being related to improving interpersonal communication abilities?

Dan Huston:
That’s another great question.  The answer could fill up an entire book…as a matter of fact, that’s pretty much what my book is about.  However, I will emphasize how useful Paul Ekman’s work has been to me.  He states very clearly that human beings interpret situations so quickly we don’t even notice it’s an interpretation: it feels like we’re simply noticing “reality.”  However, as we all know, our perceptions aren’t always accurate.  Nevertheless, accurate or not, they can stir strong emotions within us, and we can often be very reactive, irrational, self-righteous, judgmental…the list goes on and on.  Ekman points out that mindfulness can help us notice emotions arising in our body—quick heart rate, tense muscles, etc.  When we feel those things happening, it might be an indication we’re about to be reactive based on the way we unconsciously interpreted something.  That’s our opportunity to reappraise what just happened and make a choice about how to respond.  When we respond with that kind of awareness, we can ask ourselves, “What could I say or do right now that has the best chance of making this experience satisfying for everyone involved?”  I believe that reappraisal process helps us develop self-awareness, flexibility, self-regulation, resilience, and empathy, all of which help us communicate more effectively.  We begin to realize that each of us interprets situations differently—we each have a different set of experiences that influence how we appraise situations.  When we get to know ourselves at that level, observing our emotions and reactivity, we develop the ability to empathize with others at a deeper level as well.  Consequently, we speak with more respect, we listen better, we choose our words more carefully, and we are less judgmental.

Q: What has been the most often mentioned benefit of mindfulness among your students?

Dan Huston: “Most often?” That’s hard to answer.  Students frequently say the course helps them succeed in college in general.  Surprisingly, many students have mentioned that it helps them with math.  I think part of what’s happening there is that applying mindfulness to the study of self-concept helps them recognize self-fulfilling prophecies that have been holding them back; they learn to focus on the math problem itself rather than being engulfed by panic.  They also discover and modify unproductive habits when it comes to doing (or not doing) homework in general.  Students comment on how the class has helped improve their relationships with family members, friends, boyfriends/girlfriends, etc.  They realize they have the ability to manage life’s challenges; they’re less afraid and more confident. It’s not uncommon for students to say the course helped them manage their ADHD or stop abusing alcohol and drugs.  Oh, and many younger students become nicer to their moms, too.

Q: What do you think is the key difference in teaching mindfulness skills to children versus young adults? Where does the physical aspect of mindful yoga, or the embodiment of mindfulness skills, as in Yoga 4 Classrooms curriculum, fit in?

Dan Huston: As you know, I don’t have experience working with young children.  I can tell you, however, that many of my students express that they wish they had been introduced to mindfulness at an earlier age.  “Why didn’t anyone tell me this before?” is a common sentiment expressed in my classes.  I have a bit of experience with yoga, though, and it certainly can nurture mindfulness: “stretching” to one’s limit becomes a kind of metaphor for growing naturally, at one’s own pace by virtue of dedication and commitment; “sitting with discomfort” teaches us that being uncomfortable from time to time is part of life—we don’t have to run away from it; and yoga can help us notice our self-talk and emotions, too: “I’ll never be able to do that!” we might say, tempted to compare ourselves to the person next to us, rather than recognizing our own limits and abilities.  It’s not about who can stretch the farthest; it’s about being present with and respecting our minds and our bodies.  I imagine children who gain that ability at an early age will be more confident in themselves, less likely to be persuaded to do things they don’t want to do, more in touch with their natural abilities, more aware of their interests, less reactive, and maybe more fully engaged in everything they do, more focused.



As a Yoga 4 Classrooms Advisory Board member, Dan Huston believes that introducing mindfulness, self-awareness and emotion regulation skills and strategies to young children helps them develop better self-care habits as they transition to adulthood.  It also helps them develop focused attention, confidence, and critical thinking skills.  We share the vision that modifying the techniques proven effective with adults to be developmentally appropriate for younger children and creating the learning environments conducive to contemplation, reflection and creativity early on in educational process are keys to making a profound change in the fabric of our society.

Learn more about Y4C Advisory Board members and stay tuned for more interviews with each of them.




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Lessons from Peterborough Elementary School - how to ensure sustainability of Yoga 4 Classrooms in your school

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Peterborough Elementary School can be named one of the exemplar schools implementing the innovative programming for better learning and healthy lifestyle. We are excited to highlight how the school managed to create an open and conducive environment to embrace Yoga 4 Classrooms.

A Licensed Yoga 4 Classrooms Trainer, Sarah Aborn, has just completed her 10 week residency at the school with amazing success and support from staff and parents. It was the excited, motivated teachers and administrators who made all the difference in setting the right tone and helping children internalize the curriculum. The support of the in-classroom program also lead to Sarah now offering an additional, after school yoga club - “because I have 260 kids hooked on yoga” in Sarah’s words.

“This is enriching mine and all the students' lives to no end! I cannot stress enough how many kids are just soaking this material up, on such deep levels”, - says Sarah Aborn.

How did Peterborough Elementary School manage to engage the staff, the students and the parents during the implementation of the Y4C program? Below are some valuable tips!

• The school offered the Staff Development Workshop to everyone working in the school before the start of the 10 week residency, and also incorporated the Parent Education component of the Y4C. This is the best decision a school can make to ensure sustainability of the program after the residency is over!

• From the very beginning, the Principal was committed to informing the parents of Sarah’s residency lessons on weekly basis, incorporating pictures, Y4C cards and the newly developed Y4C Family Letters into his weekly Friday Parent Newsletter. Here is an example of what he shared with the parents:

“Yoga 4 Classrooms started this week. Sarah Aborn, certified Yoga 4 Classrooms instructor, worked with every class in the school. The theme for the week was mindfulness. Sarah taught the students strategies for relieving stress about homework, tests, and other challenging parts of their days. The practice of putting breath, body, and mind together creates an environment of mindfulness to decrease stress. The students learned about Magic Focus Points, Silent Seconds, and Balloon Breath. They also learned the tree pose along with sitting and standing mountain. Ask your child to share some of the exercises with you. You’ll be amazed at how calm you feel afterwards”.

• Another great example of the school staff embracing the program is the wonderful use of technology to help students pay attention and enjoy what they’re learning. Mr.Rothaus, a second grade teacher, utilized the Smart Board during the Y4C residency lessons. All Y4C Cards used in the lessons were scanned and uploaded into the Smart Board, allowing Sarah to “flip” electronically through the cards that are a focus of the day’s lesson. The images are then are enlarged on the Smart Board for the whole class to easily see and follow the instructions as modeled by Sarah.

The same teacher also created a "magic focus point" which is labeled as such and just a big, colorful dot, on the Smart Board page next to the Y4C Card the class is working on, for those students who choose to use it.

• The school engaged the students to create videos as a sort of “thank you” note to the PTO, interviewing Sarah, their teachers and other students about the Y4C program. Some of the questions included inquiring about the change in students’ well-being, emotions, coping with anxiety and anger, and asking teachers about their impressions about changes in classroom climate. Encouraging self-reflection on the part of the students in this creative activity is a great way to tie-in the mission of Y4C.


Finally, to build excitement about the program, the school’s Yoga 4 Classroom residency has been featured in the local newspaper, Monadnock Region Ledger-Transcript, highlighting the techniques taught within the curriculum that help kids cope with stress and negative emotions and lead to better school outcomes.  As featured in the article:

The School’s Principal Ben Loi said the program, which is partially sponsored by the Parent Teacher Organization with other funding coming from the school’s cocurricular activities budget, fits well with the school’s mission. “Our goal is to create opportunities for kids to be successful,” Loi said. “This program teaches kids to let go of things — stress, anxiety — and move on. Math and reading are important, but students need these life skills as well.”

Read the full story here.


For more on parent involvement in educational programs, read this resource roundup by Edutopia.

Interested in learning how your school can become a Yoga 4 Classrooms school? Learn more about bringing the Staff Development Workshop and Y4C Residency to your school, and about Y4C Trainer Intensives for yoga teachers and education professionals.


To purchase the Yoga 4 Classrooms Activity Card Deck visit our online boutique.




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Yoga 4 Classrooms around the world: children in Guatemala doing classroom yoga in Spanish

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Here is yet another inspiring story about how the Yoga 4 Classrooms is making its way to school children not only nationally, but internationally!

Can you do Rey Bailarin with your kids?


Licensed Yoga 4 Classrooms Trainer, Stephanie Brown shares her story:

"I came to Guatemala to learn Spanish in order to serve more Spanish-speaking families as a pediatric occupational therapist in North Carolina. I also came to help teach English to this adorable group of 9-12 year olds in the town of San Pedro La Laguna. I have been teaching with an American pediatrician who kept talking about how "antsy" her class was.

I decided that adding Y4C to the beginning of the day would not only help the children focus longer, but would be a great way to practice my Spanish. The pediatrician, Denise, and I translated the names of a few activities. The kids responded well and enjoyed the change of pace.

The children are a part of a program called Ninos Del Lago. It is a program that helps to support the education for children who do not have many resources within an area that is already full of poverty. We told the children that these "ejercicios especiales" (special exercises) were good for both their body and their mind. Some of their favorite exercises were luna creciente (crescent moon), gato (cat), and rey bailarin (king dancer). We are going to continue using Y4C at the beginning of each English class".

 Also read our post about Yoga 4 Classrooms Activity Card Deck used by a volunteer in Botswana.

 




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Research Report - Benefits of Integrating Mindful Exercise Activities into the Classroom: Coordination, Focus, Academic Achievement

Monday, November 12, 2012

Several fresh scientific publications address the implementation of yoga and mindfulness activities into the school system. Seeing empirical research and comprehensive reviews reporting on contemplative education practices helps the movement gain scientific validation and wide-spread acceptance by educators.

As the interest in the use of mindfulness-based activities with children and youth is growing, a new review article evaluates empirical evidence related to the use of mindfulness-based activities to facilitate enhanced student learning and to support students’ psychological, physiological, and social development. It also provides an overview of interventions that include mindfulness. “There is a need to provide children with a way to combat the stress and pressure of living in today’s highly charged world: mindfulness may be one helpful alternative”.

Authors of another rationale paper, published in October 2012 in Teaching and Learning, propose the framework for integrating mindfulness principles into the school physical activity programming.

Practicing mindfulness in physical activities can help young people manage stress, maintain well-being, and develop patience, trust, and openness; to conclude, it exposes them to these and many other benefits that will enhance their quality of health and happiness.

Among other ways of bringing mindfulness to physical activities in the school the article authors propose to teach mindful movement disciplines, mindfulize” physical activities, avoid multi- tasking, nurture and develop appreciation of subjective experiences.

The article concludes that “integration of mindfulness in school physical activity programs is not an attempt to delegitimize present practice; rather, the intention is to further emphasize the need to re-examine our current practice, and re-orient our programs to ensure they are meaningful”.

Moving beyond general beneficial influences of mindfulness on physical activity as part of the whole child development, the paper to be published in December 2012 Journal of Exercise and Sport Psychology, poses a more direct and important outcome-related question: Does integrating physical activity in the elementary school classroom influence academic motivation?  

The purpose of this research study was to examine the effect of physical activity integrated with academic lessons compared to traditional lessons on children's academic motivation. Students in 4th - 6th grades were participating in either a traditional academic subject lesson (Language, Arts, Math, Social Studies), or in a specifically designed lesson integrating a 10 minute physical activity in the classroom. The researchers assessed students' intrinsic motivation with regards to academic learning and compared the groups participating in the study. Students’ self-reported interest/enjoyment significantly decreased after the traditional lessons, however it increased significantly after just the second integrated lesson! Children also reported higher perceived competence and effort, whereas neither the perceived value of the lesson declined nor did children report feelings of pressure from this alternative teaching method. Overall, this research showed that physical activity integrated with the academic subjects can positively impact children's academic motivation.

The above rigorous scientific study, although not using the yoga specifically as an intervention, supports the core idea behind the Yoga 4 Classrooms in that integrating the physical activity, and even better – a mindful movement activity like yoga practice – benefits the learning readiness and academic achievement. 

These studies are of course not surprising to practitioners and teachers who know about these outcomes firsthand from their experiences and students’ informal reports. Still, having this evidence is very encouraging when delivering the message to the schools and parents.

 

References:

Chunlei Lu (2012). Integrating Mindfulness into School Physical Activity Programming. Teaching and Learning. Vol 7, No 1.

Vazou,S.,  Gavrilou, P.,  Mamalaki, E., Papanastasiou, A. & Sioumala. N. (2012).Does integrating physical activity in the elementary school classroom influence academic motivation? International Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology. Volume 10, Issue 4.251-263.

Rempel, Ki, (2012). Mindfulness for Children and Youth: A Review of the Literature with an Argument forSchool-Based Implementation. Canadian Journal of Counselling and Psychotherapy. Vol 46 (3).




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Concepts of Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) at the foundation of Yoga 4 Classrooms

Thursday, October 18, 2012

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.

http://casel.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/benefits.png

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.

References:

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.




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Yoga in the schools is NOT a religious practice - Elephant Journal features our article on the issue

Monday, October 15, 2012

In light of the recent controversy with the question of religion and the yoga in the schools, Lisa Flynn, founder of ChildLight Yoga and Yoga 4 Classrooms, publishes a response in the Elephant Journal.

Read the full article HERE.

"The last few days have brought a new wave of discussions about what has come to be called the “religion question” in the school yoga movement. The recent story picked up by mass media is spinning around the yoga in the schools controversy powered by some parents in southern California who have slammed the district’s twice-a-week yoga program, accusing it of religious indoctrination.

As yoga is gaining popularity in education system, the importance of clearly defining the relationship between yoga- and mindfulness-based programs and religious paradigms is evident.  It is apparent that being open, clear and flexible when addressing this question is the only acceptable way to handling and preventing similar controversies.

Along with other educators and researchers, we strongly believe that it is possible for schools to nurture the hearts and spirits of students, without violating the individual beliefs of families.


So, let's be clear, once and for all. At school, yoga and mindfulness education is shared as a secular practice with the purpose of improving learning while supporting the health and well being of students and educators".

READ OUR FULL ARTICLE IN THE ELEPHANT JOURNAL HERE! We welcome your comments, stories and experiences, as well as ideas on how to address this important issue with schools, parents and children themselves.




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Yoga 4 Classrooms to exhibit at conferences for school counselors and psychologists

Friday, October 12, 2012

In an effort to spread the word about the benefits of yoga practices in the schools, Yoga 4 Classrooms team members will be exhibiting at the upcoming October conferences for school psychologists and counselors.

New York Association of School Psychologists Annual Conference
October 25 - 27, Niagara Falls, NY.

School psychologist and Licensed Y4C Trainer, Zsuzsanna Kiraly, PhD, serving as Director of Hagin School Consultation Centers at the Fordham University Graduate School of Education, is excited to present information about Yoga 4 Classrooms at this conference this month. She says:

"My goal is to make more and more school psychologists aware of Y4C, a yoga and mindfulness-based program, which enhances students’ learning,  social-emotional functioning as well as their attention and self-regulation skills. I believe that school psychologists, by their training in child development and access to a large student population, are in a unique position of supporting the integration of this mind-body practice into the class curriculum that, at the end, helps not only the students but also the entire school community ".

For more information about how yoga and mindfulness supports the work of school psychologists, read the overview of Dr.Kiraly's last year's presentation at NYASP titled "The Zen of Executive Functions", which pertains to yoga practice supporting brain structures involved in learning and executive functions (organization, planning, working memory, etc).

New Hampshire School Counselor Association Annual Conference
October 26th, Concord, NH

As the Y4C program also supports the goals set forward in the National Standards for Students of the American School Counselor Association (ASCA) across the academic, career and personal/social domains, our focus is on informing and engaging more school counselors. Lisa Flynn, the Founder of ChildLight Yoga and Yoga 4 Classrooms, will be exhibiting at this conference. Here is what a school counselor, Louise Janelle, NH-based School Counselor, also serving on the Y4C Advisory Board, says:

“Adopting Y4C into my elementary school program has given me a different understanding of its sustainable benefits and brought a whole new depth to my professional skill set as well as my own yoga practice. There are many choices in quality evidence based programs. Over the course of my career, I’ve made every effort to bring these best practices to my students. This program, however, has become for me a necessary component of all direct services to the students in my school. Easy to use techniques and strategies, grounded in centuries of practice, have become essential components of individual and group work, and particularly classroom guidance. I delight in seeing students both enjoy and benefit from this program.”


Click here to see how the core components of Yoga 4 Classrooms tool address the ASCA self-regulation, positive attitude, resiliency and lifelong learning competencies.

American School Counselor's Association (ASCA)
June 2013, Philadelphia, PA
In addition, Yoga 4 Classrooms will also exhibit for a second year at the 2013 ASCA Conference to be held in Philadelphia next June. Proposal for presentation at the conference has also been submitted. Stay tuned for more news!




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Introducing Yoga 4 Classrooms Advisory Board Members

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Yoga 4 Classrooms has been actively assembling the Advisory Board to help us move forward to our goal of offering the gifts of yoga to the upcoming generation in schools across this country and beyond. We would like to celebrate the amazing team currently on board with Y4C mission!

Currently serving on the Y4C Advisory Board along side the Yoga 4 Classrooms Founder, Lisa Flynn, are leading experts in their fields, including Dr. Robert Butera, Marcel Duclos, Dan Huston, Louise Janelle, Dr. Jessica Noggle and Craig Hanauer. Each one of them is specifically appointed to advise Y4C on the issues within the framework of their expertise and passion.

Below are some of the inspiring testimonials from them:

“The Yoga 4 Classrooms multi-dimensional approach to supporting children through yoga includes teaching yoga not just to students, but parents and teachers as well.  This model holds great promise for systems-level, sustainable improvements in childhood health in America. Importantly,Y4C is shaped by research evidence, and through partnerships with scientists Y4C has begun to contribute research evidence as well. ” Jessica Noggle, Ph.D., a research fellow at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School, former project leader of Kripalu Center’s Yoga in the Schools program and Principal Investigator of clinical study of yoga for people with PTSD and insomnia.

“Y4C is doing things right.  It is heart-centered, true to the lineage of contemplative practices, and steeped in current research that is steadily uncovering the benefits these ancient practices bring to education.  Mindfulness builds community in classrooms and fosters engaged learning; it helps students feel comfortable enough to take the risks that are necessary for learning to take place.  Over time, students develop a gentle loving-kindness toward themselves and others that helps them to be resilient in the face of challenges, obstacles, and conflicts they experience in and outside of school.  Importantly, students learn these skills because they have tapped into their innate wisdom and compassion through a process of discovery that involves opening to themselves and to the world around them.”   Dan Huston, MST, Professor in the English Department at NHTI, Concord’s Community College, founder and author of Communicating Mindfully.

"I look forward to the day that basic practices of yoga such as body, breath, emotional and mind awareness are considered as essential physical hygiene as is brushing the teeth. A self-aware child is primed to learn more and live a healthier life. May our consistent efforts, one classroom at a time, eventually bring about a fundamental change in our thinking so that practices like deep breathing is merely considered a part of life and not a special Yoga practice". Robert Butera, M.Div., Ph.D., a director of The YogaLife Institute, member of the Board of Directors of the International Association of Yoga Therapists.

“Adopting Y4C into my elementary school program has given me a different understanding of its sustainable benefits and brought a whole new depth to my professional skill set as well as my own yoga practice. There are many choices in quality evidence based programs. Over the course of my career, I’ve made every effort to bring these best practices to my students. This program, however, has become for me a necessary component of all direct services to the students in my school. Easy to use techniques and strategies, grounded in centuries of practice, have become essential components of individual and group work, and particularly classroom guidance. I delight in seeing students both enjoy and benefit from this program.”
Louise Janelle, M.Ed., School Counselor, former North Atlantic Regional Vice-President of the American School Counselor Association (ASCA).

"Yoga 4 Classrooms is a wonderful combination of movement, breathing, and meditative activities that provide children with the sensory input and self-regulatory tools that they need to get ready to learn.  As the yoga teacher at a special education elementary school I see first hand the necessity of providing students with movement and breathing breaks throughout the day.  Just prompting my students to take a few calming breaths completely changes the energy in the room, and performing one yoga pose can calm and refocus a class". Craig Hanauer, RYT 500, founder of Every Kids Yoga and faculty member at Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health and the Parkside School.

"Y4C is a present day adaptation. It returns to children, as their birthright, healthy ways and means of living and learning through body, mind and spirit.  Y4C is an essential and crucial gift of what we owe to all of our children". Marcel Duclos, MTH, MED, LCMHC, RLPC, RLISAC, ACS, specialist in Trauma and Addiction Treatment, Clinical Director of the Northland Family Help Center in Flagstaff, AZ and an author of several books.

With the help of the unique group of passionate and professional experts on our team, we can transform educational environments through yoga-based wellness training and support; and empower students and teachers to create positive, peaceful and productive classrooms that support exceptional learning and a lifetime of health and wellness.

COMING UP: In the coming months we will be featuring each of the Advisory Board members in a series of blog posts to highlight the cutting edge work that they do in their respective fields and discuss how it relates to the mission of the Yoga 4 Classrooms. Stay tuned!




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