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Yoga 4 Classrooms® program addresses the whole child and the whole teacher, too

Monday, June 25, 2012

Science has shown, and educators have experienced first-hand, that when children are anxious, stressed, distracted or unbalanced it is nearly impossible for them to learn. A calm and present state of mind is a prerequisite for our children to be psychologically and physiologically learning-ready.

Children often face very challenging environments in their everyday life, such as school setting, which may be stressful, uncertain, emotional and attentionally demanding. We all know about it and hear about it from both mass media and professional sources and we all try to address it in multiple ways. School professionals are the ones commonly charged with creating more emotionally friendly and learning ready environments.

What we often dismiss are the challenges that school professionals face themselves – and not surprisingly, those are very similar to the problems we try to “fix” for our kids!

Scientific evidence is accumulating that yoga and mindfulness training is one effective and cost-efficient way to promote healthy brain development and function, and to foster stress resilience. This applies for both children and adults.

While addressing the whole child approach to development, it’s imperative to underscore the importance of teachers' personal and professional growth and well-being, providing them with tools to become more mindful and emotionally capable of handling the classroom. Finding this balance between "teaching" the child and doing something for the self is crucial during integration of contemplative practices into the classroom.

A recent
review published in Child Development Perspectives journal reports on the issues connecting the effective teaching and the cultivation of professional dispositions, or the “habits of mind”, which are defined as “those dispositions toward behaving intelligently when confronted with problems, the answers to which are not immediately known” (p. 167; Roeser, Skinner, Beers, Jennings (2012).CDP. 6(2)). The practice of mindfulness helps teachers learn the habit of being flexibly attentive, being able to respond to students’ needs proactively, to shift the focus of their attention effectively to address cognitive and emotional needs of the classroom, and to solve problems “on the fly” as they interact with students of varying levels of maturity and readiness to learn.

Research shows that secular contemplative programs for teachers promote their “habits of mind” and thereby their occupational health, well-being, and capacities to create and sustain both supportive relationships with students and classroom climates conducive to student engagement and learning. Supportive teacher-student relationships and classroom climates for learning, in turn, should promote students’ feelings of belonging in the classroom and thereby enhance their levels of participation and engagement in learning. Recent studies on this issue are also presented in
this article.

Based on this demand,
Yoga 4 Classrooms strives to address the need for teacher’s professional development in cultivation of mindfulness and provide simple and accessible tools. Though there are several worthy programs available, none are entirely suitable for the classroom environment and/or there is too much emphasis on yoga stretching and too little on addressing the whole person: social, emotional and physical. Y4C® was developed to fill in the gaps, and simply and practically address the needs communicated by teachers, administrators and parents.

Over 700 educators across the country completed the Y4C Professional Development Workshop since its implementation in 2010. Relevant to the problem discussed in this article, 100% of educators agreed that Y4C will be beneficial to them as a teacher and to their students, and 99% that it will benefit them personally as well*.

The answers to an open-ended question about how Y4C might benefit the school professionals and their classrooms were particularly exciting. After only an introductory 6-hour Y4C workshop, the school professionals overwhelmingly offered their unprompted responses regarding perceived value of the Y4C program for both teachers and students. What is remarkable, workshop attendees volunteered various responses, but their areas of expected improvements were quite uniform across the answers.

We categorized attendees’ notes into the following (percentages are based the number of respondents who mentioned key words within a category of value):

Stress/ anxiety reduction, calming down - 36 %
Focus/ attention increase -32 %
Mindfulness/self-awareness – 25%
Self-regulation and emotion regulation – 21%
Physical exercise/motor breaks – 18%
Healthy lifestyle promotion, long-term sustainable nature of Y4C tools – 17%
Learning readiness – 8%
Energizing children – 4%

Check out what educators are saying about finding the balance between their professional and personal development after the Y4C Professional Development Workshop:

"It will make me be more focused and aware of how my students are feeling especially if they are stressed".

“I see how this can be used in a manageable and so positive way in the classroom. A new chapter in my teaching life! I'm so excited to help find a personal balance and help teach my kids new regulation ideas.”

“I am calmer, more in tune with my students' needs and moods. They are able to feel confident, encouraged, empowered, relaxed - and able to take these strategies home.”

A little more statistics: on a scale from 1 to 10, Y4C Professional Development Workshop has been rated on average:

9.6 - for content 
9.7 - for presentation/ facilitator

To learn more about Y4C Professional Development for classroom teachers, administrators, school counselors, phys ed teachers, therapists, paraprofessionals and others seeking to bring simple yoga and mindfulness techniques into the classroom or similar setting for a more peaceful, productive class day visit
our website. Also, you can learn more about the scientific research behind the Yoga 4 Classrooms® program.

*All statistics are based on randomly selected 150 surveys 


Marina Ebert, MA is a ChildLight Yoga Instructor and 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.

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