We kids’ yoga teachers often get asked how one can implement yoga in the classroom. School can be stressful and each hour filled to the max, leaving kids and teachers busier, and more dizzied, than ever. Some schools already have yoga programs in place for their students, whether as part of physical education or as an extracurricular activity. There are still a plethora of schools where yoga isn’t accessible and where teachers are craving a program, or at the very least some tools to help their students (and themselves!) decompress, focus, and become more mindful.
One potential problem associated with not having an official program or time slot is that there is often not enough time allotted to conduct a full yoga class. That is okay though! You can always sprinkle yoga throughout the day, like circle time if you are a Pre-K teacher, or movement-based brain breaks throughout the learning day! You can separate a class into two twenty minute halves. This works especially well for older students, such as middle and high schoolers, as you can lead them in breathing and stretching exercises right next to their desk. Conversely, if your administration allows, you can always shake up the academic routine by creating a more interactive lesson once a week that intertwines a yoga class with core required content, such as social studies, health, and even subjects like science, math, and English/language arts. Any age group will benefit from this dynamic approach to learning and practicing yoga.
If space is limited or inhibited by bulky furniture like student tables or desks, you might need to relocate to the gym (if available). If indoor yoga is simply not feasible, take five minutes from recess. At the beginning, lead your students in a simple meditation, like repeating “Peace begins with me” while touching each finger to the thumb as each word is said. You may have to explain why meditation is important if your kids are new to yoga (for example, your mind is like a crazy monkey, jumping from branch to branch. By meditating, it helps the monkey mind settle down and rest). If students are older, encourage them to come up with a mantra that helps them focus, maybe one that has the power to change the world. Like a wish for our planet. It’s a great lesson in social justice and it helps students to begin tying together their academic learning and socio-emotional learning. By encouraging this skill, you are inspiring them to think beyond the pages and see the world so it can be improved!
After a quick meditation, include a pranayama, or breathing, exercise. Not only is it an essential component of a yoga practice, it allows students to see how they feel calmer and more relaxed, as well as the teacher that hardly gets a moment to do so him/herself. After that, it’s all up to you to decide what poses you’d like to do. In my experience, you should always begin from a seated position, to what we call “all fours” (cat/cow), to standing and balancing, back to seated, then finally, lying supine. Yoga cards and yoga stories can also be super helpful. Yoga is a bit about going with the flow, so don’t be afraid to learn while you teach.
For more ways to bring yoga and meditation right into your classroom, take a look at Kidding Around Yoga’s course Classroom Kids Yoga or our professional development workshop EduKAY!