Now that school is in full swing, there are probably homework assignments to be completed, tests to study for and projects to work on.
Yoga and Mindfulness Breaks can help alleviate the stress of homework and reduce mental exhaustion and burnout. Even a few minutes of yoga or movement during a homework session can help students focus on the task at hand.
These can be broken out into 3 categories (many of which can be done in a chair):
Breath-work: Breathing helps stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, thereby calming the mind in times of stress or feeling overwhelmed.
-Try inhaling for a count of 3 and exhaling for a count of 5. Connect breath to movement, raising your arms overhead as you inhale, and lowering your arms back to your sides as you exhale.
-At your desk, place your arms on the table (one on top of the other, making a pillow for your head). Place your forehead on top of your arms and take 5-8 deep belly breaths in and out of the body.
-Take 5 Breathing: Open fingers wide on one hand. Using your pointer finger of the other hand.....trace up and down each finger of the open hand beginning with the thumb. Start at the bottom of the thumb and slide your pointer finger up the thumb and down the thumb. Now slide your pointer up the 2nd finger and down, Continue with each finger on the open hand. Attach breath to movement and breath in while sliding finger up and breath out while sliding finger down. This Video is a wonderful visual: Take 5 Breathing Video.
Movement: Moving one’s body can help get the blood flowing throughout the body which can help focusing on the task at hand.
-Since children tend to be hunched over writing or at a computer all day, they should focus on
poses to open up the shoulders. Seated cat/cow is excellent to counteract the effects of rounding in the back. As you inhale, arch your back, opening up your collarbone and chest. As you exhale round your back. Do several rounds moving with the breath.
-Another great movement activity for shoulders is simple shoulder rolls in one direction and the other. Try syncing the movement to the breath in this activity.
-Ragdoll pose can also be very calming on the body. Move to the edge of your chair, widen your legs and drop your torso between your legs. You can grab opposite elbows or clasp your hands behind your back for a deeper stretch. Shake your head ‘yes’ and ‘no’ to release tension in the neck. When you are ready, come back up to sit nice and slow.
-If your student needs a little more energy, try going to the wall to practice. This is appropriate for all ages and it is a fantastic way to boost concentration and energy.
A great tutorial can be found here. L-Shaped Handstand (Susan & Ben L-Shape video).
Use of Props:
Glitter jars are a great way to calm the mind when there are too many racing thoughts. Shaking up a glitter jar and watching the glitter softly fall is a great way to refocus and recenter.
-Music can either be calming or energizing. Either put on soothing music, close your eyes and turn into how you are feeling. Another option it to put on something with a fast beat and have a solo dance party before you continue with your homework.
Yoga and movement breaks are also becoming increasingly popular in classrooms. My first grader recently told me about a popular website called Go Noodle. I have since learned that it is quite popular in classrooms across the country as educators see the value in movement and mindfulness in regards to boosting attention, focus and energy.
Another great resource is Mindfulness Month for Kids and Families. Here you can find over 60 short videos on yoga poses, breathing exercises and mindfulness activities for children.
At first, parents can suggest when students need a yoga or mindfulness break and do it together. However, over time they will learn to self-regulate and become self-aware with the ability to know when they need a break before the frustration sets in.