School teachers today are expected to fulfil a number of roles, including academic teaching, managing classroom behaviour, supporting students (who may be suffering from trauma or mental health issues), and working effectively with other adults in the school system to achieve curriculum goals.
Given the above, it’s hardly surprising that a recent 2018 study shows that 53% of teachers in Australia have reported increased stress levels, especially in relation to managing classroom discipline. When students misbehave or choose not to cooperate in class, it can completely undermine a teacher’s confidence, leading to increased stress levels and a negative impact on professional progress.
Many teachers are simply not aware of the damage that escalating stress levels can have on physical and mental health. And often they don’t have access to tools like yoga to bring calmness and balance back into their lives. If unchecked, too much stress can lead to an alarming range of problems including:
- Psychological distress
- Physiological illness
- Job dissatisfaction
- Sense of isolation
- Loss of quality in life
Benefits of bringing yoga into the classroom (not just for kids!)
‘When teachers thrive, so do their students.’
As the director at Kids Yoga Education, I train school teachers to teach yoga to kids; however, I’m growing increasingly concerned with the welfare of all our teachers in the current education environment. Through working with teachers and learning more about their specific areas of difficulty, I’ve been inspired to develop simple and quick yoga tips to manage stress (and nip it in the bud before it takes hold and spins out of control).
My 6 yoga tips are specially designed to bring both instant and prolonged benefits to school teachers and their students, in order to:
- Immediately relieve or reduce stress (and stop the vicious stress cycle)
- Balance the emotions and mind (leading to clarity and focus)
- Relax the body and mind (and re-energise)
- Create a more harmonious, pleasure-giving learning environment
- Regulate the energy in the classroom
- Bring a real sense of increased wellbeing (both inside and outside the classroom)
Outline of the 6 quick yoga tips
My motto with yoga is ‘little and often’, so don’t feel that you (as a busy teacher) have to carve a major chunk out of your day to devote to yoga – just practise a little bit now and then, when it suits you and when you know you need it. And take it into the classroom to share with the kids in bite-size pieces as well.
There’s no need to feel overwhelmed by learning all 6 tips – you can choose just one of any of these to start with (they’re not sequential). Each of these guided practices is about 1 minute in duration – very quick!
- Painting the Walls – this is an instantly relaxing and enjoyable practice using the arms and the breath together to achieve balance, harmony and a renewed sense of creativity.
- Circle of Joy – this easy practice focuses on regulating the breath with arm stretches and adds a humbling yogic touch by starting and finishing with the hands in prayer position.
- Waterfall – an instant stress and tension reliever, this fun practice uses a ‘woosh’ sound and brings a fresh flow of blood to the brain, removing lethargy and dissipation. It can also quickly remove the ‘blues.’ Great for re-energising the body and mind during that inevitable afternoon slump. Practise note: Bend the knees slightly (as you bend forward) to avoid any back strain. Caution: Not recommended for people with high blood pressure.
- Ha Breath – similar to the Waterfall practice, but its effect is stronger. Using the ‘ha’ sound you remain slightly longer in the final downward position, which brings a more enhanced flow of blood into the brain. Practise note: Bend the knees as much as you need (as you bend forward) to avoid any back strain. Caution: Not recommended for people with high blood pressure.
- Breathe my Worries Away – as the name suggests, this gentle practice uses the natural power of the out-breath to blow any stresses or worries away instantly.
- Humming Bee – breathing through the nose, this practice is based on a traditional yogic breathing technique, specifically designed to tranquilise and reduce mental stress or overactivity. It’s also a great practice for insomnia.
In the above video I guide you through each of the yoga tips in sequence. As mentioned previously, this doesn’t mean you have to do all the 6 practices every time. Choose one that appeals to you and get familiar with it, then take it into the classroom and let the kids get used to practising it with you. Notice how the classroom dynamics change and improve over time. And see if you and your students can feel the tangible effects on body, mind and stress levels.
All these practices can be done standing in the Mountain Pose as shown (where the body is aligned and balanced evenly on both sides). Practices 5 & 6 can also be done sitting at a desk if that’s easier.
These yoga tips are not challenging and can be practised by anyone, regardless of age, stiffness or physical limitations (except practices 3 & 4, which should be avoided by those with high blood pressure). No previous knowledge of yoga is needed and no special clothes or props are required.
I sincerely hope that you enjoy the benefits of even just one of these simple tips. If you feel like sharing your thoughts or asking for help or advice, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with me via the contact page. I love feedback and sharing the miraculous tools of yoga with everyone.
And remember: ‘little and often’ will bring the best results.
Learn more about bringing yoga into the classroom
If you are interested in learning more about teaching yoga in the classroom, read more about our Kids Yoga Education programs. Or if you just want to talk to us to find out more then contact us here. We’d love to hear from you.
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