Education, self-awareness and coping skills are all crucial to our development. And not only are they important, some would argue they are also fundamental to academic and eventually, occupational success.
The academic and personal worlds of students are deeply intertwined. If a student has a tumultuous home life, it is likely to impact their performance in school while conversely, if a student has poor grades, it is likely to impact how they feel about themselves.
During a students' formative years, they are developing and refining social skills alongside academics, while facing a unique set of generational challenges.
Students today are developing in a fast-paced, technology rich, over-stimulated and high-pressured world. They are constantly being inundated with information, images and ideals regarding what they are supposed to look like and how they are supposed to behave. On top of that, there is an elevated sense of academic pressure, as the education system continues to be strapped with high-stakes testing that can start as early as elementary school.
Students now more than ever, need to develop a place within that is grounded in a sense of calm, ease and self-support. Yoga and mindfulness practices can be a vehicle for which students can develop this steady internal anchor.
These practices can support a students' cognitive, psychological and physical functioning. They are utilized as a means to regulate emotions, reduce stress, enhance attention and focus, and positively impact self-esteem.
Mindfulness helps us pay attention to the present moment, while accepting thoughts, emotions, or external situations as they arise. As a school counselor who has worked at the elementary, middle and high school levels, mindfulness practices and forms of yoga have been integral to supporting students both emotionally and academically. It is my job to help students navigate personal, social and academic issues, and empower them with strategies they can easily utilize on their own.
I have found that mindfulness tools have been especially powerful in lessening the emotional reactivity to the many environmental and personal stressors that students face on a regular basis. Students are afforded the space and time to respond from a place of ease, rather than react from a place of impulsivity and distress.
Here are four simple, yet highly effective mindfulness practices that you can integrate into your child's life right at home or even at school:
1. Alternate Nostril Breathing
When a student is experiencing anxiety, anger, or stress, alternate nostril breathing can activate the parasympathetic nervous system, otherwise known as a state of relaxation. This deactivates the fight-or-flight response that is often experienced when in a state of overpowering anxiety, anger, or stress.
You can explain this to your child or student in a developmentally appropriate way so that they can understand what is happening on a physiological level.