Full of Joy Yoga Encourages Young Students to Practice Mindfulness to Manage Big Emotions

A photo caption goes here
A photo caption goes here

As I walk into the class, the students are sitting and waiting patiently for me to begin. “Buenas Dias Miss Lani!” the kids say in unison. I ask them to sit with a Mindful Body and they know exactly what I mean. They pull their chairs out to face me, feet on the floor, back against the chair, hands in their lap and they are ready. Ready to take a Weather Report. Ready to notice how they are feeling in this moment without labeling an emotion.

“I feel like a sunny day with a rainbow!”

“I feel partly cloudy”

And then we practice one of our anchor breaths, noticing any changes taking place. We can have big emotions and it’s hard to change how we feel in a given moment, but I teach the students that we can change how we respond to how we feel and those big emotions.

I am so lucky to be able to bring my curriculum “Mindful Yoga Breaks” to the students of Columbus Family Academy. I taught many of these students as pre-k kids in previous years and now I get to go into their Kindergarten, First and Second Grade classes to teach this unique and important curriculum.

My goal is to get into the school day and teach teachers how to use these “breaks” in their day with their students. I model it by going into each class for 20 minutes, weekly for up to 8-10 weeks. I teach the students how use their Wise Owl Brain (pre-frontal cortex) instead of their Bulldog Brain (amygdala) when they have big emotions. We practice our Anchor Breaths- those special breathing exercises that help to calm that Bulldog and allow the oh so important Wise Owl to take over. When that part of the brain can take over, we can learn, grow, be kind, have fun, and all the important functions of the body can take place.

The breathing is so important, but I also find that when you fuse it with the yoga (movement) and mindfulness as well as games, props and relaxation techniques, it allows us to process and use these tools more effectively.

Every classroom gets my Mindful Yoga Breaks card deck, the anchor breath poster, a breathing ball and a chime. These are the key tools to the program. I encourage the teachers to use the poster and cards every day during their morning meeting. I ask them to practice a breathing exercise, and let the students eventually find the one that they like best. Each of us has our own particular likes and tastes and there is not one breath or tool that will work for everyone. We need to find what works best for us. If we practice them every day, when we are feeling good, when our Wise Owl is working, then when that Bulldog comes out and we are feeling our BIG EMOTIONS, then we will know what to do to calm ourselves.

I find that when I practice being mindful, breathing, relaxing and doing my yoga, my body and mind are ready for what’s to come in my day. We are thrown a lot of information – between the technology, news, friends, family, homework, etc., there is so much stress in our daily lives. Kids who come from immigrant families or are English Language learners have an even bigger stress on their little shoulders.

By giving them the power, the tools, the breaths, to take control of their emotions, we are giving them a practice that will stay with them forever. This is a program that needs to be incorporated into all classrooms- ideally for the whole school year! Imagine if kids were learning these tools daily, weekly and even yearly to allow them to cope with the stresses going on in their worlds. I even notice a difference when I go into a class where I’ve already taught this curriculum- the kids are one step ahead of the game. I can build on what they know and it’s so crucial for this to be sustainable. We are creating joyful, peaceful, hard-working kids which is our ultimate goal, right?

I love what I do! I love interacting with all these amazing kids all over Connecticut and bringing a little bit of peace, love, joy & calm to their day.

You can find more information about Full of Joy Yoga & the Mindful Yoga Breaks curriculum here.