Incorporating yoga into your program.

I have been a yoga teacher longer than I have been a school counselor! It’s true and over the years I’ve kept up my yoga practice, completing a 200 CYT training in 2020. I’ve been fortunate enough to incorporate my love of yoga into my program.

Why incorporate yoga into your program?

The benefits of yoga are vast. It’s a preventative way to help students, teachers, and stakeholders

  • relax
  • become mindful of their thoughts, feelings, and body
  • feel energized
  • improve their mood
  • manage their stress

In fact, one study found when “yoga was added to the classroom environment, and behavior and personal factors improved. Yoga was introduced as a response to children’s behavior, and the climate (environment) of the classroom changed (i.e. became more calm). The students started to see changes in themselves (reduced stress, more calm), and in turn their observed behavior in the classroom improved” (Int J Yoga. 2020 Sep-Dec; 13(3): 250–254.)

There is a great deal of research on the benefits of yoga in the classroom, which I have found helpful when talking to my advisory team and administration about why we should consider including it in our programming.

How to incorporate it?

There are multiple ways to incorporate yoga into your program. To begin, I recommend taking it slow and gradually introducing one aspect at a time. Below are some tiered suggestions for integrating yoga into your classroom and MTSS program.

Incorporating yoga into my class lessons has proven to be a beneficial transition technique. Prior to starting, we engage in body movements, and upon completion, we practice breathing exercises. Additionally, my PE teacher concludes their lessons with a mindful breathing exercise to promote a sense of calmness before the students exit the classroom. This Tier 1 approach is easy to incorporate and takes little time.

I also hosted yoga clubs with students and teachers as another Tier 1 and Tier 2 strategy. Before school, we had a yoga club for students, designed to start the day with positivity and encourage students to arrive at school on time. I opened this up to the entire school. We met in the gym and played yoga games or followed along with videos by Cosmic Kids Yoga. Some kids expressed such an interest, that we hosted additional small groups and yoga-focused workshops during the day, providing them with an additional Tier 2 intervention.

Another useful Tier 1 intervention, was providing every classroom with resources such as calming yoga poses and breathing visuals they could use in their peace corner. I explained and taught each of the activities on the morning news as part of a “mindful Monday” or “flexible Friday” Tier 1 school-wide instruction. I found that doing a 2-3 minute instructional component on the news helped students understand and practice the activities provided in their calm corner.

Scheduled breaks with students were intentionally designed to restore and regulate using these resources. This Tier 2/3 intervention provided students with purposeful time to help with self regulation and improve behavior.

I have also found there are many ways to include yoga in small groups (a Tier 2 service.) The Responsive Counselor has an excellent post on group routines. I have found including yoga practices in my group and individual session routine to be rewarding and beneficial in helping with student behavior and transition back to class. I also developed resilience-focused small groups that had a mindful twist.

What to incorporate?

Yoga is more than just yoga poses or movement. It also incorporates breathing exercises, meditation, and mindful moments.

I like teaching and using a variety of breathing techniques with my students during lessons, as part of our small group routine, or even to help them de-escalate.

Download the posters here:

What if stakeholders give you pushback?

There is always the fear of caregivers or teachers being uncomfortable, especially when they hear the words “yoga” or “mindfulness.”

To ensure a successful implementation of yoga and mindfulness practices in the classroom, I found it crucial to first gain the support of my administrators. This would provide a safety net in the event of any complaints or concerns raised.

Additionally, I conducted teacher trainings and in-service opportunities to educate them on the purpose and benefits of these practices. To further engage them, I invited interested teachers to after-school yoga and mindfulness workshops. I also selected a diverse group of teachers, ranging from those fully onboard to the most resistant, to participate in bonus lessons using the MindUp and Pawsitively Mindful curriculum. As their students’ behavior improved, these teachers became advocates for yoga and mindfulness practices in the classroom.

If you are still facing pushback try adjusting your language. Swap out “calming or strengthening stretches” for “yoga” and “thoughtful moments” for “mindfulness.”

Yoga resources

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