It is so exciting to be part of the growing movement, bringing yoga and mindfulness into schools. This month, our programs were recognized by The Bergen Record, a major newspaper in the northern New Jersey area. It was fun to be interviewed and photographed with all of the children, but the greater joy for me, comes from knowing that this creates even more awareness about how these practices can be integrated into educational programs and how students and teachers can benefit.
More and more schools are beginning to see that yoga IS an educationally relevant practice and YES, more and more districts are offering yoga and mindfulness in different ways to support their students as well as the districts individual needs and initiatives.
Our newest program, EDUCATE 2B: Tools for Engaged Learning and Living has been receiving great praise from administrators, teachers, therapists, students and families. Designing this program was certainly a labor of love. Now that we are actually bringing it to schools and holding trainings, the love is expanding in big and beautiful ways. One of the aspects of this program that I am so proud of and excited about are the scientific links that are provided with each and every tool.
Throughout all of the years that I have brought yoga into classrooms and lead trainings for therapists and teachers, I have found that most people, especially educators, are initially excited about what the tools can offer, but following through with using them is sometimes a challenge.
There are 2 things that we do in the EDCUATE 2B training and manual that have helped educators sustain the program within their classroom.
- Trainings involve an experiential component where attendees actually practice using each and every tool. Feeling the change within themselves provides a much better memory circuit, forming connections to the effects.
- In the HOW THIS WORKS section of the manual, we provide the most up to date research and applications of the breathing, movement and mindfulness tools. I love research and truly believe that along with feeling the effects within our own body and mind, understanding what is actually happening neurologically, biochemically, and physiologically further builds our connection to and appreciation of each tool. For educators, therapists and especially administrators, this is an essential element.
- Another feature that I am incredibly proud of is the STATES OF BEING section. Through 5 picture icons, users are guided on the effects of each tool. Some tools help the nervous system to calm, some to energize or to build focus. Connection tools build inner awareness of self and assist in building connections with others. The ready to learn tools are those that developmentally prepare specific systems within the body and mind to learn, such as getting the hands ready to write, the eyes ready to look, the ears ready to listen, etc.
Our EDUCATE 2B calendar of trainings will be growing. The next one is March 26, 2015. For now, the manual is only available when you take the training. Once you complete the training, you can purchase more manuals for your school and run your own in-service for the staff within your school building or district.
For now, here is some new ‘science’ that further supports some of the movement tools within EDUCATE 2B:
It has long been known that aerobic exercise is good for the body. This study referenced below, is the first to demonstrate that aerobic fitness is also essential for the brain. Research found that aerobic exercise positively related to the microstructure of white matter fiber tracts in the brain during childhood. White matter microstructure has been found to relate to mathematics performance in the classroom (van Eimeren et al., 2008).
The study further raises the possibility that greater white matter integrity, is one pathway by which higher fit children excel in cognitive and academic performance compared to their less fit peers. It also supports the need for students to get more exercise throughout their day. A physical education class one time per week will not be as fulfilling to the growing brain as having movement breaks throughout a day…every day.
Chaddock-Heyman, L., Erickson, K. I., Holtrop, J. L., Voss, M. W., Pontifex, M. B., Raine, L. B., Hillman, C. H., & Kramer, A. F. (2014). Aerobic fitness is associated with greater white matter integrity in children. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 8, 1-7.
Several of the movement breaks in the EDUCATE 2B program are faced paced, heart pumping sequences that get the blood flowing and bodies moving.
Here’s one to try: We call them bicycle pumps.
- Stand with your feet close together.
- Fold forward, keeping your legs as straight as possible.
- Look at your knees, and place your hands on the floor in front of you, or on your shins. You can even place a block or a stack of books in front of you to place your hands on if they don’t quite reach the floor.
- In this position, inhale through your nose.
- Then come into a squatting position (knees are bent and hands are still remaining on the floor).
- Exhale and look forward. Your hands stay in the same starting position either on your shins or on the floor in front of you.
- These 2 positions are the 2 movements of the pump.
- Continue breathing in and out and moving the energy and the air through your own personal pump.
- Repeat 10 times.