Saturday Seminar: An Introduction to Yoga and Mindfulness in the Classroom

The energy at Therapro Headquarters was palpable on Saturday, April 8, in anticipation of Meg Durkin, MS, E-RYT, RCYT’s seminar: An Introduction to Yoga and Mindfulness in the Classroom: Tools to Improve Self-Regulation, Learning, and Classroom Climate. A totally different feeling in the room was achieved after Meg led a group experience of several yoga and mindfulness exercises in a sample “Morning Meeting Sequence” that included: Chime Listening/Pass the Chime which helped focus attention in the moment; Mountain, Washing Machine, King Dancer, and Imagination Vacation.

Meg is a licensed Yoga 4 Classrooms instructor, ChildLight Yoga Trainer, and founder of Yoga Magic 4 Kids. She is a registered adult and child yoga teacher through Yoga Alliance. She teaches workshops to elementary school teachers about integrating yoga into the classroom. Her skills include mindful breathing, standing yoga poses, seated yoga poses at the desk, imagination vacations, be well topics, and mindful games. She has trained in Brain Gym and yoga for children with special needs.

According to Meg, increasing numbers of students lack the critical life skills of self-regulation, impulse control and focus that negatively affect their behavior, ability to learn and overall well being. In her seminar, she demonstrated how students can learn these skills. In her practice, she utilizes yoga and mindfulness techniques especially designed for the classroom that are convenient, effective and fun. Integrating yoga movement, breathing and mindfulness can be used in a variety of ways.  They can be used as an activity in and of themselves, and/or integrated in the typical class day, throughout the day. For example, she suggested that students could put their heads on their desks as they listen to Mindful Meditations read to them. The result is a positive, peaceful, and productive classroom climate for all students who are then in a better “learning-ready state.” Specifically in the Yoga for Classrooms curriculum, the focus is on providing a simple, accessible, sustainable whole child health and wellness program that includes 67 yoga and mindfulness based activities specifically designed for the “space and time-crunched classroom.”

We appreciated Meg citing research to support the use of yoga and mindfulness in the classroom setting. An interesting pilot study she discussed in which Yoga for Classrooms was used with 2nd and 3rd grade students was conducted by an Exercise Physiology Department and measured salivary cortisol levels, performance on an attention network test, and teacher surveys.  Overall results in perceived improvement occurred in a broad number of areas including social interaction, attention span, ability to stay on task, ability to deal with stress/anxiety, etc.

The classroom is a busy, bustling environment.  Meg taught us that taking “yoga breaks” is an effective way to refocus students and the energy in the classroom. Meg’s skill as a yoga instructor was apparent to all of us today who left with a more calm, focused energy to tackle the rest of our weekend.

Here are some comments from attendees:

“It’s very practical in today’s fast paced world – I have integrated both breath work and yoga asanas into my classroom and have seen the improvement in my students.” Kristine P., Teacher

“I learned great activities to help my students to focus and concentrate.” Anonymous, SLP

“Interesting. I like the positive attitude and incremental approach offered; not a ‘do it all or nothing’ message.” Maura, Teacher

“Great way to get additional ideas to incorporate into OT sessions (groups & classroom). Definitely could see incorporating “count down to calm” & “imagination vacation” into sessions that typically only include Zones of Regulation. I like the emphasis on movement at accessible level.”  Meredith, Occupational Therapist

Thank you, Meg!

Filomena Connor, MS, OTR/L