When we think about shaping the future of our world, we often think about today’s youth, what they are, and what they may become.

What they are right now is stressed out! 

I had a conversation last school year with one of my 8th grade Spanish classes that made me feel even stronger about the work that I’m doing with teaching educators how to infuse yoga and mindfulness into their classrooms.

It was my class right after lunch, which starts at 11:30 AM, and I started by asking my students how their day was going so far.  Among several responses in the crowd, I heard a loud and clear “BAD!” .

My comment to that was “That must be frustrating since it’s still early in the day.  I guess it can only go up from here.”

The student said, “No it can’t. I’m in school.”

I challenged this by asking if they could find anything good about being there, like seeing friends or at least some small thing in any class that interests them. From this digging deeper came the statement from the entire class that it wasn’t all bad when I said it like that, but that it is the stress that makes them feel the way they do, only being able to describe school as bad.

I know that what they say is true.

There is a ton of stress put on students today, but not a lot of adults are teaching them how to cope with that stress. Maybe that’s because they don’t know how or think they don’t have time.

Infusing yoga and mindfulness into a classroom can help today’s youth to feel like they have a toolkit to use when these overwhelming feelings creep up.

It can also be easy to implement.

During recent education conference presentations I gave, I offered that yoga is three simple things:

  1. Breath
  2. Movement
  3. And ideas

I could see from the faces in the audience that putting it this way made it feel more manageable for these educators to think about and to consider making it a part of their classrooms.

When you’re in conversation with teachers and parents, share with them these simple ways to create a “Mindful Environment” in the classroom or in their homes:

1. Use Mindful Moments to start class/transition from activity to activity.

  • Use a Hoberman Sphere to cue deep breathing
  • Ring a Singing Bowl and read from a Take One Mindful Minute card (www.mindfulnice.com)

2. Create a Peace Place/Safe Spot/Calming Corner to teach self-awareness and self-regulation.

  • Include objects like a Hoberman Sphere, Mind Jar, Zen Garden,  and Stress Balls that the students can use as tools to help them bring themselves back to a place where they can transition back to learning with the group.

3. Take Brain Breaks to encourage movement that releases stress and shifts the energy. 

  • Movements that relate to curriculum being taught (move like a…)
  • Movements that focus on an idea or life skill that you want to teach (balance, calming)
  • Movements that go along with a story that you read

If we can show the teachers and parents in our lives how uncomplicated it really is to infuse these practices into their own lives as well as the lives of the children they are role models for, we can be a part of making sure that today’s youth are equipped to face the challenges that life throws at them and, in turn, change the shape of the future one breath, one movement, one idea at a time.