Teachers have the honor and unique perspective of working within a space where each child and the teacher, are working towards similar goals. These goals include but are not limited to learning, meeting or exceeding classroom expectations.
What makes the classroom environment so unique is that each child is navigating their own levels of regulation throughout the day. Whether a child is known to have ism’s or not, every day is a new day. Some days it may be easier to stay awake, attend and engage in your schoolwork. Other days is may a challenge to sit still, not tap your pencil, or maintain a solid thought on the classroom topic.
Occupational therapists often consult with teachers on how to support individual children to reach a desired regulation state to optimize their learning. As an Occupational Therapist and a Yoga instructor, I suggest yoga in the classroom to get all the students ready to learn.
Yoga can take each child at each state of regulation, attention, and engagement, and allow them to breathe and move together to meet each other in the middle and settle a bit closer to that ‘just right’ and optimal state for learning.
Let’s All Meet in the Middle
Your classroom is filled with some sleepy kids, some just right kids, and some kids who are just needing to move. Yoga poses and breathing activate each sensory system allowing your students to access the movement and sensory input they need to calm down, alert, or maintain their regulatory state.
Yoga in the Classroom – Out of Desk Sequences
The sun salutation packs in so much sensory input and allows your students to work on breath control with movement, which supports regulation. Sun Salutations allow for easy variations adding in speed, holding poses to add in proprioceptive input, and forward folds to hold in length in increase time spent in a calming vestibular-based input.
Ready to Learn Sequence (Click on each image to enlarge)
When completing this Yoga sequence make sure to complete poses on both the right and left side. After you move your body to the right in Blown Palm, take a deep breath and lean to the left. Same goes with Eagle pose. This will create balance within the body.
Change the speed of these poses to change alert state. When you first complete the sequence, move at a ‘just right’ speed. Then speed it up or slow it down until you see your students meet you where they need to be for the upcoming assignment. Yoga elicits happiness so expect giggles, smiles, and even a little goofiness. This is a great thing to happen as it creates a willingness and openness to learn new things. Ending your sequence with a breathing exercise such as FLOWER BREATHING or ELEVATOR BREATHING will help to calm, organize and focus your students. Once Yoga and these sequences as part of your routine in the classroom, kids will learn the expectation and the silliness will subside. Add in some new poses or animal noises to bring back some fun and laughter if you desire in your routine.
Ask them to Freeze
During Yoga sequences, have your students ‘freeze’ and breathe in desired poses above
that support their organization. We know that proprioceptive input is organizing to the nervous system so have your children hold Plank pose while doing the Sun Salutation. Looking to add in deep pressure? Hold Eagle pose and don’t forget to encourage breathing!
Yoga in the Classroom – Seated Sequences
Simple yoga in the classroom while seated activities will give your students a performance edge before testing by clearing the mind, alerting the body, and getting out any extra wiggles. Add to a Sensory Diet with Yoga throughout the Day.
Switch Breath (Anuloma Viloma)
Balancing and calming, this is a form of breathing can be used at any time of day. Using this strategy prior to a test can help to clear the mind of stress and extra thought
A simple seated Yoga pose that can be done to take a break from schoolwork. Linking the breath while twisting will help wake up the body and mind while providing and outlet for movement in a structured setting.
The benefits of a short and simple Yoga breaks at school are endless. Adding in a dose of breathing, movement, stretching and fun will alert and organize your students sensory systems to bring them to an optimal state for learning.