Full-time, hybrid and supplemental distance learning have become a fundamental part of education. This isn’t just a big adjustment for students; parents and teachers face new challenges as well. Whether you are trying to meaningfully connect with students over Zoom, or stay engaged at home, navigating the difficulties of distance learning causes stress levels to increase for everyone.
To keep kids focused on their studies, weary educators and parents are turning to a surprising practice: Kundalini Yoga. Kundalini Yoga postures and breathing practices combined with meditation and mindfulness exercises are helping students handle the challenge of remote learning, easing the pressure put on teachers and parents.
How yoga helps students
Recent research underscores yoga’s benefits for young learners, demonstrating that the practice of yoga is an effective form of social and emotional learning. In one study, a team of researchers including Dr. Sat Bir Singh Khalsa, a Harvard Medical School researcher and director of research for the Kundalini Research Institute, evaluated students who participated in the Kundalini Yoga-based Y.O.G.A. for Youth program. The results confirmed that students who practiced yoga reported feeling less stressed, more resilient and experienced more positive emotions.
“With yoga practice, students start developing the ability to regulate their stress and emotions and develop increased awareness of their mind and body,” says Khalsa. “This leads to improved functioning and coping overall, thereby preventing the risk factors for impaired mood, behavior and health.” These skills are always important but are particularly critical for students dealing with dramatic changes to their learning structure.
Kundalini Yoga helps build concentration too, along with improving coordination, balance, strength and flexibility. Every student can benefit from incorporating yoga into their school day. To support parents and teachers, here are some tips to get students started.
Tip 1: Start small and make it routine
While a 60-minute yoga class is standard for adults, children don’t have the focus or stamina to practice for that long. Try starting with 5- to 10-minute sessions. Set times to do this during the school day, for example, once mid-morning and right after lunch to refocus. Start with gentle breathing and then move through a few easy poses. Forget perfection and encourage kids to try. Soon they’ll learn their favorite poses and look forward to these yoga breaks.
Tip 2: Be lighthearted and have fun
Students — especially younger children — will have a more enjoyable time with their yoga practice if you keep it centered on fun. Be creative by selecting poses based on your kids’ favorite animals. Tell stories as you change positions. Integrate games and fun mental visuals into your practice; pretend to take a trip around the world, under the sea or to a far-off imaginary place as you move through poses. Kids’ yoga isn’t just about yoga, it’s about having fun and being yourself.
Tip 3: Teach breathing awareness
Just like adults, when children are nervous, stressed, excited or energetic, their breath quickens to a shorter, faster pace. If you help students become aware of their breath, they can better manage their emotional state. This is done by teaching effective breathing practices. Try using long, deep breaths — a relaxed, slow approach to breathing that involves more movement of the abdomen. This has a direct impact on the autonomic nervous system, which helps kids stay calm and more able to cope with stress.
Tip 4: Use meditations and mantras
Mantras, words or phrases that are repeated in a chanting manner, are a wonderful way to help kids center themselves. It is soothing during transition periods in particular. Common mantras include “I am,” “peace,” or “calm,” but any phrase or sound will work. Ideally a mantra should reflect the state that you want to be in rather than the one you are in now.
Meditations are also great in addressing problems and frustrations that can impact students. For example, when a student feels nervous, they can close their eyes, place their hand on their belly and breathe slowly, feeling the stomach increase and decrease while imagining a balloon gracefully floating on the breeze.
Tip 5: Bring in the pros
You don’t have to be a yoga expert to teach students yoga basics. However, if you feel uncomfortable or just want some guidance, there are many books and videos about instructing yoga to children. You can even play yoga videos for kids so everyone can participate together. Make sure the resource is from a KRI Certified Kundalini Yoga teacher to ensure proper technique and age-appropriate guidance. Find a trainer near you through the International Kundalini Yoga Teachers Association or Y.O.G.A. for Youth.
Remember that distance learning is a challenge for parents and teachers as much as students. By following these tips and Kundalini yoga techniques yourself, you’ll be better equipped to help children thrive whether they are in the classroom or studying remotely. For more information, visit 3HO.org or yogaforyouth.org.