Mindfulness and Yoga in Physical Education

I always refer to my roots growing up in a small rural community in Oklahoma. You name the sport, I played it—if that sport was football, basketball, or baseball.  A small town often equals limited introduction to new activities. Even after many years of teaching, I still never dove into the world of yoga.

That changed three years ago when I transitioned into a Montessori environment. It began with these two quotes from the Montessori training,

“If we consider physical life on one side and mental life on the other, we break the cycle of relation, and the actions of man remain separated from the brain.” “The true objective of movement is not to favor better breathing or nutrition, but rather to serve all of life and the spiritual and universal economy of the world.” (Maria Montessori)

Wow! That’s a lot to think about.

Benefits of Yoga in Physical Education

  • Improves flexibility
  • Builds muscle strength
  • Helps with posture
  • Improves balance

There are many ways that you can align the physical benefits of yoga to our national physical education standards. But the greatest benefitsI have noticed involve using the tenets of yoga in our Montessori environment.

Mindfulness in PE

The practice of mindfulness, calm bodies, and calm minds is used throughout my school. We live in a very fast-paced environment where we are constantly moving from one thing to another. Some children struggle with the self-regulation needed to experience calm and relaxation. We take time in the classroom and the physical education setting to explicitly teach breathing and mindfulness techniques. Yoga pairs well with this, allowing students to slow down and notice what is happening with their bodies. Yoga teaches children to breathe deep, inhaling through the nose and exhaling through the mouth. Since moving to the Montessori campus, I have seen progress in the ability of students to calm down, quiet their minds, and handle stress using yoga and breathing techniques.

Peer Meditation

I have used Dynamic Physical Education by Dr. Pangrazi as a resource since I was first introduced to the book in college. In Chapter 6, he talks about management and discipline in the physical education setting. One section focuses on the use of peer mediation. Peer mediation is similar to conflict resolution except that it is student-directed instead of being teacher-directed. The ground rules from the book are as follows:

  • The problem will be solved.
  • The truth will be told.
  • The full story will be heard without interruption.
  • All parties will act in a respectful manner.
  • All discussion will be confidential.
  • The solution will be implemented.

We use a resource in our school setting that is very similar to peer mediation based on the book ThePeace Rose by Alicia Olson. We use a yoga mat in our physical education setting that allows students to calmly express their feelings to each other and reach an agreement. In some cases, students visit the mat as an alternative to a “time out” to practice breathing and self-regulation in order to rejoin the group and fully engage in the physical activity.

Social Emotional Learning in Schools

There is a national focus on incorporating Social EmotionalLearning into the foundation of school instruction. This includes teaching children how to successfully regulate their own emotions, thoughts, and behaviors in a variety of situations. The results of this instruction extend far beyond physical and emotional well-being. For additional information on theCore SEL Competencies and the benefits of incorporating these competencies into your instruction, you can visit the Collaborative for Academic, Social, andEmotional Learning (CASEL)website.

Yoga Resources:

Yoga Equipment:

Gopher offers a wide range of yoga and stretching equipment to develop both the physical and reflective practices of yoga.

As I continue through my path in education, I’m constantly searching for new ways to not only handle conflict resolution but to increase the physical and emotional well-being of my students. If you haven’t given yoga a try, take a deep breath and explore a new adventure.

If you have any suggestions of your own, please share them in the comments below!

Chris has been a Physical Educator for 22 years in Texas. He has been recognized as a district finalist for Teacher of the Year and formerly served as the Early Childhood Chair Elect for the Texas Association of Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance (TAHPERD). Chris has presented at state and national conferences and spent two years writing curriculum, creating and delivering professional development, and supporting physical education teachers as a Health and Physical Education Specialist in a large urban district. Now an elementary Physical Education teacher in Garland ISD, Chris strives to promote a healthy and physically active lifestyle in both his personal and professional life.

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