Strategies for teaching yoga in schools – Part 3

The last lot of tips for teaching yoga in schools…

Tip Number 7:

Sometimes persisting with the pranayama practice can work like magic. It might be worth using some cues to positively reinforce the behaviour you are pleased with as soon as you hear some students begin to chat ‘All we want to hear is the sound of our breathing… excellent year 8… this practice is a challenge for many of the adults I work with, you are doing really well’.

Tip Number 8:

Where you see examples of really great effort, (or someone who demonstrates the sankalpa really well), if you have chance, you could write their names on the board to acknowledge that you’ve seen their good practice

Tip Number 9:

It’s a good idea to have the sankalpa (intention) written on the board and the questions written on the board to support students with a visual reference during their class.

Thank you to Fay Crowther from Ark Teacher Training for these tips!

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Strategies for teaching yoga in schools – Part 2

Welcome back for more tips on how to teach yoga in schools. Read on for more…

Tip number 4:

A good technique to use is to bring people back together just as their conversation peaks, so that they know that they have to discuss the question straight away, otherwise they might not get chance. You could use a countdown ‘coming back together and being ready to share your answers in 3…. Sitting down and facing this way in 2…. Showing focus until the end of the singing bowl…1 (and then ring the bowl)’ ‘All I can hear is the bowl… what wonderful focus year 8, that’s excellent practice…’

Tip number 5:

The sun salutations are a great way for children to get rid of some of their energy but be careful as sometimes children will have so much energy that it will raise the energy in the room too! If you find that the children are over-excited after the sun salutations, try moving on to holding poses for longer. This seems to support them to have more focus and attention.

Tip number 6:

Where students are not on task and it is affecting the concentration of others, try standing next to them initially and modelling exactly what you expect them to be doing- it can help their minds to get back on track.

More tips to follow tomorrow…

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Strategies for teaching yoga in schools

Over the next few days we will be releasing some tips on how to hold the energy in a yoga class of teens. Keep checking back for more strategies to help you teach to your best ability!

Tip Number 1:

Students really respond well to listening to the singing bowl to help focus. Students often respond well to a challenge or working/moving in an aspirational way e.g. ‘Who can show me focus by holding the pose for as long as they hear the bell? Remember, the best yogis will keep trying, even if they wobble or fall out… that’s part of the practice.’

Tip Number 2:

Keep reinforcing what you want to see, ‘I’m looking for everyone to be standing at the top of their mat, focus forward, listening to the bell, not talking so that we can all start together as a group…Wonderful Amin, thank you Jonathan… great this side of the room’ (you could even write some names on the board/make a note of the names and they could be the ‘star yogi’ for the week)

Tip Number 3:

It may be useful to have a very engaged student take your position to model the moves to the other students.

Check back tomorrow for more…

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Why Teens Need Yoga More Than Ever

On my way to the second day of the Yoga for Teens training course, I reflect over the common themes that always come up on these days, 28 people from all over Europe, united in one vision to support young people with yoga, have all noticed the same thing – young people are increasingly anxious, lacking in self esteem and are suffering. 
 
Coming together, teachers, psychologists, counsellors, psychiatrists all see one solution – yoga. In their own practise, yoga has taken them through difficulties and shown them hope through self care. We all wonder together with one voice: “what is it that happened, why do young people suffer today?” Huddled in groups, they tackle these questions, investigating the development of the adolescent brain and the psycho-social issues that play such a large part in lives of young people today.
 
We play, cry and laugh as we remember how tough this period can be and as we examine research around how many mental health issues in middle age have their root in adolescence (75%!)
 
Bringing yoga into schools no longer seems such an odd idea, as it did 15 years ago when we started mooting the concept in Somerset state sector schools. Now over 25 % of schools offer yoga as either part of the curriculum or as an after school club. The new directive from government to employ mental health leads in every school has opened up the opportunity for so many TeenYoga Teachers to go in and offer yoga as part of a wellbeing programme both for target groups, teachers and for the general student group. Given 75% of 14 year old girls opt out of PE, yoga proves to be a popular alternative, taking them away from the competitive atmosphere of GCSE and into an accepting, self-caring space.
 
I used to mention yoga as a possibility to the issues facing schools, now I
state it as an obvious solution and they listen.

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Thought for the Day

Many young people are preparing for exams now – whether it is end of year, GCSEs, A Levels, or Uni exams. Yoga is well known to combat stress. In one study we did together with the CBeebies, cortisol (the stress hormone in the body) dropped by 30% at the end of the class, but more interestingly, the whole class started with a 20% lower cortisol rate than the control groups. This means that week on week, your stress is reducing and the benefits are cumulative.

1 – when we stretch our body, we are indicating to our brain that we are relaxed as a stressed body is a tense body.

2 – when we breathe deeply, we activate the baroreceptors in our lungs which tell the body to relax

3 – when we turn ourselves upside down, the heart gets to relax as it no longer needs to pull the blood back up from the bottom of the body

4 – we focus on one thing, the breath or a mantra, in order to train the brain to be strong and not wander or ruminate, which is the basis of so much anxiety. To be able to focus, brings success in any field.

5 – Philosophically – we distinguish between what is real and what is unreal. We look at our lives and we see it in a philosophical perspective, where we are no longer at the centre, but just someone who is learning lessons, whatever they are – this brings us into a more detached mode of thinking.

So when you get home, lie down and pop your legs up the wall and breathe deeply. Make sure your outbreath is longer than your in breath for about 15 to 20 minutes and you will soon feel a difference.

Good Luck!

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Why are young people ‘disembodied’ and how can we help?

As I was training a group of secondary school teachers, psychologists, social workers and psychiatrists last week to share yoga and mindfulness with teens, it became more apparent than ever that poor mental health of our young adults is not showing any signs of abating. As the group shared the reasons for coming on the course, many mentioned how the young people seemed disconnected from themselves.  The psychologists used the term disembodied.

Many young people, they felt, were disconnected from their bodies, viewing their own bodies as objects, to be controlled or punished with food or exercise, but not to be listened to or respected. Many live their lives as it were, outside themselves, viewed through the lens of the Instagram or snapchat conversation.

Our bodies are wise temples of information, prompts and intuition, our bodies never lie. When we practise yoga, we get in touch with our bodies and we feel into pleasure, as well as aches and pains, to discover and listen to underlying emotions.

When we ignore messages from the depths of our bodies, we are more likely to live in our minds – our minds were never meant to be our masters, they are the servants of our intuition, our knowing. But when the mind runs riot, it plays havoc with our lives and we end up out of balance.

We concluded on the last day of the course that we need to bring young people back in touch with their own bodies, so they might be less likely to fall foul of the vagaries of shifting mood states, emotions and destructive thought patterns that can lead to anxiety and depression.

We need to connect the body with the mind and recognise a third, even wiser dimension, which can guide us towards a more fulfilling life, some call it the soul or the spirit. Yoga opens us up to this possibility.

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Yoga on Remembrance Day – A powerful reminder of the importance of peace

It has struck me several times that we are holding the Instill conference this year on Remembrance Day (11th November), in remembrance of those who gave their lives in war. The link to me is obvious as it was to the young men in Sierra Leone, where I have been teaching. How does a yogi go to war? The link between inner equilibrium, peace and connection and the outward manifestation of it, is tangible for anyone who practises yoga. The link between inner peace and the future peace of our country are obvious (notwithstanding the story of Arjuna.)

This year has seen an exponential rise in the interest of yoga among policy makers, due the fabulous work that has been done by the Indian Government in promoting yoga.

Sitting at the Houses of Parliament speaking in favour of yoga in schools, I need to pinch myself as I remember schools rejecting yoga outright over ten years ago. Today, yoga is in fact being practised by MPs, Lords and Ladies alike on a daily basis at the Houses of Parliament as well as in prisons and schools across the UK.

The Instill conference is an opportunity to bring this diverse and passionate group of activists together and to showcase these differing and complementary ways of implementing yoga for the common good among young people.

We have workshops on yoga in prisons, yoga and exam stress, yoga and gender, yoga and addiction and yoga and creativity, among others. We will also be revealing the latest results of our survey on yoga for young people which is very encouraging. Dr Cartwright from Westminster University is also going to share some of her results with the audience from the Big Yoga Survey which reached thousands of people and shows some astounding statistics on the impact and reach of yoga in the UK today.

To end the conference, there will be a panel of young people who have been empowered to lead a session on their impression of yoga in lives of the young of today.

I do hope you can come and join us. If you register with the foundation (which is free) your ticket is reduced to £75. However money should not be an issue, so please feel free to contact us if you need some financial assistance.

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Ministry of Presence

If you had a voice, what would you say? Young people were asked this question and answered:

We need to learn independence in a good way, we need to learn how to say “no!” and make a good choice for ourselves, despite our parents or other influences.

The young people are looking for guidance in finding agency and they are looking for support in finding their voice, they are looking for mentorship in finding their own way to well being.

It is easy for policy makers, parents and teachers to have ideas of what is best for young people today but they face many challenges we can only imagine. Young people are empowered through social media to express themselves and to fine tune their voice, so we thought we would like to build on that at the conference.

Some of them have experience of living abroad and say that they find the educational system in the UK patriarchal and competitive, disconnected from their own needs, desires and interests, steeped in an outdated and disruptively competitive atmosphere which no longer matches the needs of our future society but rather reflects the fears and contraction of the colonial past.

Many young people ask for guidance in what it is to be well. At the Instill conference we have gathered a number of young people to create and deliver a 90 minute session on wellness, school and yoga. We are excited to embody the pedagogical approach that we favour, which is of student led discussion and exploration. In true yoga it is in fact the quality of our presence that matters more than our actions. How can we as yogis and adults minister with our non-judgmental presence in order to effectuate change?

By simply listening whole-heartedly. At Instill we get the opportunity to offer the gift of complete presence to our young people in order that they themselves may feel empowered to be the change they wish to see in the future of education, the future of Britain and the future of the world.

Join us to facilitate this change.

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The end of Sportivate?

Sport England have funded 1 in 7 active graduates of Teenyoga, either by paying for the course or by grants for teaching yoga classes to young people.

However, this is changing. Sportivate was a fund set up after the Olympic Games running for 6 years, to support more interest in sport among young people in England.

2017 sees the end of the Sportivate funding. Last week, I had a meeting with several managers of Sport England. It is clear, that although the funding has come to an end in half of the regions, there is still some funding for Year 7 in 27 regions. These applications need to be in by around the 17th of February.

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