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Empower Your Students with Yoga in the Classroom

This post was written as a guest post for Teachers Love Amazon. Visit their blog here.

Hi! I'm Becca from The Teacher's Passport and I'm a 2nd grade teacher and yoga teacher in Asheville, North Carolina.  I am very passionate about spreading the message that yoga is for everybody. Today I'm excited to share one of my favorite topics---yoga in the classroom. When I first became a classroom teacher, I relied heavily on my yoga practice to manage stress, anxiety, and overall health and wellness. As we all know we have one of the toughest jobs in the world and when we put our whole heart into this profession, we need to make sure we're filling our heart back up with self-care. The practice of self-care is something that is far too often put on the back burner in our fast-paced society. Yoga has completely transformed my life and I love sharing the gift of yoga with kids.

In addition to teaching our students the core content, it's just as important to teach them the importance of self-care. Yoga in the classroom is an excellent way to model this life skill while giving kids a tool to help with their own emotions and experiences throughout the school day and at home. One of the greatest things about yoga is that it can be practiced anywhere (mats aren't necessary--just optional) and it's free! I've seen the incredible benefits it provides and the difference it can make in a child's life and I hope that you'll consider bringing it into your classroom, too.

Why yoga?
  • eases anxiety and tension 
  • enhances focus, attention, concentration, comprehension and memory
  • supports social and emotional learning 
  • has a positive influence on overall academic performance (#teachergoals) 

Whether practiced once or practiced regularly, the benefits of classroom yoga make it well worth the time. Although we may not always have 10-20 minutes for a yoga break, poses are perfect for transitions throughout the day or brief brain breaks, even if you only have one minute. 

When I first introduced yoga to my kids, I started with a few basic poses.  As long as you're making sure your students are safe, you don't need to have an extensive background in yoga to bring it to your classroom! Yoga teacher trainings are wonderful but definitely an investment of time and money. If you're not quite sure where to begin when teaching yoga to your kiddos, here are some fun and simple teaching tools that you can use in your classroom:'

Yoga Pretzels 

Yoga Pretzels is an awesome kid's card deck with yoga poses, breathing techniques, and games. It includes individual poses with kid-friendly instructions, partner poses, and whole-group games. Pick one or two cards during morning meeting and focus on those individual poses. Once kids are familiar with poses, you can put them into a sequence for a morning, mid-day or afternoon flow. You can also pull cards as brain breaks throughout the day, or assign a "Yoga Instructor" as a classroom job and have the instructor lead the poses for that day/week/etc. The kids get super excited about that! In yoga, it's all about the breath. Gentle, mindlful inhales and exhales. Encourage students to breathe mindfully (listening to the sound of and feeling the movement of their breath) while practicing each pose. They can stay in each pose as long or short as you'd like, but I'd recommend at least 5 breath cycles in each pose.

Picture Books 
There are several great books to introduce and share yoga with your students. One of my favorites is I Am Yoga by the one and only Peter H. Reynolds. This creative story shares how yoga transforms the main character's life through imagination, mindfulness and strength. My favorite line from the book is:
When I feel small in a world so big,
 I calm my mind, 
my body, 
my breath. 
I can create and imagine. 
I am yoga. 

Another favorite is Good Morning Yoga by Mariam Gates. It walks students through an entire flow with rich language and beautiful illustrations. I read this to my kids the first week of school, and when we reread it I choose student leaders to read to the class.

Yoga Mats 

One of the most important things to know when bringing yoga to your classroom is that mats are NOT necessary--they are optional. A whole class set of mats can be pricey which is why I recommend applying for grants or creating a project on Donor's Choose. I applied for a grant to receive a class set. You can also reach out to classroom families and community members to see if anyone is willing to donate mats. From Amazon, I recommend these mats from YogaAccessories but there are some great options on wholesale yoga sites as well.

No mats? No problem. Kids can do yoga on carpet or floors. They can even practice in chairs. Another great option is to practice outside! That also provides additional grounding and connection to nature. :) Yoga in the classroom will look different in different places but there's no right or wrong way to do it. As long as the kids are SAFE, able to focus on their practice, and spend time bringing attention to their body and breath---that's yoga.

Calm Cards for Positive Affirmations
Throughout our yoga flow or brain breaks, I like to integrate positive affirmations with my students. I'll state a positive affirmation and they echo or a student will lead the affirmation. I always make sure to include a time during our yoga practice where they hug themselves! It sounds like something so small but it makes a big difference. Positive self-talk is important for kids of all ages--and adults, too! You can grab a free sample set of my Calm Cards at my TpT shop, or purchase the full set for your classroom.

15 Day Classroom Yoga Challenge
To help bring yoga to classrooms around the world, I’m so excited to officially announce the 15-day #ClassroomYogaChallenge! Each school day I’ll post a new pose and include the traditional pose, variations of the pose, benefits of the pose, and easy ways to teach it to your students.
My goal is to bring the gift of yoga to as many classrooms as possible. It’s free, healthy, and valuable–something that our students can use for the rest of their lives. Each new pose will be posted on my IG feed the night before, at 8pm EST. The challenge officially starts onMonday, May 1 but the first pose will be announced on Sunday, April 30.
These poses can be integrated into a morning meeting, or taught during a brain break–whatever works best for your classroom. ☺ Yoga mats are NOT necessary. All you need is a flat surface where students can stand/bend/stretch safely. Are you up for this fun and meaningful challenge? If you’re in, head over to @theteacherspassport on Instagram and be on the lookout for the first pose

Grab these FREE Yoga Cards!

Along with incorporating yoga, you may also be interested in bringing mindfulness to your classroom. For resources and suggestions on getting started, visit my blog or browse my Instagram feed for a peek on how I incorporate mindfulness with my kids.

If you choose to bring yoga in your classroom, please let me know! You can tag me on Instagram @theteacherspassport! I can't wait to see :) And of course, feel free to reach out with any questions.