Yoga and Mindfulness in Schools

after school yoga

image credit: Holistic Life Foundation: hlfinc.org

I’ve often wondered what school would have been like if it prioritized self-knowledge, so that instead of showing up in whatever state you’re in to study math, you first check in with yourself and become aware of what’s going on inside.

I didn’t even know what stress was until I was 16 years old and somebody told me I was stressed. I said “What are you talking about? No, I’m not!”. I wasn’t trying to hide my stress; I simply didn’t know what it was. It took a lot of piecing together to eventually notice the tense discomfort that we experience as stress. Now, decades later, I realize that my youth was chock full of stress, but I was so lacking in self-awareness that I didn’t see it.

Because of growing up with very little attention to what was going on inside me, I think about how crazy it was that school curriculum was entirely based on learning facts with no real importance placed on observing the inner world of all those beings who were doing the learning. Yes, 2 x 2 = 4, but what is the universe like for the consciousness who’s trying to learn this?

Fast forward to the present day and schools are starting to recognize the importance of consciousness to learning. It seems obvious, doesn’t it? I hear more and more these days of mindfulness practices being taught in schools and it’s very exciting!

I was elated to find out about Robert W. Coleman Elementary in West Baltimore, Maryland, that has replaced detention with meditation. Instead of kids being kicked out of school for poor behaviour, they’re sent to practice yoga and meditation to gain self-awareness and to improve their capacity to self-regulate. And it’s not just a “punishment”: yoga and meditation has been integrated into the curriculum and daily activities. Kids start every day with 15 minutes of meditation and yoga, tuning into themselves and their connection to the world around them. Students have access to yoga classes both during and after school. Now this is education!

yoga in elementary school

image credit: CNN

According to this Upworthy article, “Instead of punishing disruptive kids or sending them to the principal’s office, the Baltimore school has something called the Mindful Moment Room instead.” Not only do they meditate and practice yoga, but also talk through their experience of the situation that led them to needing some extra mindfulness.

Not surprisingly, attendance has improved, school suspensions dropped to zero.

The more exciting part is that Coleman is just one school in a growing movement of consciousness in the education system. Holistic Life Foundation serves 10,000 students a week in West Baltimore. They continue to train school staff to bring yoga, meditation and self-care to more and more places. According to their website,

They have taught in a variety of locations including private, physical therapy yoga classes at the Baltimore Center for Wellness and classes at drug treatment centers to help with addiction. Many colleges, government agencies, yoga studios, and corporations have benefited from their vast array of classes.

holistic life foundation landing page

image credit: Holistic Life Foundation: hlfinc.org

Holistic Life Foundation is not alone in its consciousness raising. Doing a little research, I came across an organization called Mindful Schools, which offers online mindfulness courses, including courses for educators wanting to do what Coleman Elementary has done.

There’s also MISP, Mindfulness in Schools Program: mindfulnessinschools.org/about/about-us

A teacher looking overjoyed and empowered

image credit: mindfulnessinschools.org/train/

These initiatives make me feel extremely hopeful for young people today and for the future of education. A generation of young people who understand themselves from the inside out could bring about a level of personal and global well-being the world has never known. We live with a palpable amount of darkness in the air these days, but perhaps this spread of consciousness in the world is a sign of more illuminated days ahead.