Mindfulness and Yoga

“Deja que las aguas se asienten y verás la luna 

y las estrellas reflejadas en tu propio ser.

Rumi

We are living difficult times, mi gente. There is no denying what’s happening today. 

We are overwhelmed. We are scared. We are anxious. We are not at ease.

This is why, this should be a time for healing, building community and comforting those friends who are feeling it the most, children and adults equally.  

This should not a time for wild expectations of rigor or to talk about grit/growth mindset. Our student’s community physical and emotional well-being should be the priority. Equity should be our priority. 

I used to be a hyperactive, anxious child, full of energy and therefore punished for not being quiet with frequency. Now, I’m an adult with a hyperactive mind and anxiety that I’ve learned to regulate somehow (not completely) with lots of self-knowledge and  soul-searching. I’m not going to give you details about the benefits of mindfulness and yoga here because those are one quick Google search away. I can’t tell you though, that these two practices have been my lifesavers for years. 

Empathize with your students 

Five years ago, I watched the idea of the glitter jar (aka mind jar) in an inspiring episode of Super Soul Sunday.   The episode couldn’t have shown up at a better time. The video featured in the episode, showed young children with whom my students could easily relate. Serendipity? 

It was the end of the year and I had a particularly energetic class that was struggling at the moment so I decided to start using the jar metaphor and setting a mindfulness routine at the beginning of the class – immediately. The breathing exercises (mini-meditation) routine with my students were a success from the get-go. We even got to do short guided meditations lying down on the rug, during the chaotic last month of school. 

I made my own jar to have a real-life representation. It is always there in my classroom as I reminder. During stressful times, I just remind my students to make our sparkles (thoughts and feeings) settle.

Inhala-exhala. My students hear those magic words and begin taking deep breaths immediately. 

As I became more aware of how mindfulness could be used in the classroom, it eventually turned into a cherished ritual and part of our class culture. I have gotten to introduce different breathing exercises and mudras. Some times I use a chime, a rainstick, or a Tibetan bowl.

There is always different meditation music or mantras playing as they enter my space. This practice is something that my students take beyond our walls and into other classes and houses. 

One of my chiquis Drew this for his mother while she was very sick to teach her how to settle and breathe

Our routine is simple. We begin each class with a meditation that is lead in Spanish by students now. At the beginning of each year, we discuss mindfulness and watch the #SuperSoulSunday video about mindfulness and the glitter jar. We discuss feelings healing, mudras and the importance of settling one’s brain and body to learn and how this tools can be used in different situations. 

How do you cultivate mindfulness in your classroom? In your house? 

One of my Pre-K sweeties made a mini mind Jar for our class.

Here is a description of the mind jar by Dr. Lori Boothroyd that I loved 

“A Mind Jar is a tool for helping kids (and adults) appreciate mindfulness. A mind jar can be shaken, and it is filled with glitter. The glitter represents how busy our mind and body can be with thoughts and physical sensations. For kids, shaking up the mind jar is a way of expressing how they feel. Watching the glitter slowly settle and noticing the breath while doing so teaches kids a way of self-regulating their emotions, and allowing thoughts or reactive tendencies to settle…..just as the glitter settles. Eventually, we can see more clearly through the jar, just as we teach ourselves to allow the mind to settle, we “pause” and learn how to respond to a situation more skillfully, rather than impulsively react.”

Yoga

I’ve been a yoga practitioner on and off for 20 years now. I know how the practice benefits me , and I have read extensively on how it benefits children. This is why I created a Pinterest board with meditations and yoga for kids in Spanish. This was one of the first links I sent home when we started the quarantine. One of the Pre-K mothers even sent me pictures of her practicing the exercises with her little one. As I said, the benefits of yoga for children can be found in many books and posts out there so I’m not going to write about it here. 

I will though – offer you links to two of my dearest, most admired colleagues websites Mundo de Pepita and Fun for Spanish Teachers who created yoga cards in Spanish. I’ve been using these in my classes as well. Since the way I teach Spanish is through the natural exchange and negotiation of language in context. I truly believe these videos would not only help you stretch, focus, center or relax.

They can also help you learn the language. 

Two birds, one stone! 

Amor, justicia y resistencia.

Françoise 

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