Before you start your class, it may be very beneficial for you to take some deep breaths. And, when your students come online or take their seats, it may be extremely beneficial to lead them in a minute or two of deep breathing.
Many studies (including this one from Harvard) have concluded that there are many benefits to be gained with deep breathing. Taking a minute or two to start your class with some deep breathing can have the following results:
- Calm emotions
- Reduce stress
- Allow the body to relax
- Enhance focus
- Improve overall health
Students and teachers are under tremendous stress, particularly during this unusual time. The stress response is often described as “fight, flight, or freeze.” When appropriately invoked, this natural response helps us address the danger of the situation. However, when the stress response is constantly provoked by worries, drama, anxiety, catastrophes, or trauma, it can lead to an “overactive or exaggerated stress response” — which causes harm to the body and mind.
When a person is stressed, it is very difficult to focus on tasks and information. Deep breathing enables the distractions to be minimized so that one can focus on the task at hand. When one centers and breathes deeply, the parasympathetic nervous system can relax, and your adrenaline and cortisol levels can return to normal.
This link (by ClassCraft) has a list of 17 ways to incorporate deep breathing into the classroom. The list includes tips for all ages. For example, Number 17 is as follows:
Counted Breathing: In a calm voice, ask your students to take deep breaths with you. Instruct them to breathe in through their nose for five seconds. Count these aloud if you’re with them. Have them hold their breath for three seconds and then breathe out through their mouth for five seconds. Repeat this exercise as needed until their breathing has become steady and their anxiety has visibly subsided. Once they’ve calmed down, you can move on to discussing the topic at hand.
Even more beneficial is time spent with mindfulness and yoga, as the following two articles explain.
Harvard Graduate School of Education’s article details a new study which shows how mindfulness education in the classroom can reduce students’ sense of stress and lengthen attention spans.
Research has found correlation between yoga in schools and stress and anxiety reduction, mental health care, obesity reduction, and improvement of both self-esteem and academic performance.
It would be wonderful for teachers to practice yoga and/or mindfulness on their own personal time. The benefits to reducing stress are enormous.
However, even if you don’t have the time to lead yoga or a mindfulness practice in the classroom, it is really quite simple and easy to take a few minutes for you and your students to take some deep breaths. It can help calm and center both the teacher and the students – which is a great way to start (and end) your classes.
If you have found some helpful tips to incorporate deep breathing, yoga, or mindfulness in your classroom, please share below!