We’ve already outlawed the ineffective and inhumane practice of beating students as a form of punishment for bad behavior. Should detention be dismissed as a “lesson in behavior” as well? It seems that schools that are implementing meditation, yoga, and mindfulness are reporting boosted grades and better behaviors. Let’s explore their success…
Social Media Following
A short video on Facebook highlighting the benefits of meditation practice at Robert W. Coleman Elementary School has been circulating as of late. The trending video is not brand new, but the message may be for many. The West Baltimore school is one of many around the country utilizing meditation and yoga to help students monitor their own behavior.
At Coleman, all the students practice deep breathing and yoga in the morning. It centers them and gets them ready to do schoolwork. It also helps them focus and reset, allowing them to shed negativity they could be bringing in from their lives outside of school.
A Good Form of Discipline
When two students have an altercation, instead of sending them to the principal’s office, they are sent to a “mindful” room. In some schools there are counselors in the spaces set up specifically for kids who are angry or having a hard time. Going to the special room allows them to “blow off steam” and get calm. (The room can have distinctive lighting, beanbags, blankets, soothing music, colorful walls, trace scents of essential oils—anything to invoke serenity in the environment.) Once the students are calm, they are more apt to explore and discuss their feelings. They are encouraged to look at better ways of handling challenges and frustrations.
Schools implementing meditation practices report fewer office referrals, fewer or zero suspensions, and overall improved school environments. Mindfulness has also shown to help students attend better and perform more proficiently on tests. The main bonus is that the child learns that he/she has the ability to attain calmness and make better behavioral choices.
Is Meditation a Form of Religion?
The most concise answer is that practicing meditation is not a religion. There are certain religions that advocate meditation and yoga as tools to center oneself. But in and of itself, the practice of deep breathing, stretching, and bringing awareness to the body and mind is not a religious thing. It may actually be more rooted in science.
Any child (or adult) can reap benefits from yoga and meditation, regardless of his or her faith. JAMA Internal Medicine published a study reporting that mindfulness meditation can help decrease stress. School is a huge stressor for kids. The research also revealed that meditation can not only ease anxiety, but depression, and actual physical pain as well.
Other benefits of meditation for students:
– It removes the feeling of competition. The practice is about getting to know yourself; you win when you learn about you.
– You don’t have to have any athletic ability; anyone can do it.
– It improves self-image. Kids are very self-conscious, especially about their bodies. Positive self-image improves overall health.
– It increases respect for the body.
– It improves posture.
– It improves the ability to manage stress and the ability to respond more appropriately.
A mental health professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health had a beautifully articulate talking point about the introduction of yoga and meditation into schools. She said this about deep breathing, “When we sit with pain or discomfort rather than act on it, we learn that feelings and sensations come and go. We don’t necessarily need to act on them all. We have a chance to pause and make a thoughtful choice about how to respond.”
It’s this type of statement that can help us to understand that detention or other forms of punishment many not be as effective as once thought.
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