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By Christine Ristuccia, M.S. CCC-SLP,
Speech Pathologist Entrepreneur
I work at a school as a speech language pathologist with children who have stuttering problems, difficulty producing their sounds or are unable to express themselves due to lack of vocabulary or understanding what others say to them.
When the kids first walk into my room before doing yoga, they are full of energy, so it’s challenging for them to sit down in a chair, focus and learn the lesson for the day.
I can sense their frenetic energy as they sit at the table. Instead of starting the lesson and having to stop due to fidgeting and frenetic energy, I incorporate four-to-five yoga moves which connect breath with movement and cross the midline of the body (e.g. right arm crosses over the left arm). Research has shown that crossing the midline of the body with movement helps to coordinate the two hemispheres (sides) of the brain and that the two sides begin to work together in a synergistic manner.
Another benefit of doing yoga in a learning environment is that yoga moves incorporate knowledge of basic directional concepts such as right and left, up and down. Kids who have challenges with learning these concepts required for following verbally presented instructions in the classroom greatly benefit from learning through yoga.
Following a series of five yoga moves combined with mindful breathing, I decided to interview the students. The general consensus was that after yoga their brains felt ready to learn, whereas before, they were not.
I have noticed a profound difference in my student’s ability to focus, understand and respond to their speech therapy lessons before and after yoga. I’ve seen a difference even after only three-to-five minutes of combining breath with movement.
Yoga is not only great exercise for the body physically. It is also a wonderful way to relax the mind and body, helping to improve children’s reception for learning and speech. Yoga is increasingly being recognized and popularized for its health benefits, but is less known for its significant benefits for mental health, learning and cognitive benefits. Yogic uplifts our mood, reinforces natural kinetic learning, brings clarity to make better decisions, and increases language reception and retention. This combination of health and wellness benefits make yoga the perfect addition to the classroom curriculum.
If you are a teacher who would like to introduce yoga to the classroom, here are 5 easy tips to get started.
- Get your students moving and talking while they are moving. The body needs to move, and when the body is moving, you’ll observe how your students increase their focus and reception for learning.
- Read the energy of your students and react based on how they respond. As you practice different yoga moves and breathing exercises you will get a better sense of which ones your students most enjoy depending on their energy and mood levels, day to day.
- Focus on breathing. Get your students focused on simply inhaling and exhaling, concentrating on each breath. Teach them that they can use breathing exercises, anywhere, anytime, to regain focus and decrease stress and negative emotions.
- Connect breath with movement. One yoga technique that is great for connecting breath with movement is called Ocean Breath. Stand tall on both feet. Raise the arms high over the head so that the fingers are pointing to the sky. Inhale deeply through the nose and then powerfully exhale through the mouth, and lower the arms. Repeat for one minute. This is called ocean breath because the breathing sounds like the sounds of the ocean. Try this simple, yet powerful, technique with your students before a therapy session or class and observe their changes.
- Make sure that you are paying attention to the alignment of your students’ bodies as they practice different yoga poses. Feet should be parallel, the knees in line with the second toe, hips pointed forward and shoulders over the hips.
7 Tips to Slow Down & Relax This Summer
About Melissa Green
When we breathe in a rhythmic and audible fashion breathing in and out of the nose with the mouth closed, sounding like the waves of the ocean or Darth Vader, we are actually doing more than just breathing, we are stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system. The breath is the steady part that resides within all of us. It is always there and automatically occurs whether we are aware or not.
Whereas most of its actions are involuntary, some, such as breathing, work in tandem with the conscious mind.
When we breathe in a mindful manner, it calms the autonomic nervous system, which consists of the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems are located in the portion of the brain stem entitled the medulla oblongata.
The sympathetic nervous system is fight or flight. This happens when we get stressed or have to run away from a bear, for example. Our heart rate accelerates, our breath is either rapid or non-existent and we feel tightness in our body. Most of us stay in this state of mind when we get in this state, we need to breathe and that is usually the first thing that. The parasympathetic nervous system is the relaxation response in the body.
Mindful breathing can stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system and help us come into a relaxed state of mind.