Scholars at HLA – Morris Park may be able to teach adults a thing or two about mindfulness. In a class called “Movement,” scholars as young as kindergarten participate in yoga-based mindfulness classes that are good for their body as well as their brain.
Mindfulness, in the most basic sense, happens when people give themselves the chance to clear their mind so they can restart. Many people practice mindfulness by closing their eyes, resting and focusing on their breath. The thoughts that run through one’s head during this time can easily turn into distraction, worry and anxiousness. By concentrating on only one thing — like breath– it is easier to let the other thoughts come and go.
“It is important skill for everyone to learn, but especially kids, because unlike adults they don’t recognize that they are being distracted by their thoughts,” said Maia Horsager, movement teacher. She says that when scholars don’t know how to recognize distraction it is detrimental to the rest of their learning. “Once scholars learn that distraction is something that happens to everyone, it makes them feel like it is something they can improve on.”
During the class, Maia guides scholars with poses that are common in yoga, and helps them practice key skills like balance, concentration, and persistence. The skills that scholars learn in movement directly translate into skills to help them with their academic studies. “When scholars struggle in math class it may feel the same as when they stumble while balancing,” Maia said. “Movement teaches them to recognize their emotions, think about them practically and always try again.”
To help scholars with self-esteem, Maia talks to scholars about why being different it is a good thing. Scholars reflect on how it feels when someone laughs at their differences, comparing the differences that are apparent during the physical challenges of yoga with other challenges in their life.
Maia brings academic subjects into the classroom also. For the younger scholars, there is a focus on literacy where they learn the names of the poses, the letters they start with, and also learn vocabulary words like “concentration” and “kindness.” First- and second-grade scholars learn about the concepts of storytelling, such as the rising action, climax and conclusion.
Movement is one way that scholars are given the tools to clear their mind and think about something positive. Scholars learn how to work through their worries so they are more calm and ready to learn. Most importantly, they won’t be as frustrated when they get distracted, because Maia has given them a toolbox of resources for getting back on track. “Positive thinking comes so naturally to kids because they have wonderful ideals of how things should be,” Maia said. “My hope is that they keep practicing so that those ideals never go away.”