Sunday, December 13, 2015

Conscious Breathing

How important is breathing? I know silly question, right? We would be dead if we did not breath.  Yet, how often do we even notice we are breathing.  Do we notice how differently we breath at different times.   Not only that, but I’ve found that my body often craves oxygen.  How often do you stop to take a deep breath?  Try it right now – stop and take a deep breath.  Fill your lungs all the way to the top and then gently let the air out.…. Notice anything?  When I do that I relax automatically on the exhalation and I can feel that my body is happier and more nourished.

This year at school I have been blessed with an extra art class and less time for everything else,  In middle school this means no extra (prep) preparation time.  I’m enjoying it immensely, truly, because stopping and breathing often is helping me get through all the fun and excitement that middle school provides.  Then again, I happen to enjoy being around 6th graders.  I know, it's crazy.

I’m also continuing to encourage my students to breath consciously.  One helpful use of conscious breathing is during those pesky transition times when we are switching from one activity to another.  For example, when we need to go from our Language Arts lesson to our Social Studies period.  We stand up, we stretch, then comes that time when everyone needs to pull out their new materials and books.  Why does it seem to take forever to pull out just a couple of items?  There’s always tons of noise, talking, and distractions.   This year I had an inspiration as I was waiting and trying to notice who or what was holding us up.  I just told the students, “If you are ready and waiting for your classmates, just notice your breath as you inhale and exhale and start counting you breaths.”  Instantly, the class got calmer.  The students that were dawdling or distracted all of a sudden had the space to concentrate on what they needed to do.  Hallelujah!  Now, we have that as one of the tools we use for getting ready.

Yes, Education for Life has changed the way I teach irrevocably, the way I look at each student, and the way I deal with the energy in the classroom.  This year I continue to rely on everything that I learned through Education for Life.  Each school year has me using some of the same techniques I learned with EFL.  I continue to use more experiential learning and a focus on instilling life skills into my students.  Through it all I center myself and my students through our breath.

Monday, March 9, 2015


Art Class Project
During this past school year I’ve been listening to the Living Wisdom School teachers in Palo Alto talk about having their students BREATH.  They are my go to inspiration for how to follow the Education for Life principles.  So as they talked about their experiences in encouraging their students to breath I paid attention.  After all, I know from my own yoga practice that the breath is a physical way to control our thoughts, emotions, and energy.  Can you use breathing anytime anywhere?  Yes!  You do not need to pull out your yoga mat or meditation pillow in order to stop, breath, and relax.  I tried it with my students and the results were instantaneous!  

The first time I tried it was with Oliver (not his real name) in my art class.  Oliver was wound up and going at 100 mph: talking, out of his seat and bothering even his friends.  I went over to him and out of desperation asked him to stop and take a big breath, let it out, and count the next 100 normal breaths.  I was amazed when he did it with no further prompting from me. As he finished counting his last breath he picked up his markers, went back to work calmer than I had ever seen him before. 

It even works with students that don’t know me.  As I was walking across our large middle school campus on my way to my first class I was going through our crowded courtyard with hundreds of 6th, 7th, 8th graders.  (We have over 1000 students.)  I saw a group of 8th grade boys overly rambunctious and rough-housing with one another.  Instead of hollering at them to keep their hands off each other I told them to stop and take a big breath and relax.  I was amazed when they in unison stopped and took a big breath like they were in the middle of a yoga class and then smiled at me like I had done them a big favor. 

What a useful tool to give these students and it is so simple.