Mindfulness is a buzzword these days, but what does it really mean? The idea behind mindfulness is pretty simple. It's really nothing more than being in the moment and appreciating the environment around you. It's an ancient practice, but science is only recently recognizing its efficacy in reducing stress and even changing the makeup of the brain.
Teachers at Waldorf School of New Orleans already use mindfulness daily in their classrooms in various ways. Putting it into practice can involve deep breathing, keen observation, or using imagination to find calm and focus.
"I do mindfulness every Monday morning. We do some quiet yoga, a progressive muscle relaxation, and then a guided meditation," says 2nd Grade Teacher Abby Mullen. "Students seem quite calm afterwards. The biggest change is having students come up to me and tell me when they've used mindfulness in moments of crisis."
It's easy to get caught up in the busyness of the day. Taking the time to slow down and be mindful might feel like a luxury that can't be afforded, but our school sees it as something that we can't afford not to do, especially when energy levels are running high.
"I read the energy in the room," says 1st Grade Teacher Jill Contento. "If my students are wild, I'll have them run in place and then do a yoga pose. It's like doing an outbreath and then an in breath. And then they're ready to work."
Ms. Contento notes that if she just has her students run in place without that yoga pose, they retain that wild energy. Their focus is much more developed if they pair the two activities.
Grades 5 / 6 Teacher Rebecca Nelson uses a Tibetan meditation bowl, which issues ringing tone when struck. It prompts students to sit quietly and center while they listen to the tone. When they can’t hear the ringing tone anymore, they stand and recite their morning verse together, ready to begin their day. Ms. Nelson also uses simple Eurythmy exercises to help students find grounding inside their bodies.
“There are some students who are challenged by practicing mindfulness," she says, "It’s not miraculous but it always improves the situation.”