Sunday, August 19, 2018

My Goal in Heart, Mind, and Body

How Yoga and Mindfulness Can Support Life Goals

Teens Share How Yoga Helps Them In Life

The following is a guest post by Abby Wills of Shanti Generation.

Note: This lesson plan was originally designed for teaching youth, but it could also be appropriate if you teach life skills to adults who are preparing to go back to school or reenter the work force. 

Before explaining about this goal-setting lesson plan, I want to be very clear that it is NOT about setting goals FOR yoga practice. Instagram has done a fine job of instigating ‘pose goals!’

Yoga and mindful practices are non-competitive and process-oriented by nature. And that is exactly why yoga class can be a supportive environment to help students cultivate a positive vision for their future.

The purpose of this lesson is to:
1) help students set positive, conscious goals for their lives; and 
2) help them discover how their yoga and mindfulness practice can support them through the inevitable obstacles life will present.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Mindful Listening in a Noisy World

The following is a guest post by Ira Rabois, author of Compassionate Critical Thinking.

What happens to your thinking when you feel surrounded by noise? This is a particularly relevant question in schools today. The noise can be external—car horns, fire engines, people screaming in the halls outside your classroom. It can be your own internal voice, dictating what to do, or passing judgment on your character. It can be a combination of the two, as when you spend hours on social media or listening to news where there’s more yelling and attacking going on than listening and understanding. 

When you hear noise, you are not just hearing a sound you find unpleasant. You are hearing a sound with baggage. You are hearing dislike, resistance, or a threat.  It’s difficult to think when there’s noise because noise is a signal that your thinking is impeded or you feel under attack. And what’s attacking you is not necessarily someone external to you, but internal. Something is demanding attention, but it’s not simply the sound.

The same can happen when you meditate or practice mindfulness or simply want to focus on whatever you are doing. A noise can break your concentration. So, what can you do or help your students do? 

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Self-Care Videos: Gentle Yoga, Mindful Movement, and Indoor Walking

One of the key themes here at Mindful Teachers is realistic self-care for educators and other helping professionals. It isn't about self-indulgence. It's about staying healthy and centered so you can keep helping others without sacrificing your own needs.

Here's a yoga practice especially for teachers, as well as a selection of mindful movement practices and gentle yoga and exercise routines, ranging from 3 minutes to 30 minutes. 

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Best Practices in Teaching Yoga to Teens (interview)

Abby Wills (MA, E-RYT) is a Movement, Mindfulness + Social Emotional Development Specialist for Full Circle Consulting Systems, Inc., and is on faculty at Barnsdall Arts in Los Angeles, where she delivers programming in middle and high schools. Abby is also the co-founder and program director of Shanti Generation, through which she has produced several yoga DVD's for kids and teachers. 

What are the special considerations in teaching yoga to adolescents, as opposed to younger children or adults?

Adolescence is a distinct period of development, marked by significant neurobiological changes that effect every aspect of a person’s life including social interaction, self-perception and world view. In yoga and mindful practice sessions, we honor the transformation teens are experiencing.
1) Teens generally want and need to rest more than adults and younger children. I often start with a resting activity and weave in more rest periods throughout class, always ending class with a full body relaxation.  

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Tales of Generosity: Lessons on Gratitude and Compassion

For these stories about giving and receiving, I've drawn from a variety of sources, including a Hasidic tale, a Sufi parable, and a couple of popular passages from the Gospels.

I invite you to consider perspectives from different traditions, and share them with your students if they seem appropriate for your particular context.  

Photo by Evan Kirby on Unsplash

Duck Soup

The Mulla Nasrudin is a 'wise fool' or 'holy fool' character in Sufi parables. You may not be familiar with his name, but you've probably heard the story of looking under a lamppost for a missing key: not because that's where it was dropped but because that's where the light is better. 

The following story is from a popular collection of Nasrudin tales compiled by Idries Shah:

"A kinsman came to see Nasrudin from the country, and brought a duck. Nasrudin was grateful, had the bird cooked and shared it with his guest.
Presently another visitor arrived. He was a friend, as he said, ‘of the man who gave you the duck’...
This happened several times. Nasrudin’s home had become like a restaurant for out-of-town visitors... 
Finally, Nasrudin was exasperated...

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Song Playlists for Teachers

A big part of my mission here at Mindful Teachers is to make it easier for you to find the resources you need to teach mindfulness, compassion, gratitude, social-emotional skills and social responsibility. 

In putting together these playlists, I reject at least a dozen songs for every song that makes it onto the list. I look for:
  • themes appropriate for values-based teaching and lessons on mindfulness and social-emotional learning;
  • a range of musical styles to suit different tastes; and
  • interesting lyrics, without gratuitously offensive words or images (which is why I don't include more rap and hip-hop; let's just say it's been eye-opening).

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Mindfulness for School Leaders (recommended book)

"Not enough leaders are equipped to deal with the stressors that are an inevitable side of leading... Within the practice of mindfulness, leaders can begin to learn another way of being that can change their interaction with the problems they are facing, and in so doing, directly impact their schools."
Dr. Caryn M. Wells, Mindfulness: How School Leaders Can Reduce Stress and Thrive on the Job 

Dr. Wells is a professor of educational and teacher leadership who previously worked as a high school teacher, counselor, and principal. She gives a compelling argument for how mindfulness can contribute to self-care for frazzled school leaders, while simultaneously improving the atmosphere at their schools.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Teaching Mindfulness, Meditation, and Yoga to Teens

I've discovered a pretty wide range of perspectives on issues like what should and shouldn't be included in a mindfulness class and how much training teachers should have.  

However, there appears to be consensus among experienced mindfulness teachers on the following points:
  • It's essential to practice what you teach. 
    • The presence and authenticity of the instructor are far more important than finding the right 'mindfulness script' for a particular student population. 
  • Given the level of hype and misinformation about mindfulness, it's not unusual to get some pushback from students or their parents. 
    • They may be skeptical about whether it really works or worried it might conflict with their religious beliefs. Be prepared to calmly discuss these types of concerns.
  • It's important to show compassion and flexibility with resistant youth.
    • We don't always know the trauma histories of our students or what might be stressful or triggering for them. They might have good reasons for not wanting to close their eyes, discuss personal information, or engage in some other part of the lesson.

Tips for Teaching Adolescents

The following articles have good suggestions for introducing mindfulness to adolescents and engaging those who might be reluctant to participate.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

How Do You Handle Anger?

I have no idea what upset me, but I clearly recall being furious about something when I was five or six years old, and an adult saying:
When you're angry, you should take a breath and count to ten.

That made absolutely no sense to me at the time. I remember blowing out a big puff of air and thinking:
Onetwothreefourfivesixseveneightnineten! What?! I'm still angry!

I can see now that I misunderstood not only the solution but also the problem. 

The problem isn't the feeling of anger or frustration but the potential hurtfulness of our reactions (to ourselves as well as to others). The most common reactions to anger are understandable but unhelpful: we tend to be overly aggressive, passive-aggressive, or overly passive.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

'Check Up From the Neck Up' Relaxation Practice

The following is a guest post by Evalyn Gaskell of Harmony LifeBalance.

Several times a day one can practice “check up from the neck up,” especially when there is a lot of mind activity going on, like:

  • feelings of being stressed, 
  • what to do, where to go, 
  • what’s happening tomorrow (or an hour from now), 
  • what happened yesterday, what was done, not done, said, not said, 
  • am I criticizing or judging myself or others, 
  • etc.