Calm kids are healthy, happy, and confident. For many years, we have focused a lot on healthy bodies, but we also need healthy minds. This can be a challenge in today’s world due to sensory overload, and feelings of stress and anxiety which have emerged particularly during the past year due to lockdowns, changes to schools, and to society in general. Anxiety related disorders in children are on the rise, and it can be difficult for them to find peaceful moments in their lives, and to feel good about themselves.
Play time has diminished and extracurricular or academic activities often fill every spare moment, leaving many children feeling overstimulated and overstretched.
Children, especially the younger ones, are not able to identify feelings of stress and anxiety as easily as adults. They may not connect their stomach pains, headaches, restlessness, or irritability as symptoms of anxiety. Depending on the child’s age and abilities, emotions may be a difficult idea to grasp because they are such abstract concepts. Feelings like sadness and happiness can be easily understood, but disappointment, frustration, grief, and anxiety are often harder to verbalise.
It is for these reasons that yoga, relaxation, and meditation are becoming increasingly popular for children in schools and in the community. Ten minutes of daily quiet can be a precious gift to children. It can help them find a safe, calm space within themselves and in their classrooms, and leads to greater self-awareness and emotional balance.
More and more evidence is emerging on the benefits of these ancient practices. According to Harvard Health Publishing, the benefits of yoga for children include improvements in both physical and mental health. For example, children practising yoga developed improved self–esteem, focus, memory, balance, and strength. In addition, practising yoga, or relaxation and meditation techniques, have been shown to reduce anxiety and stress, and improve classroom behaviour and academic performance. I have heard many children describe moments of inspiration which they have experienced during a session of relaxation, including ideas for stories, creative thoughts, and even solutions to problems. Such moments of calm can be invaluable for our creativity process in the same way as Newton’s revelation of gravitational forces came to mind in a moment of contemplation.
Meditative practices can also increase our intuitive capacity. Intuition is often undervalued as an attribute, but Steve Jobs described it as “more powerful than intellect”. Einstein also explained, “It is not intellect, but intuition which advances humanity …. it is intuition that improves the world, not just following a trodden path of knowledge” and referred to intuition as “the father of new knowledge”.
Armed with this understanding, it becomes easier to understand the value of yoga, relaxation, and meditative practices in a classroom setting, and to justify their inclusion in the daily curriculum.
Evidence is also emerging that yoga and meditation can help children with ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), as it benefits school performance by improving symptoms such as inattention and hyperactivity.
Considering the benefits of these practices, Heartfulness, a registered charity which offers free relaxation and meditation to anyone aged 18 and over, has developed a range of free online materials for teachers and parents to use with children. These materials help children take a much–needed break during their busy days and find a calm space within themselves. They include guided audio tracks for relaxation, visualisation, and moments of gentle contemplation, which can be enjoyed by teachers and parents too! There is also a short yoga video to help children prepare for, and get the most from, their relaxation and contemplation time.
To take account of the varying age groups, there are different tracks for primary and secondary pupils and all these materials can be found in the resources section of the Heartfulness website:
Heartfulness’ meditative practices for adults are always free of charge and include online masterclasses, sessions with certified trainers, webinars, and much more. More information is available at heartfulness.uk
As a global non–profit organisation, Heartfulness offers its practices worldwide in over 160 countries through thousands of certified trainers who volunteer their time and expertise in the spirit of the Gift Economy. The popular Heartfulness app is full of helpful information and opportunities to experience meditation at your own convenience.
In the UK, Heartfulness is registered as a charity in England and Wales (No 1128649), and in Scotland (SC038615).
If you enjoyed this blog and would like to read others like it, it features in our Everything Curriculum Magazine edition 10. Each edition is centralised around a chosen theme, you can subscribe to receive future magazines via email or access our previous editions here.