Give children space to ‘breathe’
In many parts of the world mindfulness has been practiced for more than 2,000 years. More recently however, the Western world is beginning to recognise this method of focus and relaxation. Medical science has discovered the extent to which mindfulness can help neurological development, improving mental, emotional, social and physical health. Neuroscientists have found that long term practice alters the structure and function of the brain to improve the quality of both thought and feeling.
It’s no surprise, therefore, that teachers are becoming increasingly interested in the potential benefits of mindfulness. Katherine Weare, A professor at both Exeter and Southampton Universities is working with staff across the UK to develop mindfulness in schools, helping students to find the focus needed to achieve their goals. Any mindfulness however must start with the teachers and coaches. As we know, we are role models in how we behave. Implementing mindfulness in our lessons can be as simple as giving children space to sit or stand still and breathe. Children actually look forward to a time where all they have to do is stop, be calm and listen.
The whole process of mindfulness has the knock on effect of making people more receptive and open. Studies have taken place in schools across the UK from reception through to year 6, where the teachers’ objective is to make children more aware of themselves in a non-judgemental way. By the time children leave in year 6 they have an emotional intelligence and a set of skills that really equip them to cope with everyday life.
If we take a look at professional athletes training programmes, many of them practice a form of Yoga. This is as much for the physiological adaptations that this form of exercise encourages but also for the psychological benefits that breathe control and focus can bring. As a fan of yogi exercise and the benefits listed above I personally am an avid supporter of teaching mindfulness within my lessons, giving children the space and time to breathe and to take advantage of ‘being in the moment’, this is also partly why I have devised Yogi Tennis, a coach education system that teaches coaches how to implement yoga techniques into our lessons. Both from an injury prevention point of view and also from a ‘calm focus’ aspect.
I am not saying that our lessons shouldn’t be loud and fun, far from it. My sessions are loud, fun and about maximum participation but I am aware of maintaining the balance so as to capture my pupil’s attention and imagination and get the very best out of the time I have with these players. As tennis coaches, implementing mindfulness into our hourly lessons may not initially be practically appropriate. A starting point for us however, would certainly be to simply be aware of this practice and that children whom we teach may well be experiencing this in school.
Evolve9 Professional Development Team