“How can I help the students in the school with behavioural issues,” the teacher asked.
“Through a simple 3 step process, “ I answered.
This was a question I’ve heard time and time again, but something was different this time. I had just finished speaking at a conference for thousands of sports teachers in Victoria last week and my topic was how to use the tools of yoga to impact students physically, mentally and emotionally. What struck me was how many teachers are seeing the direct correlation between the body and mind and that if we want to create physical health, then training the mind is key too.
20 years ago, when I used to call schools to encourage bringing yoga into the curriculum, I was met with comments such as, ‘We already have a sports program,’ or, ‘Our students timetable is already full.’ Today is a different story with my sessions full of teachers looking for answers to help their students wellbeing, mental health, attitude and behaviour.
My answer to the teacher was that it is time for a shift in our approach to behaviour, attitude and discipline. The standard procedure in schools, homes and centres has always been to focus on the end behaviour or action of the child/ teen. If their behaviour and attitude is positive, they are praised and rewarded, if their behaviour and attitude is negative, they are criticized and punished.
This will NEVER get the desired result of seeing an improvement in the child. It only reinforces bad behaviour simply because it focuses on what is wrong and doesn’t train the child in a new pathway of being.
In the early childhood education system, we have a train of thought that if the teacher focuses on the behaviour that they want in the classroom and not on the undesired behaviour, this will train the students in displaying the ‘correct’ way of being.
However, none of this works long term, because the focus is constantly on the action (behaviour) and never on the cause.
Yoga teaches us that:
THOUGHT leads to FEELING leads to ACTION
If we focus on the action, we will never get to the cause of the action or make a lasting change. Whereas if we can train the mind and thoughts, then we have the ability to set a child’s mental blueprint for life. If do this daily, they become more than someone who educates, but someone who can make a difference.
Yoga is a science for how the mind works and through thousands of years of study, we have hundreds of exercises to do this.
The 3 step process I gave to the group of teachers at the conference was this:
Move. The easiest way into the mind of a child is through movement and yoga has specific movements that will quieten down the mind.
Breathe. Once quieter, we can use breathing techniques and mindfulness exercises to calm it enough to build awareness.
Be Positive. Lastly, we focus the mind on something positive or replace the negative thoughts with happy ones.
It is never too early to start a yoga and meditation practice to develop mental discipline with your children or in your classes and the gifts you give them will last a lifetime.