How to Reinforce PBIS with Yoga and Mindfulness


Have you ever seen a group of elementary students running so fast down the hallway that it looks like there is a student pile up about to happen? You’re thinking in your head, “They really need to slow down and walk,” when suddenly, you hear another teacher bellowing at the top of his lungs, “Stop Running!”

…only to have the exact opposite happen: the students SPEED UP. Two children bump into each other, trip, and fall over. The teacher reprimands the two students for not listening to his message the first time and promptly sends them off to the office for a write-up.

Sometimes, it is not about telling students what they can’t do, or what they are doing wrong. Rather it is about telling them what they can do or what you would like to see them do. Like, “Walk slowly please.” rather than, “Stop running.”

But we get it, you’re human too. Sometimes positive reinforcement is hard to remember when you’re already at your wits’ end.

Student Absences

The bummer about sending them to the office is this: a student absent from the classroom is a missed opportunity for the student to learn. Under a punishment-based strategy, schools and administrators focused on disciplining troublesome students instead of examining the school climate and community health issues affecting student behavior (Mapping the Early Attendance Gap). These punishment-based methods are often the easier choice initially but do not help solve underlying problems.

Research has shown that the use of punishments, especially suspensions and expulsions, do not help improve student behavior. (Skiba, Shure, MIddelberg & Baker, 2011). In fact, they may have the exact opposite effect in the long run.

Suspensions are associated with negative student outcomes such as lower academic performance, higher rates of dropout, failures to graduate on time, decreased academic engagement, and future disciplinary exclusion.
— Achilles, McLaughlin, Croninger, 2007

And worse, by taking students out of the learning environment, we are hindering their desire and ability to learn on top of establishing an intimidating school culture based on discipline and fear. What do students really learn from being referred, suspended, or expelled?


Enter PBIS

Many schools are now implementing a more positive, rewards-based approach to improve their overall school climate. Positive classroom environment has been shown to be a strong indicator of student academic success. Students who feel happy, safe, and supported in their schools can more easily learn. Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports, or PBIS, encourages positive student behavior through improving overall school culture. Supported by long-standing psychological research and effective educational practices, PBIS provides a general framework to schools in an effort to prevent problem behaviors, encourage positive behaviors, and foster a more positive learning environment.

Schools that have implemented PBIS have seen many significant outcomes for students including reduced problem behaviors, reduced rates of out-of-school suspensions, improved emotional regulation, improved academic outcomes, higher rates of high school graduation, and improved perceptions of school safety (McIntosh, University of Oregon). Taken together, these factors create a more stable school climate with students gaining more class time and greater academic engagement (Bazalon Center). Today, more than 25,000 schools across the United States have or are in the process of implementing PBIS.

How Does It Work?

The baseline implementation of PBIS is to establish basic behavioral expectations. This means the entire school community agrees to follow specific expectations, rules, and goals all geared toward positive behavior management.

Through whole-school buy-in, the entire school community, including parents, develops a strong sense of school identity and school pride. It’s simple: The students who follow these expectations are rewarded, while the students who do not are not rewarded. Language used around the school moves from “don’t”s to “do”s. In shifting school discipline from punishment-based to rewards-based, the overall climate becomes less hostile and more positive.

The four elements of a PBIS implementation are:

1. Outcomes

Outcomes are the positive behaviors and expectations that the whole school community agrees to support and reinforce.

2. Data

Data is collected information that schools use to identify areas that need improvement. Data can include behavioral incidents and referrals, academic progress, and attendance (Freeman, et al.) Schools use the data to drive their decision-making in the practices, systems, and outcomes they implement. Data is also used to measure the success of systems and practices towards desired outcomes.

3. Practices

Practices are evidence-based interventions and strategies that the school community uses to support their outcomes.

4. Systems

Systems are the supports provided by school leadership to help students, teachers, and staff successfully implement PBIS. Examples include clear instruction on PBIS best-practices, making resources on PBIS available to staff, and professional development dedicated to PBIS. Systems are put in place to keep PBIS in the school sustainable for many years.

This diagram illustrates how these elements all work together within PBIS. A successful PBIS implementation requires accurate data collection, effective practices administered by qualified individuals, and sustainable systems. When data, systems, and practices all work harmoniously within a school, desired outcomes can then be achieved.

PBIS is implemented in three tiers. Tier 1 supports (universal), Tier 2 supports (a targeted group), and Tier 3 supports (individual). In utilizing all three tiers as needed, schools can support all students through positive behavior management.

A Cost-Effective Solution

PBIS is adaptable to many different school environments and specific needs. Administrators can pick and choose interventions and strategies that work for their team, budget, and surrounding community.
PBIS presents itself as a cost-effective solution for three reasons:

  • Schools and districts implementing PBIS do not need to hire additional staff. Rather, the schools repurpose existing resources (professional development, school time, and personnel) to suit their PBIS implementation.

  • PBIS curriculum and support materials are freely available online.

  • Costs of PBIS implementation decrease after the first year. After an initial startup period for a school or district, the training costs for staff and teachers decline.

In addition, school costs related to student dropout also decrease by way of reducing suspensions. From Lindstrom, Johnson & Bradshaw’s 2016 study on the costs of PBIS implementation, for every $1 invested in PBIS, schools save $105 (Swain-Bradway, et al.).


Yoga Ed. x PBIS

Yoga allows students to practice a variety of social-emotional, cognitive, and social techniques. On top of improving overall strength and flexibility, students learn to check in with themselves, to regulate their emotions, direct their attention, and become better communicators. The benefits of a school yoga program seamlessly translate to a yoga-based PBIS. Utilizing all tiers of support, yoga allows schools to create a positive culture of mindfulness and respect. The ultimate goal of PBIS is to improve student’s quality of life (PBIS supports). PBIS and yoga tools go hand-in-hand to help students find mindful movement throughout the day, increase confidence, improve how they relate to others, and support self-sufficiency.

Yoga Ed. works with schools and educators around the world to spread mindfulness to school communities. With over 15 years of experience bringing yoga into educational environments, we provide many yoga-based PBIS resources to fit your schools’ needs at the universal, group, and individual level along with supports for each element of your PBIS implementation.

Tier 1

We offer training for school faculty and staff through Yoga Ed.’s Tools for Teacher’s Workshop or a more extended mat yoga training for P.E. Teachers and specialized counselors.. These workshops explore yoga tools and techniques that educators can implement in class to help students focus, take a mindful brain break, or regulate their emotions. School-wide enrollment in Yoga Ed.’s online courses establishes a school culture of mindfulness. Teachers can choose when in their day to utilize yoga breaks to support both their own wellness and their students’ wellness.

Tier 2

Tier 2 Interventions are specialized to groups of students and include more mindfulness techniques. For example, an after-school “Mindfulness Club” can be established where students learn more physical poses, breathing, visualization, and relaxation practices. For a whole class, the teacher can implement more brain breaks as a transitory tool to maintain student engagement and focus. By expanding their yoga tool belt, students are able to use their newfound skills to better self-regulate.


Tier 3

Yoga-based interventions for individuals include one-on-one classes throughout the day and a support team centered around the student with trauma-informed (Yoga Ed. Professional Institute 3) training for staff. Students in Tier 3 would be given more exposure to yoga and mindfulness practices.

For all Mindful Movement Programs, Yoga Ed. leads quarterly check-ins with schools to review usage data and analyze outcomes. The check-in system supports school staff and administrators and makes our programs sustainable in the long run. Furthermore, students view yoga as an exciting activity; a chance to break from the norms of classroom learning. A yoga-based PBIS creates a school community that is excited to be present and practice mindfulness.

Start a Program at Your School

We would love to help your school move towards a more mindful and positive climate through yoga-based PBIS!


Accardo, Amy L. “Yoga as a School-Wide Positive Behavior Support.” Childhood Education, vol. 93, no. 2, 2017, pp. 109–113., doi:10.1080/00094056.2017.1300488.

Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law. “Fact Sheet: Positive Behavior Supports (PBS) and School Achievement” Accessed 2/28/2018.

Bradshaw, Catherine P, et al. “Examining the Effects of Schoolwide Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports on Student Outcomes.” Journal of Positive Behavior Interventions, vol. 12, no. 3, 20 Apr. 2009, pp. 133–148.,

Effectiveness of Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports: A Report to the Texas Legislature.” Texas Juvenile Justice Department. 2012.

Freeman, Jennifer, et al. “Relationship Between School-Wide Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports and Academic, Attendance, and Behavior Outcomes in High Schools.”Journal of Positive Behavior Interventions, vol. 18, no. 1, 2015, pp. 41–51., doi:10.1177/1098300715580992.

Graphics adapted from Positive Behavioral Interventions & Supports,

Mapping the Early Attendance Gap: Charting a Course for Student Success.” Attendance Works and Healthy Schools Campaign. Sept. 2015.

McIntosh, Kent. “PBIS: Making Schools and Classrooms More Positive, Effective, and Student-guided.” University of Oregon presentation.

Positive Behavioral Interventions & Supports – OSEP.” Tier 1 Supports,

Rethinking Discipline.” School Climate and Discipline, US Department of Education (ED), 4 Jan. 2017,

Swain-Bradway, et al. “What are the Economic Costs of Implementing SWPBIS in Comparison to the Benefits from Reducing Suspensions.” PBIS November 2017 Newsletter.


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