Relaxation exercises are tools used to consciously calm the mind and body. These tools include various combinations of deep breathing exercises, focused attention, and visualizations. Relaxation allows students to take a break from the busy school day and restore their inner balance.
Relaxation offers the invaluable opportunity for your students to consciously shift their focus from external experiences to internal understanding. This shift in focus allows students to non-reactively observe and reflect on inner thoughts, ideas, and feelings. By encouraging self-awareness, relaxation teaches students to tune into
what’s going on inside and to let go of any unproductive tension that they may be holding on to. Relieved of this tension, students gain the cognitive freedom to effectively process and learn new information. Over time, your students will naturally build the confidence and expertise to use relaxation as a time to recognize their inner experience and use yoga tools to bring them closer to how they want to feel.
Here are 7 evidence-backed reasons for finding time to relax with yoga postures during your school day.
1. Helps Students to Sleep Better
Yoga can positively influence a child’s ability to fall asleep and stay asleep. Yoga improves sleep quality by tiring the body and mind, increasing overall relaxation, and equipping children with relaxation tools to fall asleep. Studies have demonstrated that a regular yoga practice can improve sleep quality by decreasing sleep onset time and number of awakenings while increasing total sleep time, sleep efficiency, and subjective sleep quality (Khalsa, 2004).
2. Improves Cardiorespiratory Health
Yoga increases relaxation and decreases stress. Stress prepares the body for a “fight or flight” response by increasing heart rate and blood pressure. Chronic stress can increase the risk of heart disease. By reducing stress, yoga may improve cardiorespiratory health and fitness (Galantino, Galbavy, & Quinn, 2008).
Relaxation also induces physiological changes in the body. When relaxed, the brain signals the body to take slow and even breathes. Conscious deep breathing also affects the brain. Taking deep breaths sends a message to your brain to calm down and relax. The brain then signals your body to relax. Deep breathing lowers stress in the body and increases relaxation. Physical effects include lower breath rate, lower heart rate, and lower blood pressure (Joseph et al., 2005).
3. Relieves Stress and Anxiety
Preliminary studies suggest that yoga may relieve stress and anxiety (Li & Goldsmith, 2012; Birdee et al., 2009). Yoga’s effects on stress can be explained by a couple of mechanisms. First, yoga combines an active practice with relaxation. Research has shown active practices followed by relaxing practices trigger deeper relaxation than relaxing practices alone (McCall, 2007). Second, yoga may modulate the physical effects of stress by reducing perceived stress and increasing self-compassion. This may help the mind deal with stress more effectively and lessen its toll on the body (Gard et al., 2012).
4. Helps Students Process and Learn New Information
Relaxation offers the invaluable opportunity for your students to consciously shift their focus from external experiences to internal understanding. This shift in focus allows students to non-reactively observe and reflect on inner thoughts, ideas, and feelings. By encouraging self-awareness, relaxation teaches students to tune into what’s going on inside and to let go of any unproductive tension that they may be holding on to. Relieved of this tension, students gain the cognitive freedom to effectively process and learn new information.
5. Increases Readiness to Learn
Learning readiness involves attention, motivation, curiosity, and decreased stress and anxiety. Yoga primes the student for learning in many ways. Breathing exercises and yoga postures direct students’ awareness, attention, and motivation. Dynamic sequences engage multiple networks throughout the brain (Ratey, 2008). Relaxation provides students with tools to let go of stress and anxiety. As a physical activity, yoga also increases oxygen rich blood in the brain which improves brain function.
6. Promotes Self-Awareness
Yoga class also provides ample opportunities for students to actively practice self-awareness. Time-In, breathing exercises, yoga poses, and relaxation techniques are just few opportunities for students to look inward. Simultaneously, your positive feedback encourages your students to become present to what is occurring in the moment.
7. Improves Self-Regulation
Yoga may strengthen our prefrontal cortex (upstairs brain). Yoga increases self-awareness, attentiveness, and emotion regulation. Breathing techniques, yoga poses, and relaxation exercises teach students how to use their body to help them consciously calm down. These techniques actively trigger the relaxation response and interrupt the stress-feedback loop. Recent research demonstrates that students who voluntarily regulate their emotions in response to stress show greater activation in their prefrontal cortex, better modulation of activity in the amygdala, and lower levels of cortisol in the body (Davidson, 2008).