Digital Wellness Breaks Volume 1

Teachers are telling us, there was so much more to our physical classrooms than just academics. Equally important was my ability to connect with my students and for them to connect with each other, and that connection is lost. The online learning space is difficult to navigate, my students are disconnected and disengaged so much of the time. 

Students are frustrated, they just want to go back to school and get back to “normal” life. 

Parents are sharing, they are noticing their children having a hard time sleeping, periodic outbursts, and an insatiable appetite for more screen time after a full day of online learning.

Both teachers and parents are saying, they are feeling overwhelmed by the sheer amount of time being spent on the screen during this pandemic. They are experiencing dry eyes, exhaustion, and finding it difficult to connect with their own children after a full day of Zoom Meetings. 

What we notice is that as teachers and parents, we are concerned not only for our children but also for ourselves. We are wondering what the physical and mental impacts/implications that online learning and working from home are going to have on us long term. 

We hear you and we are here to support you in these difficult times with digital wellness breaks. What we know is at the end of the day, how healthy and well we are in our body and our mind affects how we show up in the world and how we are in relationship with ourselves and with others. If we as adults and our students as learners are feeling exhausted and disconnected, none of us will be able to teach, parent, or learn.

On the flipside, when we feel physically, mentally, emotionally well in ourselves, we can show up in connection and community with our students. This is when learning happens. Yoga Ed.’s digital wellness breaks are tools that you can use to support your and your student’s physical and mental wellness in the online learning space.


breathing exercises

core breath

Benefits: 

  • Awakens the body

  • Increases oxygen levels

  • Tones the abdominal muscles

Instructions:

  1. Begin by sitting up tall in your chair.

  2. Inhale, fill your belly with air.

  3. Exhale, in short bursts, and pull your belly inward with each breath. (5x)

  4. Repeat 2 – 3 times.

sunrise / sunset breath

Benefits:

  • Focuses scattered energy

  • Awakens the body, especially arms, shoulders and torso

  • Releases physical and mental stress

Instructions:

  1. Inhale, bring your right hand to your hip while your left arm swings up and overhead.

  2. Exhale, start to bend to the right in your torso, and circle your left arm down and back to your left thigh. Come back to a neutral seat and then repeat to the opposite side.

waterfall breath

Benefits:

  • Downregulates nervous system

  • Calms the mind

  • Releases tension in the neck, face, hands and arms

Instructions:

  1. Inhale and sweep your arms overhead. 

  2. Exhale turn your palms towards your body and alternate in and out wave movements as you lower your arms in front of you.


yoga poses

seated cactus (teen)

Physical Benefit:

  • Stretches the back, shoulders, and neck

Mental Benefit:

  • Stimulates the mind

Instructions:

  1. Begin seated in your chair.

  2. Inhale, sweep both arms overhead towards the sky.

  3. Exhale, bend your elbows to 90 degrees.

  4. Inhale, sit up tall in your body. 

  5. Exhale, bend into your upper back, drawing your elbows slightly down towards the chair. Keep your gaze forward.

  6. Inhale, bring both arms up towards the sky.

  7. Exhale, release your arms and come back to a comfortable seat in your chair.

standing spinal wave

Physical Benefits:

  • Stretches and aligns the spine

  • Energizes the entire body

Mental Benefits:

  • Releases tension

  • Builds focus

Instructions: 

  1. Begin standing to one side of your chair in Mountain Pose with your feets hips distance apart.

  2. Inhale, raise your arms up overhead.

  3. Exhale, hinge at your hips and place your hands on the seat of your chair.

  4. Inhale, bend your knees slightly, roll your shoulders back, and look forward.

  5. Exhale, lengthen through your legs, push down into the chair and arch your spine. 

  6. Repeat this movement pattern 2-3 times. 

  7. Inhale, come to a neutral spine.

  8. Exhale, tuck chin to chest, bend knees, and slowly rise back up to Mountain Pose.

supported hip stretch

Physical Benefits:

  • Stretches the hamstrings, quadriceps, groin, abdominals, lower back

  • Strengthens the abdominals and upper back

Mental Benefits:

  • Builds focus and concentration

  • Calms the mind

Instructions:

  1. Begin seated in your chair with two feet planted on the ground.

  2. Inhale, walk your left foot towards the left side of the chair. 

  3. Exhale, bring the sole of your right foot to the inside of your left thigh, resting your outer right leg on the chair base.

  4. Inhale, reach your arms up and overhead.

  5. Exhale, turn your body toward your left leg as you extend forward, bringing your arms to rest to the sides of your left leg. 

  6. Breathe. 

  7. When you are ready, inhale, tuck your chin to your chest, and roll up to a long spine.

  8. Exhale, release your right leg back to the ground and bring both feet back to a neutral position. 

  9. Repeat to the opposite side. 


brain breaks

mirrors (teens)

Instructions:

  1. Pair students up.

  2. Each pair stands or is seated, and decides who will be the “mover” and who will be the “mirror.”

  3. Using different movements or yoga poses, movers move into the poses or movements slowly and smoothly while mirrors mirror those movements. Movers can gradually speed up as long as the mirrors can follow.

  4. After three minutes, players reverse roles.

Skills:

  • Coordination

  • Cooperation

  • Focus

  • Physical awareness

  • Spatial awareness

i am (teens)

Instructions:

  1. Have students find a comfortable seat with two feet on the floor and palms face down on thighs.

  2. Read the “I Am” affirmations and while showing students the hand movements. 

  3. Students follow along by doing the hand movements with the option to repeat the “I Am” affirmations to themselves silently or aloud.

Affirmations and Movements:

  • Say: In my Community … I Am Important

    • Do: Flip palms to face up

  • Say: In my School … I Am Learning 

    • Do: Open arms outward with a bend in the elbows

  • Say:  In my Mind … I Am Present

    • Do: Lift arms up and touch hands to head

  • Say: In My Body …I Am Changing

    • Do: Lower arms halfway down in line with ribcage

  • Say: In My Heart … I Am Strong

    • Do: Cross arms to reach for opposite elbows

  • Say: In my Life …I Matter 

    • Do: Replace palms face down on thighs and sit up tall)

strike a yoga pose (children)

Instructions:

  1. Invite all students to stand in front of their chairs.

  2. Music is played, and while music is on, students to dance or move around (you can suggest to move in different ways) their chair

  3. Music is paused and students move quickly and carefully back to the front of their chair

  4. The teacher calls out a yoga pose or breathing exercise for students to do.

Movement Suggestions: Moon Walking, Hula Hooping, Ice Skating, Swimming

Yoga Pose Suggestions: Mountain, Triangle, Star, Seated Twist

Skills:

  • Cooperation

  • Memory

  • Creativity

  • Physical awareness

  • Spatial awareness


relaxation exercises

check-in

Instructions:

Have students come to lay down in Legs Up the Chair or Forward Fold at the Desk.

Close your eyes if that’s comfortable or have a soft focus. Take a deep breath in, and deep breath out. Notice how you are feeling in your body right now. Do you feel any tension or tightness? If so, send your breath there by taking another deep inhale, and long deep exhale. Check-in with your body now. Notice if anything shifted, even if just a little. Continue breathing in and out. Now notice any thoughts racing through your mind. Or maybe your mind feels steady and calm. Notice without judgement, but use your breath to calm any unwanted or negative thoughts. 

I’ll give you 1 minute of clock time to continue checking in with yourself. Use your breath to support a calm, steady mind and body. 

Pause for 2 minutes.

Let’s take two more breaths together. Inhale, exhale. Breathe in, Breathe out. Slowly start to bring movement into your fingers and toes. Take any stretches that feel good to you right now and slowly make your way back to a comfortable seat in your chair.

count down

Instructions:

Have students come to lay down in Legs Up the Chair or Forward Fold at the Desk.

As you settle into your body, notice your breath. Breathe in and breathe out. I’m going to take you through a progressive relaxation. We will be counting down from 10 focusing on taking one breath at a time, and allowing our bodies to become more and more still and soft. Here we go.

Take a deep breath in and a deep breath out. Ten.

Deep breath in, deep breath out. Nine.

Deep breath in, deep breath out. Eight. 

Breathe in, breathe out. Seven.

Keep repeating breath cues and count down one number each time. If students start to show irregular breathing, encourage them to breathe whenever they need to. If students become unfocused, encourage them to whisper along with your countdown.

Slowest, deepest breath in, long, deep breath out. Notice how you feel in your body. Notice your thinking or feelings. One your next breath, gently begin to wiggle your fingers and toes. Take a long body stretch from your fingertips to your toes and then roll to one side of your body. Press yourself up to a comfortable seat, or find your way back to your chair.

sensory poem

Instructions: 

The teacher shares the following poem with students and teaches them accompanying movements to go along with the poem.

Hands, hands, to reach and feel, 

My sense of touch is strong and real.

Nose, nose, to breathe and sniff,

My sense of smell will find any whiff.

Ears, ears, to listen and hear,

My sense of sound is oh so profound and clear. 

Eyes, eyes, to look and see,

My sense of sight is unique to me.

Mouth, mouth, to bite and chew.

My sense of taste is curious and true.

Note: Movements can be created uniquely by the teacher, or as a collaborative effort between students and teacher to make the poem unique for each class.


how do i practice digital wellness?

Remember to put on your oxygen mask before you put on your children’s. When you notice you need a wellness break, they will benefit from it and visa versa. 

We like to think of our yoga and mindfulness as tools. Our job as educators is to know which tools are beneficial for what (e.g. core breath is more stimulating while waterfall breath is more calming) and then we can pick and choose the tool we need moment to moment to support ourselves and our students throughout the day. 

Here are suggested times of the day to use yoga and mindfulness as digital wellness breaks through the day:

  • Start of the morning 

  • Transitions 

    • Learning activity to learning activity

    • After lunch

    • After break and/or recess

  • Brain breaks during long learning sessions 

  • End of the day

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