Digital Wellness Breaks Volume 2

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

wind breath

Benefits: 

  • Focuses the mind

  • Releases tension in the jaw and lower face

  • Increases physical connection with the breath

Instructions:

  1. Sitting up tall in your chair. Inhale through the nose.

  2. Exhale through your mouth, making an “O” shape with the lips. (Imagine blowing a whistle without the whistle sound).

constructive breath

Benefits:

  • Calms the mind

  • Releases tension in the neck and lower face

Instructions:

  1. Begin sitting towards the edge of your chair, with your legs open a little more than hips distance, feet on the floor. 

  2. Interlace your fingers. Touch your knuckles underneath your chin, with your elbows pointing down.

  3. Inhale, raise both elbows out to the sides, keeping your interlaced fingers touching your chin.

  4. Exhale, soften your ribcage and let your elbows arc downward, still keeping your knuckles connected to your chin.

  5. Inhale, raise your elbows out to the sides and up, feeling your ribcage expand.

  6. Exhale, lower your elbows again, feeling your shoulders relax.

  7. Continue this inhale-up exhale-down pattern.

  8. When you are ready, unlace your fingers, and sit back into your chair.

grounding breath

Benefits:

  • Increases breath awareness

  • Increases connection of brain and body

Instructions:

  1. Begin sitting in your chair with two feet on the floor.

  2. Inhale, lift your right leg up a few inches.

  3. Exhale, place your right foot back down, feeling all parts of your foot connect to the floor.

  4. Inhale, lift your left foot up a few inches.

  5. Exhale, place your left foot back down,


yoga poses

swimmer stretch

Benefits:

  • Stretches the arms, shoulders, spine, and abdominals

  • Strengthens the entire torso 

  • Improves mental clarity 

Instructions:

  1. Begin sitting sideways in your chair towards the left side.

  2. Inhale, sweep both arms overhead.

  3. Exhale, extend your left arm forward and your right arm back to create an oppositional stretch.

  4. Inhale, lengthen through your torso.

  5. Exhale, look over your right shoulder towards your right hand.

  6. Breathe.

  7. When you are ready, inhale, lift both arms overhead as you turn to face towards your legs.

  8. Exhale, release your arms down to your sides and rotate your whole body to face the opposite direction, sideways, in your chair. 

  9. Repeat to the opposite side. 

  10. Optional: When twisting open to the left or right side, you can take your front arm and loop it under your opposite leg to deeper the twist. For example, if you are facing sideways to the left of your chair, your left arm would loop under your right left (at the thigh, above the knee).

standing forward fold

Benefits:

  • Stretches the back of the spine

  • Releases tension in the back, shoulders, neck, and face 

  • Relieves symptoms of stress 

Instructions: 

  1. Begin standing at the front of your chair in Mountain Pose. 

  2. Inhale, bring your hands to your hips and slightly bend your knees.

  3. Exhale, fold at your hips, lower your torso towards your legs, and release your arms towards the floor. 

  4. Breathe.

  5. When you are ready, bring your hands back to your hips and bend your knees slightly.

  6. Inhale, slowly roll up to stand, head comes up last.

  7. Exhale, return to Mountain Pose.

peacock pose

Benefits:

  • Strengthens the abdominals and upper back

  • Stretches the calves, hamstrings, inner thighs, groin, and spine

  • Calms the mind

Instructions:

  1. Begin seated in Easy Pose on the floor facing the front of your chair.

  2. Inhale, sit tall in your body.

  3. Exhale, open your legs wide to either side of your chair in the shape of a wide “V”.

  4. Inhale, bring your arms up towards the sky. 

  5. Exhale, place your arms in a crossed position on the seat of your chair, and rest your forehead on your arms.

  6. Breathe.

  7. When you are ready, inhale and slowly lift your forehead off your arms.

  8. Exhale, place your arms in front of you on the floor and bring both legs back in for Easy Pose.


brain breaks

do a little dance

Instructions:

  1. One person creates a pattern using hands and feet, aiming to create a sound rhythm. For example, stomp, stomp, clap, snap. 

  2. Everyone copies the pattern.

Skills:

  • Focus

  • Memory

  • Creativity

  • Physical awareness

stand up, sit down

Instructions:

  1. Teacher rings a chime which signals the start of this game.

  2. Once the chime has been rung, students slowly start to stand up and sit back down in their chair. However, there can never be more than one student standing at a time.

  3. Students must observe each other closely and negotiate who moves, all without using words or sounds, aside from the chime.

  4. Teacher concludes the game by ringing the chime once again, once all students have had a chance to stand up and sit back down at least once.

Skills:

  • Cooperation

  • Focus

  • Creativity

  • Physical awareness

i say, you play

Instructions:

  1. Students pair up and decide who will be the speaker and who will be the mover.

  2. In their pairs, students decide on a story to share. It can be a made up story, a true story, or a borrowed story (such as a story from a book).

  3. Taking turns, each pair has 15 seconds to tell the story. One student tells the story, while the other acts out the story simultaneously.

  4. All pairs of students perform their stories.

  5. After each pair has shared their story, the partners can switch who was the storyteller and who was the mover and retell the story in a new way. 

  6. Students can reflect on the different movement and speaking choices they observed as an audience, as well as how it felt to act or speak. 

Skills:

  • Cooperation

  • Creativity

  • Memory

  • Physical awareness

  • Spatial awareness


relaxation exercises

hot air balloon

Instructions:

Read or paraphrase the following script.

  1. “Close your eyes, breathe and rest. As if you are falling asleep, let go of all thoughts, and just feel your breath. I’ll wait for everyone to settle, sigh, and melt. Release any wiggles, movement, or tension. When you are silent and still, I’ll know you are ready to listen. With every breath, you become more and more calm.

  2. “Imagine a beautiful, open meadow. This meadow belongs only to you. It is safe here—a place where you can bring any thoughts that may be troubling you and send them away. Picture this meadow, and fill it with all the most beautiful things you can create with your mind. Maybe flowers, trees, or animals. Maybe even a small stream or a brook. As you breathe in the refreshing air of this place, you are filled with a sense of peace, calm, and comfort. 

  3. “Now, move to the middle of your meadow. Once you reach the middle, you notice a small basket appear. This basket isn’t big enough for a person, but it is big enough to hold all your troubling thoughts. Take a moment to think about what feelings, emotions, or thoughts you would like to send away. As you do, allow those thoughts to present themselves as small stones. Notice the texture and color of each thought-stone as you place it into the basket.

  4. “Every time you place a stone inside, say to yourself, ‘I no longer need this thought. I am letting it go.’ Repeat this as many times as you need until your basket is full.

  5. “Breathe in and breathe out. You begin to notice something else about this basket. There is a small balloon attached to the top. As you breathe in and breathe out, the balloon begins to inflate. Breathe in and breathe out. Keep breathing deeply.

  6. “The balloon is filling up, and before you know it, the small basket begins to lift off the earth. In fact, it starts to fly above you. Rising higher and higher, further and further away. You watch the basket get smaller and smaller, until it slowly disappears completely. In this moment, you realize that your troubled thoughts have disappeared too. 

  7. “You breathe a sigh of relief, knowing you did what you needed to do. You let go.

  8. “Take a few moments here to be with yourself, understanding that letting go takes courage, patience, and heart. 

  9. “It’s now time to return to the room. Know this meadow is here for you whenever you need. Continue to breathe in and out. Wiggle your fingers, wiggle your toes. Bring small movements into your arms, legs, and head. Gently roll onto one side and press yourself up to a seat.”

count up

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 up to 10 focusing on our breath and taking one breath at a time. You can imagine your favorite color as you breath, or picture your favorite animal, or person. With each breath, as we count, you will try to keep your focus on either the color, animal, or person. Here we go.

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

Deep breath in, deep breath out. One, two. 

Deep breath in, deep breath out. One, two, three.

Keep repeating breathwork and counting up, adding only 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 remember their color, animal, or person.

Slowest, deepest breath in, long, deep breath out. Notice how you feel and what you are still focusing on. 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. 

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.

sit and smile

Instructions: 

  1. Have students move into a Seated Forward Fold at their desks. Option to take Legs Up the Chair as an alternative.

  2. Invite students to close their eyes or keep them open, whichever is more comfortable.

  3. Direct students to begin by slowing down their inhales and exhales. 

“Notice your breath and choose to slow it down. Take longer, deeper inhales, and longer deeper exhales.”

  1. In time, cue students to smile on their inhalations, and to release the smile on their exhalations. Inspire them to think of something that makes them laugh or brings joy into their hearts while they practice this intentional breathwork. 

  2. Ask students to notice if it becomes easier to hold a smile without having to think about it, and if any emotions arise. Remind them that it is completely ok if no particular thoughts or feelings arise. Continue to cue breath as needed for focus and/or motivation.

  3. Gently guide students out of this relaxation by having them bring small movements into their bodies, opening the eyes, and finding a comfortable seat once more.

  4. Option to make this a group relaxation exercise by inviting everyone to gather in a circle. Everyone begins with a soft-focus downwards and away from eye contact. On the inhale, students look up and try to catch eye contact with a peer. On the exhale, they smile at each other. Repeat this a few times, offering up the opportunity to brighten a new person’s day by looking at a different person each time


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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created by

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Brynne Caleda

Brynne champions the efficacy of innovative, evidence-based yoga programs for schools to establish lifelong foundations for student’s fitness, wellness, and productivity.

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Stephanie Keiko Kong

Born and raised in Wahiawā, Hawai‛i, Stephanie has traveled the world as a yoga teacher trainer, speaker, actor, and voice talent. Stephanie feels both proud and privileged to have experienced these far-reaching scenarios within a host of different cultures, all of which serve to solidify her dedication to equity, inclusion, and diversity in education.

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