Digital Wellness Breaks Volume 3

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

song breath

Benefits: 

  • Improves brain function by engaging creative processes

  • Increases relaxation

  • Integrates the mind, body, and breath

Instructions:

  1. Inhale to place both palms on top of thighs.

  2. Exhale with an audible sound and to slowly slide your palms down the legs.

blink breath

Benefits:

  • Focuses the mind

  • Relieves eye strain

Instructions:

  1. Begin sitting tall in your chair. Close your eyes.

  2. Inhale, open your eyes slowly.

  3. Exhale, close your eyes slowly.

  4. Continue to breathe in and out. Notice if you can slow down your breath in coordination with your eye movements.

  5. Option: Add on to this breathing exercise by pointing your eyes in a specific direction each time you open them. For example, inhale and open your eyes to look to the right. Exhale, close your eyes. On your next inhale, open your eyes and look to the sky. Exhale, close your eyes.


yoga poses

fish pose

Benefits:

  • Stretches the abdominals, chest, spine and shoulders

  • Releases tension in the entire body

  • Energizes the mind

  • Builds focus

Instructions:

  1. Begin seated at your chair with feet planted on the floor.

  2. Inhale, sit up tall in your body.

  3. Exhale, place your hands underneath your glutes (or legs).

  4. Inhale, lengthen through your spine.

  5. Exhale, press your chest forward and draw your shoulders towards one another.

  6. Breathe.

  7. Inhale, lengthen through your spine and sit up tall.

  8. Exhale, release your hands from under you and come back to a seat.

revolved triangle

Benefits:

  • Stretches the legs, spine, shoulders, and arms

  • Eases tension in the legs and lower back

  • Relieves symptoms of stress and fatigue

  • Improves focus

Instructions: 

  1. Begin standing in Mountain Pose facing the back of your chair. 

  2. Inhale, place both palms on the back of your chair.

  3. Exhale, step your right foot back a leg’s distance. 

  4. Inhale, bring your left plan to your left hip.

  5. Exhale, lift your left palm towards the sky, keeping your hips forward.

  6. Breathe.

  7. When you are ready, inhale to find length through your torso and legs.

  8. Exhale, release your left palm back to your left hip. 

  9. Inhale, place your left palm back on the chair.

  10. Exhale, step back to Mountain Pose.

  11. Repeat to the opposite side.


brain breaks

connect the pose

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

go, stop, answer

Instructions:

  1. At the teacher’s cue of “go,” students move around the room. (Option: Teacher suggests different movement styles, timing, etc.) 

  2. At the teachers’ cue of “stop,” students pause in place. (Option: Students make groups of two or three by connecting back to back.)

  3. While paused with their grouping, students each respond to a prompt given by the teacher. For example, “What does your body feel when you are under pressure?” (Note: Teacher may give a time limit for these answers, such as 15 seconds.)

  4. The teacher’s prompts may be relevant to school curriculum, yoga, mindfulness, or SEL topics, as well as general topics that students may contribute. For example, “Who is the greatest rap artist of all time and why?”

Skills:

  • Physical awareness

  • Spatial awareness

  • Communication

  • Focus


relaxation exercises

wiggle, roll, and chill

Instructions:

Have students come to Legs Up the Chair or Forward Fold at the desk. Read or paraphrase the following script.

  1. “Close your eyes, breathe and rest. As if you are falling asleep, let go of all thoughts. Without trying to change anything, notice your breathing. Is it quick and short, or is it slow and steady? How do you feel in your body? Tight and tense, or loose and relaxed? Take a deep breath in through your nose, and take a long, deep breath out through your mouth.

  2. “Start to focus your attention on your lower body. Feel your lower back, hips, legs and feet and be aware of any energy that might be there.

  3. “When I say ‘wiggle,’ begin to gently move your lower body in a safe way. Ready? Wiggle. Gradually bring movement into your lower body. 

  4. “Now when I say ‘roll,’ pause your movement, then begin to roll your feet at your ankles. Ready? Roll. Create big circles using your feet. Move in both directions. 

  5. “Finally, when I say ‘chill,’ freeze your body and become as still as you can. Ready? Chill. How still can you be right now, in this moment?

  6. “Take a deep breath in, and a deep breath out.

  7. “Bring your attention to your upper body. Feel your belly, your chest, your arms, and your head. In a moment, we will repeat our wiggle, roll, and chill practice with our upper body. 

  8. “Ready? Wiggle. Mindfully move your upper body in a peaceful way.

  9. “Ready? Roll. Roll your hands at your wrists. Move in both directions with your rolls. 

  10. “Ready? Chill. Find stillness in your whole upper body. 

  11. “Take a deep breath in, and a deep breath out. 

  12. “Let’s connect our upper body and our lower body for a final wiggle, roll, and chill. 

  13. “Ready? Wiggle. Carefully move your whole body and notice how this makes you feel. 

  14. “Ready? Roll. Roll your feet and your hands. Be aware of any tightness or stress. With each roll, let some of that go.

  15. “Ready? Chill. Become completely still from head to toe. 

  16. “Take a deep breath in and deep breath out.

  17. “Notice your breath again. Has it changed? How about your body? Do you feel any different? Take a few moments here to observe yourself as you rest your body and calm your mind. 

  18. “Gently begin to wiggle your fingers and toes. Take any final stretches that feel good to you on your back, on your side, or in the chair. When you are ready, come back to a comfortable seat in your chair.”

release

Instructions:

Read or paraphrase the following script.

  1. “Close your eyes if that’s comfortable, or have a soft focus with your gaze. Take a deep breath in, and deep breath out. Continue to breathe slowly and deeply.

  2. “Tune in to what’s going on for you right now. What can you notice about your thoughts, your body, your heart? Take some time to allow these things to come to you, perhaps in words or images, or perhaps as a physical sensation. If anything becomes too overwhelming, pause and breathe.

  3. “In a moment, I’ll ask you to try and focus on a single feeling or sensation at a time, positive or negative. Then, repeat to yourself: ‘I acknowledge this feeling or sensation and now I can release it.’

  4. “Find your first feeling or sensation. Acknowledge it, and release. Breathe in, breathe out.

  5. “Now, find a second feeling or sensation. Acknowledge it, and release. Breathe in, breathe out.

  6. “Take two more minutes of clock time to continue bringing attention to any thoughts or feelings that arise for you. I’ll be here to support you in this space.”

  7. Pause for two minutes.

  8. “Let’s take two more breaths together. Inhale, exhale. Breathe in, and 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.”


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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Megan McWilliams

Megan McWilliams is a full-time social worker in Austin, TX. She received a dual Masters's degree in Social Work and Public Health from Tulane University where she developed a passion for the mind-body connection.

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