Deaf Education, General Teaching Topics, Regular Education

How to Use Yoga to Meet Gross Motor Standards & Explore New Concepts in the Classroom

 

Recently, I have seen more focus on yoga and meditation in early childhood and primary classrooms. Some people hear that and think it’s a joke – “my kid(s) can’t sit still that long?”, or “They don’t have the ability to calm themselves and control their body like that!”

Does this sound absurd to you too? Honestly, I was a bit skeptical myself until I tried it in my classroom. I began using yoga poses with my pre-kindergarteners about a month ago, and both the children and I were instantly hooked!

It is widely known that gross motor movement is very important for young learners. You will usually see dancing, exercising, obstacle courses, Simon Says games and playground time used to work on gross motor skills in early childhood. Through these activities the children are learning body awareness, building strength, following directions, and working on their balance.

Using all of the usual activities to observe and support gross motor development, I fell into a routine and my students quickly grew bored. Time to get creative, switch things up and find something different and exciting for the children. After seeing a few articles on Facebook and Pinterest, I decided to try yoga in our classroom.

I Don’t Know Much About Yoga, Where do I Start?:

Maybe you have taken a yoga class or two or maybe you have been wanting to try yoga yourself! Using yoga in the classroom can be a great way for you to explore and practice yoga! I had a little bit of experience with yoga and decided to test the waters with a few basic poses.

I began with five simple poses and my imagination grew from there. We practiced down dog, tree, mountain, triangle, and child’s pose. The children were confused at first, however they soon connected the benefit of yoga as exercise. I began explaining which muscle group was “getting stronger” with each pose. Then, tied in a math standard by practicing counting up during each pose, and then we practiced counting down. Since then we have been practicing skip counting.

As the children became more successful in their counting skills, as well as becoming stronger and more balanced, they began to favor yoga. They requested it every day over other exercise options so I started brainstorming. I decided we would do yoga at least once a week and I would create or find poses that went with each of our learning themes.

Connect Yoga to the Classroom Theme:

Be creative but keep it simple. You can use yoga poses that already exist but connect it to a new concept. For example – Mountain Pose can be repeated and discussed as a stick bug for the insect theme, flag pole for government, plant stem for plant life cycle, or giraffe for a zoo animal theme! Or, you can make up your own poses! The children may enjoy helping you, too. I prompted a child to, “use your body to show me what a seed looks like” and our plant life cycle yoga began!

So far we have created poses for:

Zoo Animal Yoga

Cat in the Hat Yoga

Insect Yoga

Garden Yoga

Plant Life Cycle Yoga

Does it work?

When I was going to yoga regularly, I remember feeling many different benefits afterwards. Before yoga, I would feel overwhelmed and my brain would be buzzing with to-dos and don’t-forgets. I may have gone in the class with a bad mood, a negative attitude, or overall feeling low. However, during and after yoga I would feel relaxed, refreshed and enjoy a clear and positive mind.

I have to say – I have seen a lot of this in my students as well! The children have showed much progress in the past 4-5 weeks. Already they have better balance – no one falls over anymore! They are also showing development in their counting skills, forward and backwards. And most of all, I have seen a lot of behaviors dissolve, minds become calm, and positive attitudes reboot. The children are excited to see what the next poses are and have even started to create some poses on their own that relate to the current theme.

Recently, I have added a short “meditation” to the end of our yoga sessions where we close our eyes, stretch, breathe slowly and I review rules that need reviewing for the day and connections to the theme. I prompt the children to think about themselves and evaluate how their body feels, how their mind feels and how their day is going. This has shown some success with improvements in a few undesired behaviors. It has been wonderful so far!

Example Please?! You Got It!

Our most recent set of poses is plant life cycle yoga. This is currently my favorite and all of my students learned and retained the stages of a plant faster than I could believe. Below you will find pictures of the poses we created so you can use them in your classroom too!

Classroom Yoga - Life Cycle of a Plant

We hope you and your students enjoy these Plant Life Cycle Yoga poses! Leave us a comment here or on any of our social media sites and let us know how it goes if you decide to try it or if you already practice yoga in your classroom! Collaboration is key here and our goal is to share tips, tricks and ideas!
As we come up with more fun yoga poses we will post them for you to have for your classroom as well!