Jennifer Wilber works as an ESL instructor, substitute teacher, and freelance writer. She holds a B.A. in Creative Writing and English.
Why Should Students Take Yoga Movement Breaks During School?
Movement breaks—also sometimes called brain breaks—are important for children during school. Studies have shown that kids retain the information and skills they learn in the classroom better when they are given a chance to move around regularly during school. Behavior also improves when children are given breaks to move their bodies. Kids naturally have a lot of energy and physically can’t handle sitting still and paying attention in class for long periods of time. Many teachers and parents are beginning to learn this, so movement breaks are becoming more common place in classrooms, helping children to learn and achieve the most they can in school.
Yoga is one of the best exercises for physical and mental health, making it an ideal activity for movement breaks. Yoga sequences can be made as long or short as you want, so they can easily fit into lessons or be used during transitions between different subjects. Yoga gets kids moving, improves strength and flexibility, improves focus and concentration, and helps kids to calm themselves when frustrated.
How to Incorporate Yoga into Classroom Movement Breaks
To incorporate yoga into classroom movement breaks or brain breaks, you may simply want to lead your students through a few yoga poses between lessons if you know how to do them yourself. You may also choose to show your class yoga videos to follow along with. There are many videos available on YouTube for free that were created especially for young children. These videos show kids how to do poses that are simple enough for young beginners and are presented in ways that make yoga fun and engaging for young yogis.
Basic Yoga Asanas
If your kids or students are new to yoga, you may want to have them practice a few basic yoga asanas, or poses, before they get started with yoga flow sequences. These basic poses appear frequently in yoga workouts, so it is beneficial for yoga beginners to get the hang of them.
Basic Sitting Poses
Some children may not be able to sit in full-lotus pose, so it is okay to let them sit in half-lotus, easy pose, or simply in “crisscross applesauce”/”pretzel legs” if they have trouble with full lotus. Demonstrate each pose to the children as you explain how to do it. Since most kids are familiar with sitting “crisscross applesauce (sometimes called “pretzel legs,” depending on the school), use this sitting position as the base for explaining these poses.
First instruct the children to sit “crisscross applesauce.” If it is comfortable, tell them to extend each leg out in front of them, then carefully try to move each leg back toward their body and rest it on their legs, so that the outside edge of each foot rests on the opposite knee.
If full lotus is too difficult for anyone, tell them that half-lotus is okay. To try this pose, tell them to sit crisscross applesauce, but move one leg so that it rests with the outside edge of the foot on the opposite knee.
Some children may find both lotus and half-lotus uncomfortable. Easy pose is another alternative basic sitting pose. Tell the children that it is similar to crisscross applesauce, but that one leg should rest in front of the other, with the edges of both feet sitting comfortably on the ground. The arches of the feet should rest comfortably against the shin, and the outer edges of the feet should rest comfortably against the floor.
If the yoga sitting postures are too difficult or uncomfortable, they can use the basic crisscross applesauce sitting position that they are familiar with as they begin their yoga practice.
Child’s pose is one of the most common resting poses in yoga. To do this pose, have the children sit up on their knees. Have them then sit down with their bottoms pushing toward their feet, while they pull their head, arms, and upper body forward. From the fully stretched position, they can keep stretching their arms forward, or bring their arms back against their sides. Their forehead should rest comfortably on the mat or floor.
Tree pose is a common standing pose. For this pose, explain to the kids that they will pretend to be a tree, growing up strong from the ground up toward the sky. Have them begin by standing up tall with their arms down by their sides and palms facing forward (this is called mountain pose). Next, they should extend their arms out to each side for balance, and pull one foot up off the ground. Start by trying to balance with the bottom of the lifted foot against the ankle. If they are able to balance here, they can then see if they can balance with their foot up against their inner thigh (don’t press the foot against the knee). Once they are balanced, they can bring their hands in front of their heart, or raise them up above their head, pressing the palms together. Hold this pose for a few breaths, then repeat on the other side.
Downward Facing Dog
Downward dog may be a bit more challenging for beginners, but it is easy enough for kids and beginners to try. In this pose, you can tell the children that they will pretend to be a doggie. Have them start on all fours, with their fingers spread apart. Their arms and legs should be about hip-width apart. Tell them to raise their bottoms up in the air and straighten their legs, while relaxing their neck, and looking downward between their legs. Have them hold this pose for a few breaths, if possible.
Short Yoga Sequences for Brain Breaks Between Lessons
Even if you only have a few minutes to spare between lessons, a short yoga movement break can help your students to feel refreshed and ready to learn. Try these short yoga videos to get your students moving and ready to learn.
Unicorn Yoga – Fun 5 Minute Yoga Flow for Kids
6 Minute Yoga Sequence for Children
Longer Yoga Sequences for Longer Movement Breaks
If you have 10-15 minutes to spare, these longer yoga videos for kids will keep them engaged and entertained while their exercise their bodies and minds.
10 Minute Yoga Sequence for the Classroom
Cosmic Kids 12 Minute Yoga Compilation for Brain Breaks
15 Minute Yoga Sequence for Kids
Yoga Can Improve Concentration and Focus in the Classroom
Yoga has been proven to improve children’s concentration and focus in the classroom. Just a short yoga break can help kids to feel refreshed and ready for the next lesson or activity. Kids with behavioral problems may especially benefit from yoga breaks, as yoga has been shown to help calm the mind and body and improve behavior and mood. Yoga can help kids to regulate their behavior and divert their energy to more productive uses.
You may want to try yoga sequences that are especially designed to help kids to calm down for students who are having an especially bad day.
Calm Down Yoga Sequence for Kids
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
© 2019 Jennifer Wilber
Tara Lee on March 02, 2019:
Hi Jennifer, so glad you are enjoying the solar and lunar DVDs! Best wishes, Tara
Jennifer Wilber (author) from Cleveland, Ohio on February 20, 2019:
Hi Dina. Thank you! My favorite yoga programs right now are the Solar and Lunar Yoga DVDs by Tara Lee. When I started getting back into yoga about a year or so ago, I started with the 30 Days of Yoga to a New You series on Amazon Prime streaming.
Dina AH from United States on February 20, 2019:
Jennifer, oh my goodness. This is such a helpful article. I am not involved in teaching myself, but my brother and sister are. I'll be sure to pass this hub on to them. But, I do like the idea of myself incorporating the ideas in this post into my daily routine. I'd love to get back into yoga with a healthier mindset. Do you have any go-to teachers for beginners like me? I love the idea of following along with Yoga With Adrienne, but I totally am out-of-shape. Jennifer, you are on a roll here. Goodness. So happy for you. You are writing with such grace and ease. Love it. Keep going!!