school students

Mindfulness exercises improve kids’ math scores

Mandy Oaklander, Time: Fourth and fifth graders who did mindfulness exercises had 15% better math scores than their peers.

In adults, mindfulness has been shown to have all kinds of amazing effects throughout the body: it can combat stress, protect your heart, shorten migraines and possibly even extend life. But a new trial published in the journal Developmental Psychology suggests that the effects are also powerful in kids as young as 9—so much so that improving mindfulness showed to improve everything from social skills to math scores.

Researchers wanted to test the effects of …

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Restive lads opt for meditation over detention

wildmind meditation newsAlexandra Smith, The Sydney Morning Herald: Teenage boys are not known for deep contemplation, but if if gets them out of detention then it seems meditation can be very appealing.

At Balgowlah Boys, a comprehensive public school on the northern beaches, students can now swap an afternoon detention for meditation.

In a darkened classroom last week, about 20 barefooted boys spent an hour breathing, relaxing and clearing their minds. And while they may have been sceptical before their first class, the boys who rolled out of bed for the early-morning class were converts.

For Kobe Edwards, the meditation class was a ticket out of 90 …

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Students relieve stress through meditation

wildmind meditation newsJoseph Francis, The Fauman Online: Registered nurse and meditation guru Kurt Valle help students cope through academic pressure through meditation.

“Meditation is not just for the spiritual or religious being,” Valle said. “Meditation is about the release of the mind from the physical world and the opening of the heart. This leads to a healthier lifestyle.”

Valle suffered from a stress disorder stemming from a few traumatic incidences during grade school and college. Receiving the opportunity to travel and study abroad, Valle began to explore ways to deal with the difficult times and found a release through yoga and meditation.

“I’ve studied therapy …

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How mindfulness can help preschool teachers cope

wildmind meditation newsDave Shaw, The Epoch Times: A new survey of early childhood education teachers shows that mindfulness is linked with alleviating lasting physical and emotional effects of childhood adversity.

The findings are especially important because adults who were abused or neglected as children typically experience poorer health, according to Robert Whitaker, professor of public health and pediatrics at Temple University.

“Previous research has shown that childhood traumas worsen adult health through changes in how the body responds to stress,” says Whitaker, who led the new study in Preventative Medicine. He adds that some people might adopt poor health behaviors, like smoking, to cope with …

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How two minutes of mindfulness can calm a class and boost attainment

wildmind meditation newsMatthew Jenkin, The Guardian: Buddhists have practised mindfulness for more than 2,000 years, but the technique of focusing on the present moment has long been dismissed by scientists as new age mumbo jumbo. Now, though, the West is finally waking up to the benefits of Eastern meditation and schools are discovering a daily dose of silent reflection can not only calm a classroom but may improve academic performance.

In recent years, medical science has discovered the extent to which mindfulness can help treat a range of mental conditions, from stress to depression. While most studies have focused on adults, new research shows mindfulness can …

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Primary school uses meditation to boost concentration

wildmind meditation newsCotswold Journal: A primary school in the Cotswolds is using a special technique to boost children’s concentration and wellbeing.

Shipston Primary School has introduced Mindfulness, which is increasingly being used in the workplace, the armed forces and most recently, in education.

The meditation practice, which helps children to focus and lower stress levels, was recently shown to improve pupils’ school performance in a study carried out by scientists at the University of Exeter, the University of Oxford, the University of Cambridge and the Mindfulness in Schools Programme.

Since January, 10 and 11-year-olds at the school have been taking part in a nine-week Mindfulness programme …

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Mindful meditation at school makes kids go ommm

wildmind meditation newsMary MacVean, Los Angles Times: Hundreds of schools in California alone have mindful meditation programs, and educators see benefits. Mindfulness is said to help with focus, attention, calming the emotions and school performance.

Erica Eihl speaks in a voice that her kindergartners can hear only if they are as quiet as the church mice in children’s storybooks.

And with a couple of squirrelly exceptions, they stay that quiet for 15 or 20 minutes — a near eternity — as Eihl guides them to use all their senses to consider a piece of apple, with directions such as, “Looking at the apple, look on the outside …

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Peter Amato urges educators to introduce meditation practices to benefit students in many ways

Digital Journal: There is no denying that children today are faced with cumbersome challenges. Fierce competition. Social media pressure. Bullying. Ever-changing technology. Rampant violence. And so much more never imagined years ago.

School districts and private schools across the country offer a variety of tools to make learning easier and help children cope with the world around them. Yet there is a proven method to aid kids in reducing stress, avoiding self destructive activities, and finding inner peace that is not being employed to great extent. Meditation.

In the wake of the recent tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary and the shootings…

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Yoga, meditation program helps city youths cope with stress

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Kelly Brewington, The Baltimore Sun: Researchers and lay people alike think yoga may help adults reduce stress. The popularity of the practice has surged, and it’s used as therapy for cancer patients and battered women, and as a treatment for back pain and depression.

But even as schools get in on the trend, the effect of the practice on children has not been subject to rigorous study, say researchers at the Johns Hopkins University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health. Even less understood is whether yoga can help youths struggling with the stress of urban life.

“Living in an inner-city environment with high crime and high violence, there are just so many kids here who have chronic stress,” said Tamar Mendelson, an assistant professor in the department of mental health at Bloomberg and the study’s lead researcher. “We wanted to really study this and see if this can be helpful for kids exposed to chronic stress and if we can give them some tools for coping.”

They found a 12-week yoga program targeting 97 fourth- and fifth-graders in two Baltimore elementary schools made a difference in students’ overall behavior and their ability to concentrate. They found students who did yoga were less…

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likely to ruminate, the kind of brooding thoughts associated with depression and anxiety that can be a reaction to stress. The findings, which focused on a pilot program that took place in 2008, were published recently in the Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology. One program is still active, and researchers are now applying for federal funding to expand the effort into schools across the city.

Researchers identified four schools, offered four 45-minute yoga classes each week to students at two of them, and used the other two schools as the control group. They gave students questionnaires before and after the study period and followed up with interviews with students and teachers. Schools included in the study were Westside, Samuel F.B. Morse, Alexander Hamilton and North Bend elementaries.

While the study was small and the findings self-reported, researchers believe the findings hold promise.

“Kids in urban environments always have their antennas up for being wary of danger,” said Mark Greenberg, director of the Prevention Research Center at Pennsylvania State University, which does research on promoting healthy development in children. He worked with Hopkins on the study.

“Even though they may act tough, they are often very anxious and nervous about it,” he said. “[Yoga] gives them a space, and a place where they can let that down and understand their own private experience. They don’t need to be wary and careful all the time; they can learn to explore their inner lives.”

Ka’ron Fletcher, 11, said he found yoga challenging when he began classes last fall, but now finds himself using the deep-breathing techniques when he’s struggling to concentrate during science class.

“It’s easy,” he said of yoga. “I just close my eyes and think about the sunrise. I can block all that other stuff out.”

The damaging effects of stress on kids

Without a way to manage it, stress can harm the body, particularly for children, Greenberg said. Recent studies have linked high levels of cortisol, the primary stress hormone, to depression and poor performance in school. Greenberg’s research suggests a link between growing up in poverty and stress in a young child. In a study published in the journal Child Development, he found that children as young as 3 growing up in rural poverty with high stress levels had decreased cognitive abilities.

Stress disrupts a child’s ability to concentrate, he said. “They are not able to harness their thinking skills because they are preoccupied.”

Still, large well-designed studies showing a relationship between yoga and reduced stress are lacking, said Karen Sherman, a principal investigator with the Group Health Research Institute in Seattle, who has studied yoga’s impact on chronic back pain.

“Not all studies show that yoga improves the cortisol profile, but some do,” she said. “And from a subjective perspective, many people comment on the relaxing, stress-reducing benefits of yoga. I think that this is the reason that people seek it out.”

While many studies on yoga are limited, there is “intriguing evidence” that it can have a host of health benefits, she said.

To test their theories, Hopkins researchers used a curriculum designed by the Holistic Life Foundation, a Baltimore nonprofit founded in 2002 by brothers Ali and Atman Smith and their college buddy, Andy Gonzalez. Upon graduating from the University of Maryland, College Park, “the traveling yogis” as they called themselves, returned to their poor West Baltimore neighborhood looking for a way to give back.

Yoga was ingrained in the Smith household, where as kids, the brothers would do yoga and meditate before going off to elementary school.

In 2002, the three rounded up some neighborhood toughs and started offering them free classes at Windsor Hills Elementary School. With parents addicted to drugs, in jail and living on the margins, the students were skeptical of yoga, Ali Smith remembered. “We’d get an occasional, ‘Yoga? You mean that little green guy from Star Wars?’

“But it’s funny how they took to it,” he said. “We’re from where they’re from, we look how they look. We make sure that we are presenting yoga to them in a way that they will get it.”

Darrius Douglas, 20, was among that first group introduced to yoga. Where most of his friends were hanging out on corners selling drugs, Douglas was perfecting his Kundalini lotus position — sitting upright, hands grabbing the ends of his feet as his legs are stretched up and out to either side.

“Yoga saved me,” said Douglas, who volunteers with the Holistic Life Foundation every week, helping to teach yoga’s benefits to a new generation of students.

The traveling yogis combined various yoga disciplines, poses and breathing exercises to create their own blend of practice that emphasizes mindfulness, or awareness that emerges when one is present or “in the moment.”

These days, the Holistic Life Foundation runs an after-school program offering yoga and meditation to about 25 students in pre-K through fifth grade at Robert W. Coleman Elementary in West Baltimore.

One recent afternoon in the school gym, only about half the students in the 45-minute class were paying attention. A 4-year-old bounced around the room, getting up every few minute from her mat to ask for water, her sweat shirt and to go to the nurse. A 10-year-old ran around in circles. And the teachers were constantly reminding the fidgeting bunch to stay focused.

Then, Atman Smith began a guided meditation, which caps off the practice, and the students settled into corpse pose, resting flat on their backs. He encouraged the group to surrender to the breath and focus on the “thumb-sized light at your heart center.”

Within seconds, the room fell silent.

For eight minutes, the students lay motionless on blue mats, eyes shut tight, palms facing the ceiling in total calm. When the meditation finished, some eyes remained closed. A handful of students had dozed off.

“I just be so deep into my meditation, I fall asleep,” said Ja’naisa Brown, 9. She tries to draw on her yoga skills when she’s frustrated, she said. “If somebody gets on my nerves, my mother tells me to go into the house and do yoga. I sit on the floor in my room, put on my music and breathe.”

Carlillian Thompson, principal at Coleman Elementary said she has seen shy students open up since taking the class and angry students learn to settle themselves down.

“I look at some of the older children who have had anger management issues; now they do the meditation, and they try to solve their problems by speaking,” she said. “Is it a quick fix, are all of the children making great strides like this? No, but they all are making progress. And that’s the thing I really like about it.”

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