A K-5 mindful movement partner practice
- Partner pose
- Seated pose
- Social and emotional learning
Students sit on the floor across from a partner with their knees bent and their feet flat. They reach around the outside of their legs to grasp their partners’ hands and sit up straight. Then they lift one foot and then the other, pressing their soles against their partners’. The students pause there balancing on their sits bones. Then they begin to slowly straighten their legs, stopping when the stretch feels uncomfortable. The partners hold this pose for several more breaths before slowly lowering one foot and then the other back down to the floor and letting go of each other’s hands.
Students begin this practice by sitting on the floor across from a partner with their knees bent and their feet flat on the floor. Next, they reach around the outside of their legs to grasp their partners’ hands and then focus on lengthening their spines by reaching the tops of their heads toward the sky. From this position students lift one foot and then the other, placing the soles of their feet against their partners’ opposite feet. The students pause there, using their core muscles to balance on their sits bones. Then, continuing to hold their partners’ hands and press against their partners’ feet, they begin to slowly straighten their legs, stopping when the stretch feels uncomfortable. The partners hold this pose for several more breaths before slowly lowering one foot and then the other back down to the floor and letting go of each other’s hands. When practiced regularly, this pose may help students strengthen their abdominals and hip flexors, gain flexibility in their hamstrings, improve their balance, and boost their collaboration skills.
Preliminary research into the impact of yoga training in schools suggests that yoga may be beneficial to child development. For example, early studies indicate that yoga training is associated with increases in students’ perceived self-concept (Scime & Cook-Cottone, 2008) as well as improvements to their emotional balance and well-being (Stück & Gloeckner, 2005). Students who participate in school-based yoga programs also experience fewer maladaptive responses to stress, including, for example, less rumination, fewer intrusive thoughts, and less emotional arousal (Mendelson et al., 2010).
Yoga programs are also associated with improved classroom readiness. Students who participate in yoga training experience enhanced concentration and greater abilities to function under pressure (Ehud, An, & Avshalom, 2010), and they tend to enact fewer disruptive behaviors in school (Berger, Silver, & Stein, 2009).
Yoga programs may also offer physical health benefits to students. A systematic review of the therapeutic benefits of yoga for children found that yoga enhances children’s motor performance and cardiorespiratory health, while it decreases children’s resting heart rate, cortisol levels, and symptoms related to childhood-asthma. The same review also found evidence of yoga’s positive impact on children’s musculoskeletal system, including by enhancing children’s flexibility and strength (Galantino, Galbavy, & Quinn, 2008).
Yoga training appears to be associated with relatively few risks. At least one adverse event has been observed in research on the impact of yoga on children, however. An individual was unaware of a preexisting condition that was exacerbated by an inverted yoga posture (de Barros, Bazzaz, Gheith, Siam, & Moster, 2008). Thus, educators should exercise caution when teaching more advanced poses to students in school settings.
Audience: K-5 students
Time: Any time of day
Duration: 5 minutes per session
Social context: Partner practice or group practice
- One yoga mat per pair of students.
- Enough floor space that students can spread out.
- Arrange the yoga mats, ensuring that students have enough space to move without bumping into one another.
- If you have enough space, consider arranging the yoga mats in a circle so that you can see each student from your own mat.
You do not need to read the included script verbatim. Adapt the language so that it is appropriate for your students in particular.
It is perfectly appropriate to simplify the breathing cues, particularly when you first introduce the pose to your students. You might invite students to simply count several breaths in the pose, or you might opt to omit explicit reference to breath altogether.
It is not important for students to get the pose exactly right. Instead, focus on helping them build mind-body awareness each time you practice.
Offer students positive reinforcements throughout each practice. Focus on qualities and behaviors they can control, like their focus, effort, or persistence. Be specific whenever possible. This will help your students develop a growth mindset.
Before introducing this posture, brainstorm as a class what it means to be a good partner during partner poses. Discuss how the students can help keep each other stay safe and consider creating a list of class agreements for partner poses that are easily visible throughout the practice. For example, students might agree that if one partner feels uncomfortable and says “stop,” the other partner will immediately pause and determine how to help.
Begin by sitting on the floor across from a partner.
Bend your knees and put the bottoms of your feet on the floor.
Now reach around the outside of your legs to hold your partner’s hands.
Take a moment to feel your back. Are you bending forward? If so, sit up taller. Keep your back straight throughout this pose.
Now raise one leg at the same time as your partner raises the opposite leg directly across. (One of you will be raising your right leg and the other will be raising the left) and press the soles of those feet together.
Take a moment to find your balance.
Now each of you raise your other leg and place the soles of those feet together.
Excellent! Take a moment to find your balance.
If it feels comfortable, slowly begin straightening your legs. Don’t go beyond what is comfortable. Everyone’s boats will look different!
Wonderful. Let’s stay here for two breaths.
As you breathe in, reach the top of your head toward the sky, straightening your spine.
As you breathe out, focus on finding balance with your partner.
Now gently lower your first leg to the floor.
And gently lower the other leg.
Now let go of your partner’s hands.
Berger, D.L., Silver, E.J., & Stein, R.E. (2009). Effects of yoga on inner-city children’s well-being: A pilot study. Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, 15, 36–42.
de Barros, D.S., Bazzaz, S., Gheith, M.E., Siam, G.A., & Moster, M.R. (2008). Progressive optic neuropathy in congenital glaucoma
associated with the Sirsasana yoga posture. Ophthalmic Surgery Lasers and Imaging Retina, 39, 339–340.
Ehud, M., An, B.D., & Avshalom, S. (2010). Here and now: Yoga in Israeli schools. International Journal of Yoga, 3, 42–47.
Galantino, M. L., Galbavy, R., & Quinn, L. (2008). Therapeutic effects of yoga for children: A systematic review of the literature. Pediatric Physical Therapy, 20(1), 66-80.
Mendelson, T., Greenberg, M.T., Dariotis, J.K., Gould, L.F., Rhoades, B.L., & Leaf, P.J. (2010). Feasibility and preliminary outcomes of a school-based mindfulness intervention for urban youth. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 38, 985–994.
Scime, M., & Cook-Cottone, C. (2008). Primary prevention of eating disorders: A constructivist integration of mind and body strategies. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 41(2), 134-142.
Serwacki, M., & Cook-Cottone, C. (2012). Yoga in the schools: A systematic review of the literature. International Journal of Yoga Therapy, 22, 101–110.
Stück, M., & Gloeckner, N. (2005). Yoga for children in the mirror of the science: Working spectrum and practice fields of the training of relaxation with elements of yoga for children. Early Childhood Development and Care, 175, 371–377.