A K-5 Mindful Movement Partner Practice
Students begin this practice by sitting on the floor back to back with their partners. Bending their knees, they pull their heels toward them so they can press the bottoms of their feet together. Then they slowly lower their knees toward their mats, pausing when they feel a stretch in their hips and thighs. Pressing their backs against their partners’ they hold this pose for several breaths before returning to a comfortable seated position.
Students begin this practice by sitting on the floor back to back with their partners. Bending their knees, they pull their heels toward them so they can press the bottoms of their feet together. Then they slowly lower their knees toward their mats, pausing when they feel a stretch in their hips and thighs. Pressing their backs against their partners’ they hold this pose for several breaths before returning to a comfortable seated position. When practiced regularly, this pose may help students gain more flexibility in their knees and inner thighs and improve 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 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.
Ask one partner to lean back as the other leans forward. This creates more of a stretch for the partner leaning forward and a chest opener for the partner leaning back. Have the students stay there for a couple breaths and then switch roles. (You may want to demonstrate this first.) Make sure to remind students to communicate with their partners and let them know if they want to stop.
Begin by sitting comfortably on the floor back to back with a partner.
Scoot in so that you and your partner are as close as possible.
Begin by gently bending your knees and pulling your heels toward you so you can press the bottoms of your feet together. You and your partner are now in butterfly pose.
Let’s stay here for two breaths.
Take a deep breath in and sit up tall. Do you feel taller when your back is straight?
As you breathe out, slowly relax your knees down to the mat.
As you take another deep breath in, press against your partner’s back.
As you breathe out, notice whether this changes how the stretch feels in your body.
Now gently return to a comfortable seated position.
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.