Breathing Arms

In my teaching job as a Spanish teacher, I teach all 9 grades at my school (K-8). I’ve mentioned this before, but I’m a secondary educator by formal education training, and so I am relying heavily on my background as a Kindermuisk instructor to help me with the younger grades. The first graders come to class right after recess, just after I’ve said goodbye to my fifth graders. It is quite the switch.

At first, I was overwhelmed with the frenetic energy they brought to the room. With only 25 minutes to help them learn Spanish, spending 10 trying to get them to calm down was proving to be problematic. About 3 days into the job, I attended Kindermusik with my daughter and as I entered class to meet with her and Ms. Carol, we did some “breathing arms.” Of course, I have known about breathing arms for many years, but on this day, I noticed the immediate change in energy of the Kindermusik class—for both the kids and the grownups. In addition to providing us with a little routine that said, “Time to stop talking with your little ones/grown-ups and focus on class together,” it immediately relieved my own level of stress. The next day I implemented breathing arms with my first graders when they come in for recess (I could probably do it with everyone), and the difference was remarkable. They are much calmer before they even come into class and our time together is more relaxed, effective and enjoyable.

I’m not surprised to find science to back-up my claims. NPR cites research by Esther Sternberg, physician and National Institute of Mental Health researcher:

“(Breathing exercises) can be used as a method to train the body’s reaction to stressful situations and dampen the production of harmful stress hormones,” Gretchen Cuda writes. Who doesn’t need a reduction of stress these days?

Jon Kabbat-Zinn is one of my favorite people. He created the Stress Reduction Clinic and the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, and his work has influenced me tremendously in recent years. If you have 3 minutes today, especially if you are overwhelmed with the day-to-day challenges of balancing life and laundry and childcare, this little breathing meditation is awesome:

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