Yoga, Meditation and Mindfulness is making a huge difference in the lives of school children in Australia. Educators plan on having mindfulness included in their curriculum by 2020.
Parents are signing their kids up for yoga classes as mindfulness programs for children rise in popularity.
There is a push to have mindfulness included in the national education curriculum by 2020 from non-profit meditation program Smiling Mind as Australian research shows benefits for kids' sleeping and concentration.
In the Riverland children as young as four are pushing up into cobra pose, balancing on one leg, and becoming aware of their breathing.
They are learning to let go of stress and anxiety while improving strength and flexibility.
Renmark kindergarten teacher turned yoga instructor Jade Malinovski said yoga was a perfect tool for children to experience mindfulness.
"Yoga is about being mindful and using your breath and your body to be aware," Ms Malinovski said.
"Children use the games and activities that we do to navigate the tricky world we live in and it's a way for them to learn how to calm themselves down, centre themselves, and know there's a place within them they can go when they need to."
Strong demand for classes
Ms Malinovski has been overwhelmed by the interest in kids' yoga since offering school holiday workshops last year.
"It got so popular so quickly that I started running a regular weekly class," Ms Malinovski said.
She now runs classes at Renmark and Loxton and at Renmark West Primary School.
"A lot more schools and kindergartens in the Riverland are approaching me and becoming more interested," she said.
Mindfulness a focus in schools
Headspace clinical counsellor Keisha King said there was growing awareness of the benefits of mindfulness for children and teenagers.
What is mindfulness?
- Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we are doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what is going on around us
- A study has found mindfulness programs improve mental health, sleep quality, concentration, wellbeing, the ability to manage and describe emotions, and reduces distress and tension
"Over the last couple years there's been a boom [in programs]," Ms King said.
"It definitely has its place within education organisations. The research has found mindfulness can reduce levels of stress, anxiety and depression and it just takes five minutes a day."
Ms King runs lunchtime mindfulness sessions every fortnight at Renmark High School.
"It's a chance to relax, refocus and refresh, to zone in on themselves and focus on themselves, and try to practise the skills of mindfulness."
Students calmer after yoga
The feedback from teachers suggests yoga and meditation are making a difference to student behaviour.
"I had a teacher say to me that when the kids walked back into the classroom after a yoga session, she noticed the class was more calm and relaxed," Ms Malinovski said.
"That's what keeps me going with this."
Classes modified for children
Yoga classes full of children are a much noisier affair than traditional classes.
Instructors use play-based activities to teach yoga poses and breathing.
"Yoga for kids is very different to [yoga for] adults; it's all play-based and children use these games and activities to navigate the tricky world we live in," Ms Malinovski said.
"It needs to be relevant to them or they won't like it, they won't engage."
But toward the end of each class the children are guided through activities to help them wind down, including meditation.
"A lot of the classes are fun, crazy and loud, but there's also the other side where the children learn to calm their bodies and calm their minds, so there's that balance."
As a mother of three young daughters Ms Malinovski has seen the benefits of yoga on home life.
"My middle daughter will often go into her room or strike a pose when she needs to and that's my hope for all the children," Ms Malinovski said.
"They know when they need to calm down and I hope yoga gives them the tools to do that."