Whether your class just finished a big project, completed a semester, or it’s just been a long week—it might be time to take a minute to relax. And you don’t even have to feel guilty! Research has proven that engaging in relaxation activities helps boost our ability to learn and retain information. It also helps us open our minds to new ideas. So, next time your class starts to feel a little high-strung, try one of these short relaxation activities to help your students relax and open their minds.
1. Screaming toes pose
In yoga, there’s this awful pose that looks super simple—but most people quickly come to hate—called screaming toes pose. All you do is kneel on both of your knees, sit back on your heels while sitting up straight, point your toes underneath you, and tuck your toes. I used this as a group activity/ice breaker once, and it went surprisingly well. Something about having everyone take off their shoes and the shock of how painful this simple pose is really opens people up. You could have a prize/treat for the student(s) who can do it the longest. A word of warning: You’ll have a select few students who might be able to hold this pose for a really long time! Maybe cap it at three minutes and give everyone a treat who makes it past that time. If you really want to embrace the yoga/relaxation aspect, encourage your students to breathe in and out from their noses while they do this activity.
2. Reverse nostril breathing
This is a weird breathing exercise that will either get your class laughing (good for relaxation) or feeling very relaxed and refreshed. Before starting, you might want to pass around a box of tissues so students can clear their noses and some hand sanitizer (for students who are neurotic about getting germs on their faces, like me). Have everyone close their eyes. Using their thumbs or pointer fingers, they’ll press one side of their noses closed (press on the side of the nose, not the nostril) and will breathe in through the nostril that is still open. Students will then breathe out through the same nostril that’s open before switching their hands to block the nostril out of which they just breathed. They will then repeat on the other side. Repeat 10 times on each side. Here’s a video if you want to ignore these potentially confusing directions.
3. Take a five-minute nap/savasana to relaxing music
Every yoga lover knows that savasana is the absolute best part of every yoga class. Try it with your students! Take 3-5 minutes to have all of your students lay with their backs on the floor; their legs and arms relaxed out, palms facing up; and shoulder blades tucked under their hearts. Put on some relaxing music and tell them to either meditate or simply do what they’ve probably been begging for all school year: Take a nap! After the time is up, tell your students to slowly move their toes and fingers before slowly sitting back up.
Help your students clear their minds with a short meditation session. Download the HeadSpace App, turn out the lights, and have your students close their eyes and complete a three-, five-, or 10-minute meditation session.
5. Laugh for the sake of laughing
In Daniel Pink’s book A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future, he discusses different ways creative people open their minds. My favorite: laughing clubs! Take 2-3 minutes, and have your class laugh for the sake of laughing. Stand in a circle, set a timer, and have everyone start fake laughing until it becomes real. People can act silly if they want, but for me, simply fake laughing for a second quickly turns into real laughter.
Getting ready for summer break?
Have your students choose three relaxation activities they want to complete over the first week of summer break, and fill them in on this Summer Learning Worksheet (download here).