The Dalai Lama, one of the great spiritual leaders of our time, has been quoted as saying, “If every 8 year old in the world is taught meditation, we will eliminate violence from the world within one generation.”
As the mom of an 8-year-old boy, a yoga teacher, and a human concerned with the future of our species, this quote really hits home for me. I work with so many adult students who begin their yoga journey on the mat with the physical postures (asana). They tell me that Savasana is often one of the toughest postures to master because they “can’t sit still.”
I relate. I am a reformed Savasana-skipper myself. Meditation is even more intimidating to people.
I imagine that adults would have a much easier time learning to be still if they started practicing that skill as children. Think about it; brushing your teeth is a pretty easy habit to learn and apply each day. What would it look like if we taught our children to practice spiritual self-care just like we do personal hygiene
The good news is, we already have some answers to that question. A growing number of schools are bringing mindfulness strategies to their students with countless positive benefits to the children, families, teachers, and the larger community. Read on to see why it makes sense for more schools to join this movement and to teach kids how to meditate.
1. It Works Better Than Punishment
A recent Newsweek article highlighted the use of meditation strategies, emotional regulation instruction, and yoga to work with children who had broken school rules or displayed behavioral issues in one Baltimore school. It was determined to be a resounding success.
Rather than punishing students who are having a difficult time regulating themselves, why not teach them how their bodies, minds, and spirits work so that they can proactively manage their challenging feelings?
2. It’s Cost Effective
The beauty of teaching meditation is that there are no costly resources required. In fact, the team at Calm, a popular meditation app, have a free program targeted at teachers and schools. It includes a plethora of tools that are tailored to the school setting and can be implemented quickly and at no cost.
3. It Helps Our Teachers Too
As an educator myself, one of my mottos is that teacher or faculty success leads to student success. We can’t have one without the other. If we accept that teaching students meditation is positive, what about their teachers?
Good news: a recent study found that teaching mindfulness-based stress reduction, a type of meditation developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn out of the University of Massachusetts Medical school, helps teachers as well as students. Teachers in the program were found to have, “significantly higher self-reported mindfulness levels and reduced interpersonal problems compared to the control group.”
4. It Improves Academic Performance
While grades aren’t necessarily the ultimate test of a sound education, in our Western society, they are the current gold standard to judge a student’s progress. Some recent studies have shown that teaching kids how to meditate leads to higher test scores, including on math tests. As a student who struggled with stress and anxiety around math myself, I can imagine how learning to meditate would’ve helped my academic performance as a child.
5. It Combats Germs
If you have children in school, you know that there are certain times of year when bugs and illnesses spread like wildfire. What if there was a low-cost strategy to boost kids’ immunity? Think of how much stress that would save kids and adults alike. Guess what? Meditation might be the answer.
People who meditate have improved immune responses and may be less likely to get sick. I don’t know about you, but healthier kids equals a happier mom.
The idea of teaching meditation in schools is not without its detractors. Some argue that it’s another way for corporate culture to infiltrate schools. Others say that the definition of meditation is too murky to clearly convey to students and to track its success. Finally, some fear that meditation is a guise to promote a specific religion.
Despite these negative concerns, the bounty of evidence that teaching meditation can have huge potential benefits to the entire school community is growing. Perhaps in a future generation, the Dalai Lama’s prediction will come true after all.