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Presented by Aine Murphy, Drama Teacher, Royal Blind School
In a mindfulness session, pupils come into the room and we need to make sure that they’re comfortable and they’re in a position where their body can be relaxed were they can breathe deeply and where they can just let themselves go.
The pupils are hoisted out of their chairs each week. They’re hoisted onto a mat or a beanbag or whatever is most comfortable for them. This gives them freedom and also it gives them space to just relax and just be.
We start each session with a breathing and body awareness script. So I would speak and go through each part of the pupil’s body as they would close their eyes and focus on it and breathe deeply just as a starting point for our mindful afternoon. Breathing seems pretty straight forward but we discover that real deep breathing is quite a challenge for lots of our young people. Lots of them have very shallow breathing. Lots of them breathe quickly. Some pupils even breathe in through their mouth and out through their nose which is exhausting. So we spend some time just learning how to breathe right down into the bottom of your lungs. Thinking about your body as you do it. Our pupils have a lot of stresses throughout the day whether that’s transitioning from one class to another. Whether it’s something unexpected happens. Whether it’s worrying about their exams and sometimes these stresses get too much to manage. So mindfulness helps our young people to find strategies to be able to deal with that so that they don’t go into the red zone and they don’t get out of control. We always have material objects and sounds, perhaps sometimes we use smells. We use water and sand if we’re doing a visualisation just about being near the sea or the ocean. Sometimes we use fur coats. We use a tent. We use leaves from outside. In one of our stories we had a jellyfish. The jellyfish was sailing through the sea near the beach so we brought in some jelly in a pot and the pupils were able to put their hands in it and quite enjoyed that feeling of the jellyfish. One of the mindful activities that we worked on for a whole year was based around Tai Chi. We do Tai Chi in the hall in school but on a nice day we come outside to the grounds and do Tai Chi outside in the fresh air with the sound of the water in the background. When the pupils are doing their stretch up exercises they can actually reach up and feel the leaves above their heads. So it’s a really lovely way to practice Tai Chi. The pupils have really developed in their Tai Chi. Not just in the movement but in the breathing. They really understand that the breathing does slow them down and that the movement becomes quite a meditative movement. It’s not a gym exercise. It’s something they use just to de-stress and to feel relaxed and calm.
After the first term we felt that the mindfulness activities were progressing well but we weren’t sure where to go from there so we contacted a Psychologist, Stan Godek, who agreed to come and help us structure a programme tailored for each individual pupil on mindfulness. Through working with Stan we’ve realised the importance of looking at pupils moods. At how they control their emotions up were their emotions are. Having the power over themselves and also awareness of other young people, empathy. So that’s where we’re going with this project next. This has had a big impact on the lives of the pupils. Not just in class time but outside class and at home and in the evenings. Pupils are a lot more aware of breathing to calm down. They’re using different strategies to calm down in the moments of stress what to do. We’ve had feedback from parents at home saying what’s happening in the school, you know, my son, I thought he was going to have a tantrum but then he started breathing and calmed down. So it’s really nice to get feedback from parents and pupils have also talked about using mindfulness activities in performances when they’re out at night and something stressful is happening and it’s just really clear in and around the school the changes that are happening in these pupils. It’s a really good thing to see.
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