This article was originally published in the upper school student newspaper, Eagle Edition.
Every Friday morning at 8, a small group of faculty and staff members gather in the wet wing’s room 236. Led by upper school English teacher Antonia Moran and Visual Arts Department Chair Dane Larsen, participants sit in the dark room, close their eyes and begin to meditate, putting the long week behind them. After about 15 minutes, they open their eyes, take one last deep breath and the day begins.
There’s no doubt that the faculty recognizes the importance of meditation’s role in mental wellness. Moran led a Mindfulness and Meditation club for students in years past, but it did not gain traction this year and is no longer offered. But there are many different types of meditation and relaxation techniques that students can implement.
And students should adopt meditation into their school routines as well.
A yoga class is a great meditative opportunity to incorporate mindfulness into a workout. Frequent yoga can strengthen the body while improving flexibility, improving athletic performance and protecting muscles. In addition to physical benefits from the exercise, students may find that they also experience mental benefits. Stress often reveals itself in tension around the body, so practicing yoga can provide relief for these tense spots. It also incorporates breathing exercises, encouraging students to be more aware of their core and mental wellness. Upper school French and Arabic teacher Laila Kharrat often leads yoga postures during after-school Lifetime Fitness classes, and there are many free yoga classes available on YouTube as well.
Taking the time to focus on breathing while visualizing certain calming objects and sensations can distract students from their busy schedules. According to the Mayo Clinic, meditation fosters compassion and empathy while reducing negative emotions. In Moran’s English classes, she will occasionally pause the beginning of class, turn off the lights, tell students to lay their heads on the table and guide their meditation. Teachers can consider taking time out of their classes to guide students through their meditation practice, whether it’s just by telling them to breathe or by pulling up a guided meditation on the internet. In the library, mandalas, geometric patterns and coloring activities are laid out on a “brain break” table. Though it may seem juvenile, coloring can reduce the thoughts of a restless mind during a study session.
If student-athletes incorporate meditation into their daily practice, they may achieve improved performance or get through a tough injury. The practice of meditation is not just religious; many athletes have adopted it into their routines. Basketball player Michael Jordan’s coach, Phil Jackson, taught him to meditate in order to refocus during games. In an interview with Thrive Global, Jackson said he meditates every morning for 10 to 15 minutes in order to feel in control for the rest of the day. Basketball player Lebron James recently signed a partnership with Calm, one of the most well-known meditation and wellness apps. According to Athletes Unheard, the list of athletes who meditate daily goes on: the late basketball player Kobe Bryant, football players Derek Jeter and Russell Wilson, volleyball player Kerri Walsh, soccer player Carli Lloyd and more. The best athletes know that mental wellness is worth prioritizing. Sports can place a lot of stress on the body, including muscle tears, so if student athletes take time to meditate before or after practice, it could help them be on their A-game.
Some people may be hesitant because they may think perfect meditation is hard to achieve or practice, but there is not just one “right” way to meditate. Beginners should know that if their mind wanders, it’s okay; they just have to focus on their breath or a certain sensation, which will improve with practice. The term meditation may seem daunting or unachievable, but at its core, it means having a relaxed state of being. If students practice meditation and mindfulness more often, the school will benefit and foster a calmer, more focused community.