Click above to listen to this podcast episode. Below is the transcript for Student-Centered World Podcast Episode 32: “Changing School Culture with the Namaste Project“
If you’ve been looking for a way to lower the stress level and increase the productivity and positivity within your school building, that means students, staff, administrators, parents even then today’s podcast is for you. I had the opportunity to chat with Dr. Kali Arnold and Danielle Brunson who run The Namaste Project, The Namaste Project helps schools hone in on the mindfulness practices that are going to make them succeed.
They help anywhere from lowering stress levels and resetting expectations to creating these Zen-like oasis places within the school building where teachers can go to reset to refresh and refocus.
They even help some schools eliminate the need for detention or school suspension and help those students who need it most create coping mechanisms and learn ways to reroute their negative behaviors. If this sounds too good to be true, it definitely is not. Today’s episode is going to be something you want to pay attention to.
Welcome to the Student-Centered World podcast where we talk about all things hands-on teaching and keeping your energy and sanity in the classroom. This teacher turned consultant is making it her mission to help as many teachers as possible become the best version of themselves and keep their passion for teaching on fire. It’s her hope that we never forget why we desire to have a passion for educational progress. This is Student-Centered World, and this is Jenn Breisacher.
Changing School Culture through Mindfulness and Yoga
Jenn Breisacher: Okay, so as we get started here, why don’t you guys just do kind of a brief introduction, who you are, what your background is, that kind of good stuff.
Dr. Kali Arnold: So, I’m Dr. Kali Arnold and my background is actually I’m a retired orthopedic surgeon. I started off in the physical world. I was an elite gymnast and a competitive dancer, and I was all about movement. I danced all through college and after college went to medical school and then got into orthopedic surgery because I liked working with athletes, and I liked actually physically fixing people. But then I moved to Atlanta for private practice back in 2009 and it was really not very fulfilling. It was really like I call it fast food medicine.
It was getting in and out. It was all about volume and obviously economics. It was just not what I had signed up for because I always thought I was a healer. I was like there’s got to be something more, there’s got to be something more. I didn’t really know what it was. So, fast forward, I ended up taking a sabbatical and during that time, I got my Pilates certification, Barre certification, group fitness, and then started teaching Pilates full time eventually, in 2016. Then in 2017, I went to Bali and studied yoga and reiki energy healing. That was a huge turning point for me. I was like, oh, this is healing.
Jenn Breisacher: You found it.
Dr. Kali Arnold: So, I came back in 2017 full of all this light and love and just wanted to share it. So, started teaching yoga, in addition to Pilates and healing clients with Reiki, and I started realizing that if I had had this when I was in medicine, I wouldn’t have been so burned out and just feeling overwhelmed. So, I started applying what I learned, helping other professionals who are in high-stress professions, like doctors and whatever.
Fast forward, I met Danielle at Sacred Thread, and she was talking about this project. I was like, well, of course, I already do this for adults and sure teachers need it. Now my mother was in Pittsburgh public schools for 40 years.
So, I saw firsthand what teachers would go through. So, I was like, yeah, they need this too. So, for me, it was just a perfect fit to just apply mindfulness, meditation, and mindset shift, and yoga. Everybody can use it no matter really what profession you’re in, but especially those who are in high-stress professions, like teachers and obviously doctors like I was in. So, that was a perfect fit for us. So, that’s kind of where we are now and how this gelled together and so it’s nice because I still use my Western medicine background.
I’m currently working on my Master’s in Ayurvedic and Integrative medicine, which is basically putting together Eastern medicine with ancient Indian medicine with Western medicine so we can learn to treat the whole person. We talk a lot about this consciousness-based medicine, looking at the whole person.
So, this all just feeds into everything that I feel that we’re looking at. If someone comes to you with certain energy have to do everything with what they ate that day, what their mindset is. How did they sleep? Where are they spiritually opposed to just physically? So, all these things come together. It makes sense and you can see the shift in people, both of my own private clients and also working in schools, it’s fascinating.
So, our hope is to take this shift, and just change the culture of the entire classroom, of the entire school environment, one breath at a time.
Danielle Brunson: Yeah. So, I met Kali, as she mentioned through a yoga studio we’re both teaching at and I loved the fact that she had that medical background. Also, just her energy was just great. But you know, once I thought about partnering, and who would be a great person for The Namaste Project, I was like, I really want to work with somebody who isn’t just a yoga teacher because we really want to bring in the healing and the science behind it.
Now, my background is in education. I started teaching in 2007, 2006.
Jenn Breisacher: Me too.
Danielle Brunson: I went to school for anthropology and then I got out of school, and I was like, what am I going to do with this degree? So, I went back to school and got a master’s in elementary education. I taught elementary and then University overseas for four years.
Jenn Breisacher: Wow.
Danielle Brunson: So yeah, I taught in Asia and I think being over there and seeing the cultural difference in how they approach education, and how they valued it, and how teachers are treated and how the school culture was, and the climate was really stuck with me and has had a big impact on my approach to school leadership and teaching since I’ve been back. Then I came back to the States in about 2011/12 and I started working in a Catholic school.
Then I was like, I need more money. So, I went to public school. I taught for a couple of years, then I moved into school leadership, where I was an assistant principal, and then a school principal. I really specialize in virtual education. So, I’ve started three different virtual charter schools.
Actually, when I was living in North Carolina, I moved there to start one of their statewide public charter schools that are virtual. So, when I was in that space, we had a lot of behavioral issues, but it was a different type of approach to it because the kids weren’t in the building with us. So, we were really focused on how is PBIS is going to work in a virtual environment? How can we get kids at home to focus, to listen not just to us, as their teachers in school but also to their parents?
So, it kind of created this space for me to really look around at what can we do to try to solve these focus issues, these outbursts that we’re seeing in virtual classrooms that parents are telling us about. That’s when I started to learn more about mindfulness in the classroom.
So, we just started incorporating that some in the schools I was in. I talked to another school leader in a brick and mortar school, who was doing breathing for five minutes at the start of every school day, across the whole school through their PA system. I was like, wow, and she was telling me what an impact it was having on kids’ behavior. So, we just started doing mindful introductions to our live sessions and I just started seeing how that was really helping.
We were hearing from parents and then I’m a parent. I do yoga. I’ve been really big into yoga for a long time and I started doing those things with my own kids who are having the typical toddler issues of throwing things and not sharing and getting frustrated, and I was noticing such a big difference.
So, after being in school leadership, I left and started coaching other school leaders. How do you do this well? I did that for two years and then similar to what Dr. Arnold said, I was just super burnt out and I found that education, after a decade really wasn’t making me feel the way I wanted to. I got into the field to help kids.
I was working for a big CMO, an education management organization and I was coaching teachers or and principals from home, I had this really flexible schedule and I was making great money, but I was really unhappy. I wasn’t seeing kids learning and I was like I want to do this to help children.
So, I left, and I spent about a year just teaching yoga, which I’d already been doing. I made that my full-time thing and doing my own yoga and meditating and spending time with my family. Then I was like, you know what, I really want to work with kids again. How can I do that and be impactful? What’s the best way for us? We just got together, and we were like, let’s start doing what we’re seeing working in California and in Maryland in Atlanta, which is where Kali and I are both based.
We wanted to just bring these programs into schools and help schools understand, you don’t have to do traditional disciplines, there’s proven fact that meditation and mindfulness will impact student behavior and academic outcomes, because we know that is really important to school leaders. So, that’s where our project came from, but it has grown so much because of COVID.
Jenn Breisacher: I’m sure.
Danielle Brunson: So, because of that we now work with schools all over the place. So, we do these mini sessions, we train teachers. So, it’s been a, you know, we talk about COVID a lot and the weird blessings that have come out of it, along with the stress. We’ve found that a lot of schools are more interested in like, oh, my goodness, how are we going to help these kids with social-emotional learning and the trauma and being at home and everything that’s going on. Then we’re able to reach them without the travel.
So, everybody’s shifted into the space that I’ve been in for a long time. They’re like, let’s get on Zoom. Great! So, we’re training schools and teachers and school leaders through virtual, and it’s giving us a much wider reach and a much bigger impact. So, that’s been a big blessing for us because our big goal is to get this into as many schools as possible because it works, and it helps kids.
As Kali said, we want to change the whole culture of a school, we really focus on teacher training. So, a lot of programs will send in staff and we do that with some schools. But our biggest thing is if you don’t have teacher buy-in, and you don’t have teachers being mindful, and teachers doing all these things, it’s not going to matter. So, that’s what makes us a little bit different than some of the other really amazing groups of people that are doing similar things with yoga, meditation, and mindfulness in different school settings.
Jenn Breisacher: Yeah, I totally agree with you that if the teachers aren’t buying in, and they’re thinking it’s just something else on their plate, and they’re not giving it the mind, or just taking the time to really understand it, it’s useless. I know, I was in a school where we all went through mindfulness training, and this and that, and they were like, okay, we’re going to make it a curriculum, we’re going to make it so every day, you have to do this, that and then it just became something else that teachers had to do.
It completely lost its value, really. So, when you meet with a group of teachers or a new school, and you’re finding that there is resistance, or it was upper administration that says, we’re going to do this and the teachers don’t have any background or don’t understand you, how does that normally work for you?
Dr. Kali Arnold: Usually, when we do the mini-breaks, they’re sold. So, we do these little 15-minute pop-ins. Well, when they’re having their meetings, or whatever, we’ll just take 15 minutes, and we’ll do a brief introduction of what mindfulness meditation is, and then we’ll take them through breathwork. So, we’ll do alternate nostril breathing, or a three-part breath or something.
Then there’s a moment of self-reflection. How do you feel? Okay, yeah, this is nice. Then we take them through a guided meditation. Usually, after that, all the comments are typing is like, oh, my God, I feel amazing. I need this every day, blah, blah, blah. That’s the buy-in.
So again, instead of just taking someone through training, have them experience it. So, when you experience how good that you feel, pretty much everything we do as human beings are driven by us, want to feel good. Things that you buy, things that you do, you do because you want to feel good. So, if you can sit and breathe for 60 seconds and feel good why wouldn’t you do it?
So again, you know what I mean? So again, if they look at it is not something they’ve got to teach their kids, look at it as something that you are benefiting from, that you personally, as a teacher, as a mother, as whatever, you’re getting a benefit by doing this.
Once they get the buy-in of how good it makes them feel then they’re like, oh, yeah, now I can share this with whomever. That’s how we teach it to them. We teach it to them, so they can experience it. Okay, so now you can share it. It’s not more like a curriculum then you know that you have to do this and then you have to do this activity and blah, blah, blah. So, that’s really the buy-in is those mini-breaks and just letting them feel it firsthand and then they want to share it with everybody.
Just the same way that Danielle and I when I found yoga and meditation and you know, all these things. The first thing I want to do is share it. Like oh my God, if people were doing this, they would feel amazing. Why aren’t you doing this? So yeah.
Jenn Breisacher: Do you find there’s ever an issue? I think that this is very common with teachers where they learn this, and they know it’s fantastic and they go through it and they feel great. But then regular life trickles back in and it goes by the wayside. How do you keep them where they stay engaged with it? Because I think it’s just very natural that as soon as the pace picks up or a wrench gets thrown in the works, that we just go back to what’s comfortable and what we know and not the things that are necessarily good for us.
Danielle Brunson: Yeah, I mean, you know, because you’ve been in education. So, when we talk with schools and we do our discovery calls and we’re planning out exactly how we want to implement a program with them because every school is a little different. We want to know how many things are you doing this year? Do you have 10 other initiatives? Because it’s very hard, first of all, to get a bunch of buy-in from staff, even when they do feel great if they’re also implementing three new math programs, two reading programs, and this, that, and the other thing.
So, sometimes will suggest the lighter side to it. But it’s got to be a school-wide honestly, I feel, or the teachers have to really, as Kali said, know how it makes them feel and that’s why we really focus on providing sessions to the teachers as well because this isn’t just for kids. If you don’t have your staff feeling good, it helps with teacher retention, first of all. I mean, I used to lose teachers all the time. It’s a hard job, it doesn’t pay well, it’s super stressful and I think still the numbers are after five years, most of them are gone.
So, this is something that keeps your staff happy, it shows that you care, and when you give them the sessions too. So, it’s not just for the kids. One of the schools we’re working with, we’re going over there Friday, to help them to design a room for staff to go to. It’s just for staff…
Jenn Breisacher: Wow.
Danielle Brunson: …and it’s going to have meditation centers. We’re helping them pick out everything, the sound, the touch, the feel, the smells, and just create a whole space only for their staff. So, they’ve really bought in on not just providing it wholly to students, but that their teachers need support, their teachers need help. I used to always say I want to work at Google because they have exercise and healthy food and all of that.
Jenn Breisacher: Yes.
Danielle Brunson: Some schools are starting to realize that they have to do similar things because if teachers’ mental health isn’t taken care of, how are they going to teach these kids? We talk about that a lot in our sessions, in our eCourses about how it starts with the teacher. If it’s not there, it’s not going to happen. But yeah, definitely with that buy-in, and then it’s really easy. Our tier-one level of implementation is so easy because I’ve been in that boat and that’s our biggest thing. We don’t want to give you something else.
It’s a really difficult social-emotional learning curriculum to do.
Now, when you get to tier two and tier three there are more in-depth things. But just pausing and starting your day schoolwide with mindful breathing and movement, which we train the teachers and everyone on, it’s not hard to do. So, that’s also something that really helps the buy-in. It’s super simple. Teachers can do it, and they see their kids focused and doing better. It makes their job easier.
So, it’s one of those items that’s a little easier to sell than like, hey, let’s do reading eggs across the board. You have to upload data, download this, and check all these million things, just because there’s an immediate benefit. So, it’s a lot easier to get that in on them.
Jenn Breisacher: So, you just mentioned that there are different tiers to your program. What do they look like? I mean, can you walk into a school and say, it looks like you guys should start at tier two, or is it a gradual program throughout every school? What does that look like?
Danielle Brunson: So, it does depend on the school. So, some schools just want PD for their staff. They’re like, we just want you to teach our teachers. Give us a few sessions and show us how to do the basics. But it’s kind of an approach that we take to implementing it is similar to RTI. Everybody in the school gets tier one, everybody gets to breathe together in the morning, everybody gets to breathe together before they go home, no matter what’s going on with the kid, you all get that.
If kids are struggling and they’re having outbursts, or you know that they’ve been referred to counseling or they’re going to detention a lot, they might move into tier two interventions where they might go to a meditation room, or they might have more yoga with the PE teacher or something like that.
Then if they get to tier three, that’s normally when they already have a behavior improvement plan or something like that. There’s just more intensive practice, more breathing, more yoga, more meditation. So, we work with the schools depending on you know where they’re at. So, ideally, you’re ready to do all of it but we know that that’s not realistic. Sometimes you just want to get started in year one, which is tier one. Let’s all breathe together and then maybe next year, we’ll add that meditation room, and we’ll add this, and we’ll add that.
So, since our goal is just to change school culture anyway we can we try to make it really flexible and meet with the school leader and talk to them about where are you at? What can you realistically do? We try to get buy-in from the school leader like, hey, are you really going to do this? Because if not, let’s do it in smaller steps. So, that way, it doesn’t get lost in the shuffle and kids really get the benefit that we want them to get.
Jenn Breisacher: That’s fantastic. So, I know a lot of schools and this is actually how we had connected are talking at least about the idea of taking away traditional detention for the bad kids or the kids that made a mistake or whatever and moving it into more of yoga-based or meditation-based or teaching them how to avoid that behavior in the future. Is that something that would be on one of those lower levels in a school or is that more you have to have stuff established or is it on a school-by-school basis?
What has your experience been with that?
Dr. Kali Arnold: Well, I mean, I think definitely, you have to have something established first. You need to have tier one, you need to have everyone breathing, and being mindful. The detention, or as we call them, the Zen zones, it’s more like she was saying behavior. That’s more like a tier two. So, that’s what we’re working on this one school with, trying to phase out detention and school suspension. In fact, they’re trying to change the name of their ISS to make it something else.
We’re trying to change that into like, it’s not where the bad kids go. This is a place where they can release, maybe write out affirmations, layout their frustrations, take meditation, and there is a social behavior counselor in the room with them going through these things with them.
So, because, as we’ve seen with traditional discipline, treatment, it hasn’t been working. The same kids keep coming back to detention, the same kids keep getting suspended and why is that? So, if you see a behavior, a negative behavior, and you keep responding to it or reinforcing that negative behavior with a negative treatment, that’s what you’re going to continue to get.
So, if you just think about, let’s say, you have an argument with someone, and if you keep coming back at each other, you’re wrong. No, you’re wrong, you’re wrong, nothing gets accomplished. Nothing gets accomplished. So, to break the cycle, one of the parties has to stop and breathe, actually listen to what that person is saying, find out where that person is coming from.
Why are you feeling this way? Why are you so angry? Why are you so holding so strong to this opinion? Then you can appropriately respond, and your response will probably shock that person because they’re not, they’re not expecting that. Then immediately, their behavior has to change. Their immediate behaviors like, oh, well, okay, I wasn’t expecting that. That’s the same thing that you find in children.
They’re expecting to be berated, then you come at them with something else. They’re like, oh, okay. Well, let me think about my behavior. Then also, you can get to the root of the problem and that’s the whole issue with discipline is that we never understand why children are acting out. We’re so reactive.
Just why are you acting like this? What’s wrong with you? Stop and breathe. Have Johnny, stop, and breathe. Alright, let’s discuss this, and then you actually find out why the person is having an issue and it can be resolved, and then maybe Johnny won’t be in detention every Friday. So, it’s breaking that cycle.
But again, as I said, you have to have some level of mindfulness established in the school. You’re not just going to go straight to Zen zones you know what I mean. You have to have that culture simmering. So, I’d say that detention replacement is definitely like a tier two implementation.
Jenn Breisacher: Got you and it makes total sense. I mean, my seven-year-old, he’s my younger one and we call him our Sour Patch kid because he either is the sweetest child on Earth or is a terrorist. With him, you know, he’s seven so he gets in his moods and does whatever but if it’s consistent and he keeps going, I immediately realize there’s something else going on, none of the things that he’s reacting to is actually what’s setting him off.
That’s when I will take him aside and talk to him and I’ll finally find out that it’s something that happened the day before or something completely different from anything that he has been reacting to.
But I know it’s difficult to do that in the classroom, to pull a kid aside and have those conversations. So, in these schools that you’re working with, are you training the teachers to do that individually each time, or are you training maybe one person in the school to be the go-to when a kid is having an issue or does it really just depend?
Danielle Brunson: I think it depends. We have a whole PD session we do that’s all on listening, and how to empathetically listen and ask the right questions from kids, and also from teachers to each other. Because I think a lot of times within like PLCs, and groups and teams, there’s a lot of misunderstanding. So, we really focus a lot on communication and how important it is to listen, to ask questions in a way that is really trying, as Kali was saying, to get to the root of what’s really going on.
Because as you mentioned, a lot of times it’s not what we think it is. So, we want every teacher to understand that and we want them to have those basic questioning skills. But when you have 30 kids in a room and one kid is being set off, sometimes they need to be sent to the area, the meditation room, the Zen room, whatever your school’s calling it.
There is a person who is more thoroughly trained and really addressing and answering, and then saying, all right, let’s get to the root and then give you this activity that we’ve designed in this room. That’s where sometimes there’s a disconnect, where you’ll schools that either wants to just put the meditation room in the place, and just send kids there, but they don’t really have a plan on why are they going there? Did we try to address it in the classroom in the least restrictive way?
Okay, that didn’t work, and then we send them there and there’s somebody who’s more involved and knows a little bit more about different options to address the behavior to assist at a higher level.
Jenn Breisacher: That makes sense? So, do you guys have a school maybe you’ve been working with for a while, or you just started out working and you feel like, it’s your best-case scenario? This school has it all figured out. It’s your model. Do you have a place or do you aspire to have a place that’s it? You can go to it, you can say, here is what we are looking for?
Danielle Brunson: I mean, we talk about that a lot when we talk with schools. We’re like, fidelity, fidelity, can you guys really do everything because we want the data and there are other programs doing what we’re doing. The data is like, up and down. We do see a lot of data that shows that behavior issues are fixed but where we’re struggling with is like academic growth data. Now, there are definitely trends and academic growth.
But because a lot of the schools that have been implementing programs like this are in areas that they’re underfunded. These are Title One schools with a lot going on. Sometimes there are so many factors happening that it’s really hard to see if they’re really getting the benefits because of so many other things and you know how that is. What’s really causation and what’s not.
So, definitely, I would say that when you talk to a school, and the whole school staff, the school leadership, because we all know, school leaders have to really drive something. When they already have the concept that they want to be more student-centered in how they’re handling things and they also want to support their staff, that’s already the ideal school. When they’ve already come to you and they say, we care about our teachers, and we want to help our teachers, and then we really want our kids to have a really good learning experience and like being here, I think that that’s right away, I know that we can work with them.
When they’re like, we want a quick fix and we’re just trying to figure out if this is going to help. It’s hard because it’s not just a little band-aid. You have to buy into the idea, which we firmly believe that mindset and mindfulness and meditation, and then yoga for trauma, Different poses to release stored trauma really will impact students well-being, behavior and teacher well-being and teacher behavior too honestly because we see that in classrooms sometimes inappropriate teacher behavior. So, this helps with all of that.
So, ideally, it’s that leadership buy-in. You get schools where you have a different principal every year a different this and that. Those are just harder to work with. But Kali and I are always up for challenges. So, we’re like, what can we do? How can we help you? We want to figure out a way but we’re also very realistic. We don’t want to waste people’s time and effort. Maybe you need to fix this first, there have been great schools that have been able to really impact the detention part, they’re not suspending, and they’re not dealing with detention anymore because of that.
I think for us, that’s a huge win. Maybe you’re not getting this assessment grade jumps that you want, like 10 points on average in grade level. But if you’ve got kids who are at the corner happy, and they’re learning, I have a lot of strong feelings about assessments. So, I won’t go there.
Jenn Breisacher: Fair. So, if an administrator is listening to this podcast right now, or even a teacher and they’re interested, but they’re not sure if it’s the right fit for their school, or if they just want to find out more information? Where would you suggest them going to learn a little bit more about the concept?
Dr. Kali Arnold: Well, of course, they can come to check out our website The Namaste Project. On there, we actually have a lot of information on there about what’s been implemented in schools, what the data shows thus far. Then, of course, they could just book a call with us. That’s the quickest way. That’s kind of how we if you want to say vet people to find out where they’re at.
We do discovery calls all the time usually with the school leader, and to say, what’s going on in your school? Do you have or what is the social-emotional learning program in your school? How is it being implemented? Is it just a little piecemeal, or is it school-wide as a part of the curriculum? What’s happening? So, again, we have felt what the temperature is at the school and then we know where we can go in. Again, we try to meet people where they’re at.
We have this one school leader, and she was actually really beautiful. She said, you know, a year or two ago, I wouldn’t have been ready for you guys. She had the insight to know that. If she had found us a year or two ago, she would not have been in a place to receive what we’re trying to offer. She had to get to her school to a certain level to even be able to accept the programs that we’re offering. That was beautiful that she already had the insight to see that because normally we have to fish through and figure that out. Where can we fit in, if at all? right.
So, again, our website is thenamasteproject.net. Also, Danielle does a beautiful job with our social media and we’re always posting all these juicy tidbits, mindfulness tips, live Instagram with teachers and counselors on Instagram as well. We’re getting ready to launch our course, which is going to have lots of juicy stuff in there as well. So…
Danielle Brunson: Well, the course is, and we’re going to tweak it a little. It’s for districts, but we also created a version for parents at home. So, it’s really approachable, because we know a lot of parents, we have a lot of people personally asking us how do I implement your program, in my home school, or during hybrid learning. My kids are back at school because of the area I live in, they’re out till January.
So, we’ve got a version for parents and for teachers who just want to get a kind of an introduction into the science behind all of this, and then practices and activities, lots of really great stuff in there. So, we want to make sure that moms and dads could get the class or get the training without having to be enrolled in or working in a school that we work with.
Jenn Breisacher: Yeah, that’s awesome. That’s also really good for a teacher who believes in it, whose district might not. So, they have the opportunity to have that place in their classroom, even if their school is not quite buying in. A lot of times, you’ll see that it’s going really well in a specific classroom, and then all of a sudden other people notice. They want to know, what are you doing? How are you getting those kids to be calm or whatever the case maybe? I think that that’s going to be really beneficial all around for sure.
Danielle Brunson: Yeah, and I think this year, we’ve been super focused on teacher support. We’ve been doing a lot of what we can afford to do for free. Then also in our communities, we’ll train different groups of people who work in some of the places that are supporting students because we don’t have after-school activities and programs as much because of COVID.
So, we did a training for a youth program at the Latin American Association here where we’re just like, how can we discontinue the spread, this concept of breathing and pausing and being mindful, and giving kids these tools that they really need. Social-emotional learning with self-awareness and self-regulation can all be met with just simply stopping and pausing and learning to just not be so reactive, as Kali was talking about earlier.
So, we really try to get that basic information out, like, hey, just learn how to do these mindful breaths with kids. So sometimes it’s just as simple as in that course, learning how to teach that breathing, or we work with community members as well and supporting kids outside of school settings. But our whole mission is just to get as many people, as many children as we can, to be mindful and learning how to self-regulate.
I think, look at adults right now, they clearly did not learn that. We’re like, can we fix this? Can we fix the world a little bit? Can we make it a little bit better by teaching kids to self-regulate?
Just the last little personal story for me. My child this morning has this weird thing to close his eyes and he’ll be like; this is bothering me. I know like, when he was three, it was really frustrating for me as a parent. I was like, dude, just put the pants on and let’s go. I don’t have time for this. The tag is touching your leg or today it was the cuff was touching his butt. I’m like, are you serious?
So, typically my response, even as a… This is what I tell people meditation teacher, yogi for a decade or more, all these things, I would still be very reactive. Get your clothes on, and let’s go. I’m Puerto Rican, we’re like no, I’m going to hit you with the shoe kind of thing. But ever since I started really incorporating breathing and mindfulness with him.
So, instead today we sat down, and we were just like, let’s breathe and we did bee breathing which we have posted on our Instagram. It’s a super simple breath, kids love it, it creates a vibration in the back of their throat. We did three rounds of that and then I just said inhale and exhale to him for 30 seconds. He was a totally different kid after that. So, it’s just the little things that parents and teachers, and schools can do that makes such a huge impact on how kids go about their day.
It’s just been really amazing. We really love our work and we’re really lucky to do something that we enjoy, and that you can see. Because, you know, sometimes you’re working on something and you have to wait forever to see the results. We get to see the results very quickly, which is a great blessing to have.
Jenn Breisacher: That’s fantastic and I think there is so much to be said about teaching the kids how to do this on their own. My oldest son, who’s almost 10 has dealt with anxiety for years, the apple does not fall far. So, I was able to pick up on it really when he was very young, and I’ve done the breathing thing with him for years now. We just do very basically like breathe in for however many seconds, hold it, and then breathe out really slowly.
Now. I mean, it’s taken years, but I’m starting to see him do it on his own. When he feels ramped up, he’ll just take himself to the side, do that and calm down and then come back. I think if more kids can learn what there, I don’t want to say what their triggers are, but things that set them off. And know this is happening to me right now. This is what I need to do to calm down and then things will be better. I think you’re right; we would be so much better as a society because people right now don’t know how to breathe.
Danielle Brunson: It’s very reactive in the world right now. We talked a lot about how stressful it is to be a teacher right now. If I were like, hey, we’ll come in, we’ll do a free session. You guys learn how to breathe, you learn how to not be so reactive then teach it to your kids and you’d have such a better classroom culture. Kali leads a lot of mini sessions and I went to one the other day because I was stressed. I’m going to come even though I’m a member, I’m going to this free session at the school. I felt so good, five minutes of meditation with her and I felt amazing.
Dr. Kali Arnold: Well, one thing you do especially with our older kids is we let them know, people who they idolize, who are meditating. Right? Because you know, it’s not cool but then you find out what like LeBron James and Steph Curry and JLo and all these people that they look up to have a mindfulness practice who meditate. They’re like, oh. How do you think they’re so successful? So, that’s another thing.
So, just approaching kids in a different way. It’s not like something they have to do or if it’s part of their discipline. Just say like, hey, you know what, if you focus like LeBron James, then you might not be in the NBA. But you might be better than you are right now.
Do you know what I mean? I mean, just giving them a different view. The thing I talk about all the time when we do yoga with the kids. Again, the older kids. We’re not using, the mantra music that we use in the studio. We try and find current music that they can relate to. So, they’re not like, oh, this is some weird, goofy stuff, whatever. They’re like, oh, alright, this is cool. We try and bring figures, people who look like them, people they can relate to the teach them yoga. So again, it’s just approaching it in a way that’s digestible for everyone.
Jenn Breisacher: That’s absolutely true. You need the kids to buy in just as much as you need the teachers to buy in and then once everybody buys in, you certainly see progress being made.
Danielle Brunson: In addition to our eCourse, we always try to give a lot of free resources. So, we do have a 21-day meditation challenge that we give away for free. It gives you an audio recording every day, it’s really great for adults and it introduces a different style of meditation almost every day. So, you get to experience a lot of different ones. So, maybe you’re like, that didn’t resonate with me, and the next time the mantra meditation or a different one. Then you can find your style.
So, it’s a nice little intro for teachers or parents. Then we do have some guides to get people started. Those are all free resources, again, that we just want people to be able to continue to spread the calm, spread some relaxation to their kids and to their students.
Jenn Breisacher: That’s fantastic. People can access that right on your website.
Danielle Brunson: Yep. On our website, and it’s on LinkedIn, on our social media of course.
Jenn Breisacher: Awesome. I’m sure a lot of people will take advantage of that. I know I will.
Danielle Brunson: Yeah, definitely.
Jenn Breisacher: For sure. Alright. So, thank you guys, for joining us today and if anybody wants to reach out to you, you’re saying that the social media and website are the best. Is there an email address or that would be how do you prefer?
Danielle Brunson: Yeah, firstname.lastname@example.org, or a social media website, either one that works. You can book a discovery call directly on our website, and we’ll call you or you can email us for more information.
Jenn Breisacher: All right, great. So, thank you guys for joining.
Danielle Brunson: Thanks for having us. It was really nice to chat. We love talking about this stuff.
Changing School Culture with the 4 Keys
Finding ways to change school culture within the confines of your own classroom isn’t difficult, it just needs to ebb and flow with the students and where they are (physically, mentally, and emotionally). Being flexible is the key to making all of this work. The key is engagement. There are four keys to student engagement that I discuss in my video training challenge called “Finding Your Student Engagement Formula” and it walks you through those four keys and how to implement them in the classroom.
If you are interested in registering (it’s totally free), visit the Finding Your Student Engagement Formula Challenge registration page and you will be notified the next time the series is available.
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