Chair Routine

 The Move Mindfully® Chair Routine can prepare the body to experience gratitude. 

Today we are going to think about gratitude. Gratitude means giving thanks for everything we have in our lives.  Today we will move our bodies and breathe in a way that opens up ours hearts and reminds us of all the things that make us happy.

As educators we work to weave in social emotional learning to our school day. Helping students navigate big emotions, such as gratitude, can be supported with body work and movement.

To start this routine, students stay seated in the their chairs and move the spine in all six directions (back bend, forward fold, side stretches and twists). The heart opener backbend especially can help students tap into a place of gratitude. Here is a simple Chair Routine Script for leading students in the movement.

The sequence ends with hand tracing. Use our template, with and without the hand already provided. For younger students, we have them simple trace over the hand with their finger. For older students, you could have them use a pencil to trace their hand. Then, students take 5 deep breaths using Hand Tracing Breathing.

hand tracing

Writing Activity

Students then write on each finger something that they are grateful for. Younger students can even draw pictures. Then, throughout the day or week when you come back to Hand Tracing Breathing, you can remind them of the five things that they are grateful for, encouraging them to breathe that in that visualization. Hang them up in a collection for a beautiful bulletin board display.

gratitude list

Hand Tracing Breathing is a quick and easy way to bring gratitude into your daily Move Mindfully® breaks. Our green poster from the Permission to Pause Poster Set ends with hand tracing. Simply cue gratitude breath to end this simple sequence too.

Want to build your own gratitude sequence? Try using the cards from our Move Mindfully® Card Deck or download the Movement Sequence Template from our Teachers Pay Teachers Store.
gratitude yoga routineWhat movement have you tried with gratitude? Leave a comment!

Be Well,

Stephanie Kennelly

District 833 Mindfulness Curriculum

District 833 mindfulness curriculum starts with early grades

Written By: Jackie Renzetti |

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Red Rock Elementary School social worker Danette Jones leads students through a mindfulness exercise. Jackie Renzetti / RiverTown Multimedia

With a crowd of school staff, parents and students gathered for a final Battle of the Books competition at Red Rock Elementary School, one young competitor crossed her arms, slowly patting each one.

For the school’s social worker Danette Jones, the student’s mindfulness-based movement showed her lessons were sticking.

She brought the story to a Mindful Movement lesson, where she leads fourth graders through a series of yoga-based movements. The weekly sessions are part of South Washington County Schools’ budding mindfulness curriculum for elementary schools.

Over the past four years, the district has been working to integrate mindfulness skills into classrooms, which has allowed students to build relationships and academic skills by honing their ability to self-calm and focus. With positive results, staff began finding ways to work the techniques into different grade levels. The work is also part of an effort to meet recently added statewide socio-emotional learning benchmarks, Jones said.

“The sooner they learn them, the easier they are to use,” Jones said. “We don’t want to wait until middle school or high school where we have even bigger issues with mental health issues and stress.”

While the exact structure varies by school and age group, at Woodbury’s Red Rock Elementary School, students progress along a tiered system. In kindergarten, they learn about simple yoga-based movements, such as child’s pose, with the help of storytelling.

“One of the kindergarten teachers would do something like, ‘Start out as a seed,’ and that looks like child’s pose,” Jones said. “‘And now you’re going to grow, and kneel, and reach towards the sun.’ You just work all that into a story.”

In some of the first and second grade classrooms, teachers focused on a three-pose series to help students focus, calm themselves and feel awake. Students then made posters of themselves doing the poses to go around the classrooms.

In another case, students returned from winter break to a “deep breathing challenge,” where classrooms could track how often they practiced deep breathing. If they met 30 days, they earned another mindfulness session with Jones.

“Third grade is when we really hit it, because that’s when we start MCA testing,” Jones said.

The first year they began teaching mindfulness movements and self-calming techniques to third graders, 90% met or exceeded math standards on the MCA, Jones said.

“One of the teachers said to me, I was doing this all wrong — I was doing jumping jacks and trying to get them all revved for the test,” Jones said. “These are life skills. They are based in research and they work.”

High-achieving schools such as Red Rock often see anxiety among students because of high expectations, Jones said. It’s not uncommon for second graders to have bouts of perfectionism.

“Their personalities are more highly wanting to conform and be a pleaser, and so all that just kind of tips the scales a little bit in that direction,” she said. “We talk about how to make the brain happy, how to be positive … being able to talk positively and give a pep talk to yourself, that’s important.”

Yoga in the classrooms has become increasingly common nationwide. In Minnesota, Kathy Flaminio began teaching yoga-based movement to students ahead of the trend in 2005. The movement began growing between 2007 and 2010, she said.

Now, she serves as the national director of training development for Yoga Calm, a program in which she has guided thousands of professionals in yoga-based movement and emotional regulation strategies for use in settings including classrooms. She’s worked with teachers around the state, including staff at South Washington County Schools.

“We’re teaching teachers how to read bodies,” Flaminio said. “People are always trying to calm kids down, but they need to release. So if you’re really upset, let’s do a releasing breath, or a plank or down-dog. We teach how to use these different movements to get a certain effect. And the kids learn what works for them.”

As the trend has spread across districts and states, Flaminio says she’s seeing improvement in attendance, students’ time spent on tasks and relationship skills. She’s also had teachers report lower noise levels overall and less students being referred out of the classroom for behavior issues.

“Teachers are saying, this saved my life this year, or, this is totally changing how I’m teaching,” she said. “We get comments like this all the time. ”

Red Rock Elementary School social worker Danette Jones leads students through a mindfulness exercise. Jackie Renzetti / RiverTown Multimedia


Successful transitions can make or break the school day!

Work to hallway. Recess to learning. Bathroom to quiet work time. Classroom teachers start and stop activities a lot during the day! In my first grade class, we spend lots of time practicing these transitions throughout the year, with my hope that I will save teaching time (and my sanity) if we can transition quickly and quietly between different parts of our day. When the school day has a rhythm and activities are given proper beginnings and endings, more learning can occur. Here are four strategies for successful transitions.

Belly Breathing

We practice student-led belly breathing before each whole group academic learning time. Students prepare by putting one hand over their belly and one hand on their heart. One student leads the breaths with the sphere while another counts in a slow, calm voice. Sometimes we will follow the breaths with classmates offering compliments to each other about their breathing or their leadership.

Hoberman Sphere attributed to Yoga Calm®


The expectation in our class is that students are facing forwards, with voices off and hands to themselves, so that we are safe and calm to travel in the hall– and I’m sure these expectations are familiar to most elementary school teachers. However, I’ve found that having students find their best mountain pose is much more effective than reminders of about the rules. Cuing mountain before we enter the hallway means that we are showing respect to ourselves and those around us. Every time we line up, we go into mountain.  Standing straight and tall, our bodies are activated, and with our eyes and feet pointing in the direction that we’re going. I explain that mind strength is another word for self-control.

Chair and Eagle

My students practice the chair and eagle poses after a bathroom break.

Chair pose makes their big leg and arm muscles work, and eagle pose has them crossing the midline of their body– which prepares their brain for our literacy block after the break. Check out the Move Mindfully® Transitioning Routine for a great poster visual for the hallway.

Releasing Breaths

We practice Yoga Calm®’s Volcano Breath and Woodchopper to release throughout the day. Volcano breath  is great after PE, lunch, recess, buddy classroom , and assemblies because it calms and centers us, regulates our breath and brings the group together and ready for what is coming next.
Woodchopper is another option for those times of the day or year when my students kids might be anxious or full of energy. This pose energizes and stimulates the nervous system. After we wood chop together, we take belly breaths– a unifying activity that is calming after we get our energy out with woodchopper.

These tips will create a more peaceful and seamless flow to your day. And, when we breathe together, everyone wins! What transition strategies have worked for you? Leave a comment!

By Heidi Schuchman, NBCT

Heidi is a Nationally Board Certified teacher and Certified Yoga Calm youth yoga instructor currently based out of Duluth, Minnesota.  For twenty years, she has worked as a classroom teacher and reading specialist in the public schools, and loves sharing yoga with youth and families in schools and in the community.

Move Mindfully® Early Childhood Card Deck

Early Childhood environments allow us to use self regulation skills in a playful way.

We have had tremendous success teaching mindfulness and movement strategies in the Early Childhood environments. We know that early intervention is key. Read our blog post for 4 Key Tips to success in Early Childhood Environments.

To further support adults working in Pre-K and ECSE environments, we have created the Move Mindfully Early Childhood Card Deck! These beautiful visuals with simple, age appropriate language provide a great way to teach breathing, mindfulness and yoga-based movement in Early Education environments. Here is how you can use this tool with your young learners.

Getting Started

Get the group started with breathing. If you have a Hoberman Sphere*, start with the breathing ball card and let each child have a turn with the breathing ball before leading the group in 3-5 slow, deep belly breaths. If you don’t have the Hoberman Sphere, you can ask children to take a deep breath with their hands on their bellies and puff up their bellies like a balloon when they breathe in, and feel their belly sink down when they breathe out. Start with 3-5 breaths as a group after introducing the idea of belly breathing.

*Yoga Calm® Activity

Using the Card Deck

Choose 4-5 cards to focus on and display them either in the center of the circle or on the board.

You might start with the Seed/Child’s Pose card and the Tree card. Get children into Seed and talk to them about how seeds are tucked down under the ground while they get ready to grow. Once they get enough sunshine and rain, the seeds can come up through the soil and grow into tiny little sprouts. When children are quiet and curled up in Seed Pose, reflect how calm their bodies are – this is a great pose to use before naptime/rest time, too. You can even ask children to show their families at home this great pose for before bedtime!

From Seed, count to 3 and have the children come up from the floor into a little green sprout – then you can all grow into a Tree. For younger bodies, Tree Pose might require leaning against a wall or getting the support of an adult to balance. Repeat Seed to Tree again to give opportunity to balance on the other foot, as well.

You could also choose to use Mountain, Hi Sun (Upward Mountain), Waterfall (Forward Fold) as your movement sequence. Still being playful as you move – waving Hi to the Sun in Upward Mountain, coming down into Forward Fold like water flowing down a mountain. Repeating this sequence 3 times will help children start to calm since they are folding forward, bringing their heads below their hearts and taking out all the visual sensory distractions as they breathe deeply.

Ending Rest

End the lesson by getting children lying on their backs with a stuffed animal on their belly. Encourage them to breathe deeply so they can rock their animal to sleep on their belly. Then as children become quieter and more still, let them know that their stuffed animal has fallen asleep.

As you continue to work with children you can add more cards and extend the Final Story from one to three minutes to five to seven minutes. Our card deck has useful tips and helpful sequences to get you started. Invite the children to help pick the cards you will use each time and most of all have fun!

Do you use yoga based movement in an Early Childhood setting? What has worked well? Leave a comment!

Written by, Chrissy Mignogna