Our “Why” and Explaining the Brain

“All of this yoga stuff- my students will never take it seriously.”

Does this sound like a self-doubt you have faced when considering implementing Mindful Movement?

As we begin the journey of teaching body work infused with social emotional learning, ensuring buy-in can seem like a daunting task. There is a fear that students won’t take the work seriously, and instead act silly, leaving the teacher to feel helplessly embarrassed. This fear is real. For many teachers, knowing how to begin the conversation and create a classroom culture ready for this work, can be the biggest hurdle.

We recommend beginning with the facts. Begin with the brain science. Once students (and teachers) understand the “why” behind these techniques, the buy-in is almost automatic.

Model of the Brain

Even small children can benefit from this simple, interactive model of the brain from Daniel Siegel.  Begin by having everyone show a fist (thumb inside). This model serves as a visual for parts of the brain we want students to understand.

  1. Brain Stem (wrist)

The brainstem is what attaches the head to the spine. It is the first part of our brain to develop.

  1. Hippocampus (inside the palm)

The hippocampus is responsible for memory. What is the latin name for butterfly? What is the capital of Georgia? What is 4 x 6? Students rely on the hippocampus for academic success throughout the school day.

  1. Amygdala (thumb)

The Amygdala is the part of the brain that interprets the world through the five senses and constantly analyzes situations to ensure our safety. Someone drops a glass in the hallway and it shatters. The sound triggers the flight response as you atomically jump in your chair.

  1. Prefrontal Cortex (fingernails)

This is the part of the brain that does the thinking and reasoning. It processes the memories, the sensory inputs and makes logical decisions based on past experiences.

When students feel calm, the amygdala passes information to the prefrontal cortex, which passes to the hippocampus. All of the parts are working well together. However, we have all heard the phrase, “blow your top”. At this point, students shoot their four fingers up into the air, exposing the thumb (amygdala).

This metaphor perfectly illustrates what happens when the amygdala senses danger. It stops communicating with the prefrontal cortex and the brain is now in “survival mode”. Survival mode is great when… well, we need to survive. However, we run into problems when our amygdala interprets something like- getting budged in line, as a survival situation.

This brings us back to our “why”. Through Mindful Movement we are using breath and movement in specific, meaningful patterns to sooth the amygdala, and the stress responses. To know that you have control over your mind and body is the ultimate power. Once students have this realization and experience it for themselves,  they often want to return to this relaxed/alert state. The work sells itself.

Have you explained the brain to your students as a justification for Mindful Movement? What has worked for you? Leave a Comment!

Be Well,

Stephanie Kennelly

Relaxation and New Beginnings

The day after Labor Day. For so many children and families, this Tuesday brings a flurry of new beginnings. New clothes and haircut, new routines and friends, new joys and anxieties. As September unfolds, it is important to remember the incredible amount of new information that has to be integrated.

We know, from brain and behavior science, that integration can only fully happen when there is an opportunity for relaxation. As teachers, we must remember to build in moments of silence throughout the day. With all of the transitions and micro-expectations, students need time to quietly reflect and download the material. As parents, we must remember that children will come home feeling mentally, physically and emotionally exhausted. Schedule downtime.

Here are our 5 tips for integrating relaxation:

1. Music 

During quiet work or rest time in the classroom, try playing music that is relaxing and energizing, but not dysregulating. The Anjali CD is a great mix of instrumental music (no words) that has a calm feel without being overly sleep inducing. This is also great for the car ride home when you are all out of words!

2. Lavender Oil

Essential oils can be a fantastic classroom tool. Try using our lavender spray on a washcloth to enhance a relaxed state.

3. Guided Relaxation

Guided relaxations are a way to keep students engaged, but also provide a break from learning new routines. Ready, Set, Relax has scripts for you to read focused on various objectives, from following directions to focusing for a test. Another idea is to write your own incorporating new learnings from the school day . Better yet, have your students write them! These stories can also be used at bedtime as a great transition to sleep.

4. Non-Verbal Physical Touch

We know the importance of human connection. Sometimes, when our brain is on overload, connecting physically without having to verbally communicate can offer restorative benefits. Try back drawing as part of your morning meeting in the classroom. At home, simply holding hands with a loved one can have a huge impact.

5. Twists

Twists are wonderful for dealing with anxiety. They open the chest, shoulders and back, which sends a relaxation reflex to the rest of the body. Twists also allow fresh blood to flow in the body, stimulating circulation and producing a refreshing effect. Try using them as during difficult transitions, such as after recess or lunch.

As you embark on new beginnings, remember to carve out time for relaxation and integration. How do you build relaxation into your day? What have you tried with your students or your children? Leave a comment!

Be Well,

Stephanie Kennelly

Essential Oils and Classroom Environment

The sense of smell is such a powerful part of limbic system that often gets forgotten.

When planning your work with children, do you ever consider sense of smell? I know I would begin by considering my materials visually and then plan for my auditory instruction. If I was having a really good day, I’d throw in a “hands on” component for the sense of touch. However, I think I was missing the mark by not considering sense of smell.

The olfactory bulb, which operates the sense of smell, transmits information directly to the amygdala. In Yoga Calm, we know that the “downstairs” brain controls the emotions we are working to regulate. Whether you are trying to reduce anxiety or increase focus, essential oils can help!

My journey into essential oils began at Yoga Calm training where I purchased lavender  and made a spray for our relaxation station. The students responded so well to the spray that it made me eager to learn more!

Note: It is important to know that essential oils are 100% pure plant extract. Fragrance oils are usually synthetic products and therefore do not possess the natural healing properties of essential oils and contain chemicals and other impurities. When purchasing, especially for use around children, make sure to do research about oil purity.

This week I experimented with orange, peppermint and lemon in a diffuser. I began by introducing each scent and letting the students smell the oil from the bottle. It was fun to have them close their eyes and try to guess the scent!

I think my personal favorite was wild orange. I found it mild and versatile.

I combined the orange with peppermint for standardized testing. I know… it sounds like an odd combination, but it was lovely! It is said to increase focus and clarity.

To end the week, I combined lemon and orange for a citrus blast. Students noticed the scent as soon as they walked in the door. One of my most anxious students said, “Can I sit here at the back table so I can be near the diffuser”? There were meandering paths past the diffuser throughout the day and audible “ahh”s after a long inhale.


Plus, at a time of year when the kids smell like a combination of mud and pre-adolescent sweat, the citrus aroma is a refreshing boost to the classroom environment.

However, essential oils are not just for good smells. Diffusing can eliminate airborne pathogens. A bonus this time of year when we are all trying to stay healthy.

Essential oils can also be an important component for teacher self care. Having the diffuser near my workspace helped me stay calm, focused and in an overall good mood. One day, I was suffering from a horrible headache due to seasonal allergies. I didn’t have any aspirin at school, so I used a drop of peppermint and rubbed it behind each ear. At first, the sensation was pretty overwhelming. However, after a minute, I felt my “fog” lift! The instantaneous result was amazing.

Check out this website to learn more about using essential oils and home and with children.

Have you tried essential oils? Which oils have children responded to? Leave a comment!

Be Well,
Stephanie Kennelly

5 Daily Happiness Practices

If you could articulate in one sentence or even one word, what you hope for your child, what would it be?

In other words, what do you most want for your precious little one(s)? What’s the end goal? Is it straight A’s? Making the volleyball team? Getting accepted into fashion school? Passing the state test?

Not having children of my own, I was very curious about the answer. After asking hundreds of parents, I was shocked at the overwhelming amount of similar responses. The answer was crystal clear- HAPPINESS. Parents deeply want their children to be happy.

Sounds simple. But, the reality is every day as a school counselor, I was noticing so much stress permeating the hallways and classroom and seeping into students and staff daily lives. I thought, “Why aren’t we teaching ways to cope with stress, anger, sadness and anxiety? Also, why aren’t we teaching the habits that have been proven to increase happiness?” After all, we now know that happiness is a skill and with the latest research in neuroscience, we know that we can train our brains for happiness.

Research also shows us that being in a state of happiness triples creativity, increases productivity and promotes health. Shawn Achor, a Harvard researcher who studies happiness, states, “the greatest competitive advantage in the modern economy is a positive and engaged brain.” My experience is that children and adults desire happiness. So, what can we do to intentionally teach these skills?

Good news- there are five simple daily practices that you can start practicing today. Below is a list of the Happiness Habits from Shawn Achor’s research, along with a daily assignment:


People who regularly practice gratitude experience more positive emotions, feel more alive, sleep better, express more compassion and kindness, and even have stronger immune systems.

We know that 90% of happiness comes from how our brain perceives life. When we practice gratitude, we’re training our brains to look for the “good” and in turn by seeing the good, it increases our happiness.

Daily practice: Take time to notice the positives. Write or draw 3 things you’re grateful for daily.

The Doubler:

Journaling or talking about a positive experience you’ve had over the past 24 hours “doubles” the serotonin released into your body. Your brain doesn’t know the difference between the experience happening or you talking/writing about the experience,

It’s important to train our brains, just like we workout our bodies.

Daily practice: Tell someone one positive thing that happened within the past 24 hours.


Exercise changes your Tetris effect. The brain says, “I’ve been successful in one domain. I bet I can be successful in another domain.” Also, movement releases physical and emotional energy, develops concentration and self-confidence and increases serotonin and changes emotional states.

Daily practice: Yoga, cycling, walking or any exercise for 20 minutes.


Taking 5 minutes to sit in a stillness promotes inner peace, feeling grounded, and gets us set for the day by focusing on an intention. Meditation allows your brain to get over the cultural ADHD of doing it all and allows our brain to focus.

Daily practice: Sit in stillness for at least 5 minutes.

Acts of Kindness:

When we’re kind, we inspire others to be kind, and it actually creates a ripple effect that spreads outwards to our friends’ friends’ friends — to three degrees of separation.

Being kind causes elevated levels of dopamine in the brain, so we get a natural high, often referred to as “Helper’s High.”

Daily practice: Choose one intentional act of kindness. Send a former teacher an email, help your mom organize the kitchen or give a co-worker a compliment.

As you can see, these simple practices don’t take much time at all. Hope you enjoy doing these activities with your kiddos. It might be easier to start with one practice and try it out for a few weeks before adding another one. Isn’t it exciting to know that we have the power to wire our brains for happiness?

Here is one of our Happiness videos where we highlight one of the skills listed above.

Thank you for teaching your children about happiness, which will make this world a “happier” place. After all, a peaceful world begins with a peaceful mind. Keep shining!

Lyndsay Morris, M.Ed, RYT-200 is a whole child education advocate, the founder of Generation Wellness, the host of the Wellness Warrior Show and author of The Mindful Student. Lyndsay believes that connection is at the heart of learning and inspires students and staff to live a life of less stress and more success through “teaching peace” and “choosing happy”.

For more info, click here: https://www.generation-wellness.com/


Yoga Calm and Early Childhood

Can Early Childhood students participate in Mindful Movement? Absolutely.

People are often surprised when I tell them that I teach breathing, mindfulness and movement to children as young as one year old on a weekly basis. Even Early Educators have a hard time imagining how these techniques translate into Pre-K environments. My experience has been that these practices really resonate with young children and that the nature of body work is quite easy for them to master due to limited need for language and explanation.

Here are some tips and tricks that help when teaching breathing, mindfulness and movement with children five and under.

Routine, Routine, Routine:
No matter what age group we are teaching, routine and structure always create a feeling of safety and competency. Start with a breathing technique – breathing with the hoberman sphere; Volcano Breaths; Smell the Flower, Blow out the Candle (breathing in through nose while pretending to smell a flower, breathing out through mouth pretending to blow out a candle). Incorporate a mindfulness activity, like ringing the chime for everyone to listen to or just asking children to sit for a moment to listen for all the sounds that they hear. Then pick the movement that you use – have go to yoga poses that the children enjoy (Down Dog, Tree, Child’s Pose) and end with some more breathing and a brief story to tie it all together.

Less is More:
We all have a tendency to want to teach a wide variety of practices and poses. The variety comes from what we are emphasizing in the poses. We might practice Tree Pose almost every time we work with a toddler group. But some days we focus on keeping our Trees strong and tall. On other days, we try to find stillness in Tree. Sometimes we hold hands to feel what it is like to give and receive support to our friends. For more ideas on each pose, check out our Move Mindfully Card Deck. Just like keeping a routine, using the same poses day to day help children feel competent and confident. Typically, when starting out, we want a lesson for Early Ed to be no longer than 15-20 minutes in duration.

Embrace and Adapt:
We might come into a group of preschoolers with a well-laid out lesson plan focused on balance poses (Tree, Eagle) but are welcomed by a group of high energy, busy bodies. Our job is to meet children where they are at on any given day. We might have to start with more movement and then ease our way into more focused activities. It’s not always best to start with calming breaths. Sometimes we need to start with Arm Swings, Wood Chopper or Active Volcano before we can move into breathing with the hoberman sphere. Sometimes the best lessons we teach are the ones we are led to by the children.

Be OK with Behavior:
No matter what age we are teaching, behaviors like being unable to sit still, talking or giggling, or even not participating at all, can be indicators that children are uncomfortable with quiet and stillness. This oftentimes is not bad behavior, but actually a defense mechanism for self-protection. The more we allow children to have space to stay in the lesson (as long as they are not disrupting others) the more we allow children to move from uncomfortableness into a new way of being. A child might come in and out of participation over and over again until they finally stay engaged for the duration. Just like in our adult practices, the student knows better than the teacher about what works for them. Honoring children’s ability to show up to the best of their ability on any given day should always be our goal. If a child is being disruptive to others, having a teacher sit with them and offer encouragement can help them stay in the lesson. Other times, we may simply offer for them to sit on their mat or rest in Child’s Pose until they are ready to participate.

Compliment the Good:
We all know how great it feels to be told we are doing a good job. Call out all good behavior – especially for the children that are having a more challenging time. Encourage children to compliment each other by using student leaders and asking for peer compliments each time they lead. Not only will this build class community but more importantly it reinforces positive self-concept and self-talk.

Have Fun!
The best part of teaching this age group is that it is FUN! Be playful, laugh and listen – some of the best teaching and insights will come from the children.

One final note on this age group – always end with a final relaxation. Even if it is only 2-3 minutes long, get the children lying down and place a beanie baby on their belly. They can breathe deeply into their belly and watch their animal rise and fall with their breath. You can also try using a puppet to demonstrate deep, relaxing breathing. Read or tell a story that fits with the lesson from that day. This time for reflection at the end of the lesson will become the children’s favorite part of your time together. Children are constantly asking “When is final story?’ because it feels so good to take that time for rest.

Check out this video to see a lesson in action!

We hope you enjoy bringing these practices to our littlest friends! Please share a comment about what you are doing in your Early Ed environments with this work – we’d love to hear from you!


Be Well, 

Chrissy Mignogna

Mindful Practice and Headspace

Do you feel like your mind is continually bouncing from one thing to another? Like a cartoon dog, your mind is… SQUIRREL!

Okay, in all seriousness, I have tried a few times to get into mindful practice and the all consuming silence would abruptly end my session. That is when I found Headspace. The soothing narrator, Andy, takes you through guided mindful practices, providing tips and techniques to training the mind. The affects were so immediate and profound, I knew I had to try it with my students.

Within the Headspace world there is a specific Kids section. Once there, you choose your age range (5 and under) (6-8) or (9-12). Then, you choose a theme (listed below) and time (1-9 minutes). Come on… one minute! You have one minute, plus the time investment will pay dividends.

I think my students enjoy hearing another voice other than mine during the day, but these techniques are easy to implement without the Headspace subscription. Also note, if you are interested in the subscription, but do not have the funds, Headspace donates a subscription for every paid subscription.

The Yoga Calm curriculum integrates moments of stillness after moving poses. In my classroom, the Headspace mindful practice worked great after our established Yoga Calm routines.

Below I describe each meditation theme, and a short follow-up activity.

We rise by lifting others. In this mindful practice, Andy describes the feeling of giving someone a gift.

Activity: The students took a picture, on their iPad, of their partner with hands out and a happy/surprised expression. Then, used an app called PicCollage to digitally insert a gift into their partner’s hands. As a class, we enjoyed looking through each picture.

Later that day, a girl was feeling sad and I said, “Hey, just think about Adedoyin getting an X-Box” and she burst into a huge smile. Becoming happy, by seeing someone else happy, is a great tool for overcoming the blues.


As a teacher how many times do you think, “If my students would just stay focused…”. However, we never really teach them HOW to stay focused. In this mindful practice, Andy describes tracking balloons, different numbers and colors, through the sky.

Activity: Immediately after the mindful practice, the students drew on a notecard what they visualized while Andy was talking. The results were interesting. Some students drew amazingly accurate portrayals of the balloons floating through the sky. Some students drew balloons, but also added random dragons or rainbows. However, some drew a picture containing not one single balloon.



It made me stop and think, when I am taking about frogs and life cycles, what are you thinking about? Are you imagining the frog? Or the frog dancing in a tutu? Or a scene from the Lego Movie? Students need to practice keeping their attention and focus on the task at hand. This balloon tracking mindful practice offers a low-risk practice opportunity that can be applied to other subject areas.

When I began my Yoga Calm journey, I quickly learned that I wasn’t so sure what “calm” actually felt like. In this mindful practice, Andy describes a body scan process to bring calm into each body part.

Activity: The students labeled a figure with the sensations of calm.

Later, when a student was not calm, I was able to reference his drawing and provide a personal cue. “Do a body scan and remember the heavy hands and slow heart beat.”

Even though I have an active group of third graders, there are times that students are sleepy, sick or sad and need to “wake-up” their bodies. In this mindful practice, Andy describes a sunrise and the world waking up.

Activity: The students water colored a sunrise and wrote poems, using metaphors and similes, comparing themselves to the sun.

Obviously, I have not used the sleep theme with my students at school. However, I am using it every night with my five-year old son. In this mindful practice, Andy starts at the toes and says goodnight to all of the body parts until cuing, “You are fully relaxed and ready for sleep”.

Recently, when we were on vacation, my son laid down to nap without our Headspace routine. As I was walking out of the room, I heard him say, “Goodnight toes”. To my surprise, he was doing the routine independently (and asleep within minutes).

The exciting thing? I have actually seen students using these techniques on their own… unprompted. There is overwhelming scientific research showing the benefits of mindful practice.

Have you tried a mindful practice personally? Have you tried mindful practices with children? What has worked? Please leave a comment.

Education Heart, Mind and Body,
Stephanie Kennelly

Mindfulness and Travel

By actively working on staying mindful while traveling and really focusing on living in the sacred present moment, you can get much more out of family travel than you ever thought possible!

Are you planning a vacation or short get away? It is important to stay mindful to the experience. Encouraging family bonding and creating lasting memories are just two of the many benefits of family travel. Here are a few simple ways to work mindfulness into your next family trip.

Redefine what “travel” means for your family.

While a week at the beach or an adventure in Costa Rica are awesome family travel experiences, even quick weekends away, whether you’re camping, skiing or visiting friends and family, also count as a family trip.

In fact, frequent and shorter breaks recharge the mind and body more effectively throughout the year than a single long break. Why? Research suggests that anticipation correlates with more intense and satisfying emotions than remembering the past. Begin to anticipate even small and local family adventures and you’ll reap the benefits of travel.

Some ways to do this include letting your children help pack, do grocery shopping and plan some of the smaller activities on family trips. Including items such as a book or journal can help encourage moments of self-reflection. Pack essential oils, such as orange, in your travel bag to stay refreshed! Getting children involved is the easiest way to help them begin to anticipate family connectedness and benefit from this anticipation.

Plan to Get Active

While movement and physical activities are just plain good for you from a health perspective, getting active together as a family is also a way to stay mindfully connected. It’s difficult to be distracted by outside thoughts when you’re skiing a black diamond ski run with your kids, taking a family surf lesson or zip lining through the jungle in Central America!

These activities will help you connect via a shared mutual experience while eliminating distractions so you can better connect and enjoy travel time with your family.

Just Listen.

Family travel offers a unique opportunity to just listen deeply to your family without judgment or distractions. Perhaps these conversations happen while sitting on a flight or while waiting for dinner to be served. Be curious, ask questions, and stay engaged without letting your attention drift. There are plenty of opportunities to just have a conversation while you’re traveling as a family.

Also, creating space and time to tune into yourself can have a huge impact. Use plane rides or “no-service” cell phone areas as an opportunity for stillness and mindfulness practice. Need some guidance? Download these tracks to guide you.

Investing in family travel is so much more than just stamps in a passport. By removing your family from the daily grind and making a commitment to stay present and experience new destinations and activities together, your time spent traveling together as a family will be meaningful and incredibly rewarding.

And remember, you don’t need to get on an airplane in order to have a meaningful and mindful family travel experience. A day spent hiking with a picnic lunch can be equally as memorable and impactful for your family! Spending time together and staying present is what matters most.

How do you incorporate mindfulness into travel? Please leave a comment!

Sarah Fazendin is a family travel designer, specializing in family trips to Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean. Learn more about planning your perfect family vacation and contact Sarah at sarah@afamilytravelblog.com.

ADHD and Peaceful Parenting

I have been working on healthy classrooms as a part of my professional career for close to a decade. Now, with my third grader, this work hits home.

I have spent a lot of time trying to convince teachers in districts across the state that mindfulness is a positive addition to classroom routines. I feel fortunate that my daughter was able to experience Move Mindfully in her third grade classroom.  I feel so lucky that my daughter is part of Ms. Kennelly’s class.

I also knew that my daughter, in particular, would benefit from from these practices. She has struggled academically because of ADHD, and I have always known that breathing, stretching and moving helped her stay focused on her work. As part of our daily homework and reading routine, we take breaks every 10-15 minutes. I find balancing poses, like Eagle and Tree featured in the Focusing Routine, are especially beneficial. This helps her make it through her homework in a calm and peaceful manner. Sometimes I can even see that taking that time has re-energized her to finish reading a story that we otherwise would not have been able to complete.

Since starting third grade, Maggie has become MY teacher. She talks about the importance of getting at least 15 minutes of mindful minutes every day, and models that behavior by sitting on her bed and looking out her bedroom window quietly every morning before she moves on with her day.

She has also shown me that taking time to be calm after a lot of activity, helps to move us peacefully to the next activity. One time she encouraged me and her brother to find a peaceful spot to slow down and ground ourselves after leaving a playground. She sat on a rock calmly for 5 minutes and then was ready to move on with our activities that afternoon.

I was pleasantly surprised this holiday season when topping Maggie’s Christmas list was a yoga mat, chime and breathing ball! We now have a family yoga routine that we can do together. Her enthusiasm for movement and mindfulness is helping our whole family incorporate healthy practices into our routines.

How do you incorporate mindfulness into your parenting? Do you use similar strategies with ADHD learners? Please leave a comment!

Jessica Boyer Smith can be reached at jboyersmith@gmail.com.

Gratitude and Family Meals

Today, choose joy.

Although we work to bring Mindfulness and Movement into schools and therapeutic settings, it truly beings with us in our own homes.

I described the power of Volcano Breath with students in a previous post. However, this breathing technique has also elicited amazing results in my home. Here is how I use volcano breath during mealtime.


Our family begins our mealtime by ringing the chime found in our store. (We do two ringings so both boys can take a turn.) The chime clears the space, and brings focus to the start of our time together. I find that I often come to the table with thoughts spinning from the day, but when that chime rings I return to the present moment.


After the chime, we go around the table and share a joy from the day. What about the lows? Or the hard times? Aren’t they worth mentioning?

As human beings, we have evolved with a negativity bias, instrumental for ancient survival. It’s the concept that someone can tell you fifty great things about yourself and one bad, and guess which one will linger in your consciousness? Complaining only fuels the selective and distorted perceptions that are already inclined to lean negative. If you want to learn more behind this brain based science, I encourage you to read Hardwiring Happiness.

Hansen says, “you can turn your experiences – the pleasure in a cup of coffee, the accomplishment in finishing a tricky email, the warmth from a friend’s smile – into lasting inner strengths built into your brain, such as resilience, balance, and positive emotions.”

My husband and I are modeling this for our young children. Parents want to solve their children’s problems, but the best way to solve unhappiness is to model happiness. Verbally processing how to find joy, or gratitude, in even the most difficult of situations can have a lifelong impact.

As we go around and share our joy, we are forced to slow down and think about the numerous positive moments that filled out day. Even my 20 month old will say in toddler talk, “jaba”, which we then in turn try to translate- “Your joy was playing with a truck?” where he always responds, “Yeah!”. We then do a volcano breath for each joy, breathing that into our hearts. It takes that one simple joyful moment and multiplies the effect.

As you settle in for a family meal, think about sharing your joy with family. Sometimes the prompt, “What are you thankful for?” promotes responses about objects, especially from children, such as, “My stuffed animals”. When you ask, “What is your joy?” I have found that more often the response is an experience, such as “playing with a friend at recess” or “seeing the big moon this morning”.

Do you have a mealtime tradition of sharing? What has worked well for you? Please leave a comment.

Be Well,
Stephanie Kennelly


Yoga Calm Principles and Intentions

What is your intention? Everything that happens, begins with an intention.

Purposeful learning happens on purpose. This is true not only with academic objectives, but also with social emotional learning. If you don’t already, I strongly encourage you to have your students set personal intentions. An intention is simply a statement, or even one word, describing how you want to show up. This idea can seem nebulous and finding a starting point can seem a bit overwhelming. That is why I like to start with the Yoga Calm Principles.

At 1000 Petals, our Yoga Calm trainings are rooted in the  Yoga Calm Principles, Stillness, Listening, Strength, Grounding, Community. These physical, mental and emotional techniques are used for calming the nervous system. We believe that cultivating these principles encourage personal discovery, wellness, and self- mastery. (Blog bonus, download our  visuals for each Principle.)

How to Write Intentions with Students

Step 1: Which Principle do I want to bring into my life?

I began the intention setting process by asking students, “Which Principle do you want to bring into your life?” I love this language. The focus is on the positive (bringing in) instead of the deficit (your weakness).

Step 2: What positive self-talk can I use?

In my classroom I have a display of various positive self-talk sentences. (See our previous blog for details) These affirmations serve as the concrete building blocks for rewiring our constant personal narration, which can often times be detrimental to personal growth.

Step 3: How will this make me a better person?

Sometimes when writing intentions, it can seem like just one minor shift or change. However, it is sometimes this one tweak that could be the catalyst for overall improvement. For example, brining more strength into your life could make you a better person by making healthy choices, pursuing goals and dreams, or thinking positive thoughts.

Step 4: How will this change help others?

Finally, we came full circle and ended the intention setting process with a reflection on Community, the fifth Yoga Calm Principle. Once students have developed a self awareness, we can begin to cultivate compassion and caring for one another. Through all such experiences, students gain insight into the universal struggles of humanity and begin to understand the value of community support at a deep level.

Step 5: Opportunities to Review and Reflect

Using the following template, we compiled our answers to create an intention.

Sample Intention

The power in this activity comes from the opportunity for students to review and reflect on their intention. I recommend students cut out the square from the template and glue it onto a notebook, or somewhere it can often be revisited. At our school, all students wear name tags. We decided to tape the intention onto the back of the name tag so it was always with them. Right over their heart.

The next day, we went around the circle during morning sharing and everyone read their intention out loud. Then, throughout the day, we checked back in. They silently read, whisper read or partner read their intention. Especially if students are having a difficult moment, to redirect, I may say, “What is your intention?” Reflecting on their own words for self improvement and community growth is more powerful than any threat or plead I could provide.


To end the week, the students created a visual representation of their intentions in an app on the iPad called Pic Collage. I printed these images and made a mural to hang on our door. It’s a great reminder of what our personal goals are and how they drive the vision for our community.

Do you use intentions? Have you tried using intentions with with students? What has worked well? Leave a comment!

Be Well,
Stephanie Kennelly