Child’s Pose and Lockdown Drills

“Teachers, please secure the door to your classroom.”

The classroom teacher heads over to the lightswitch as she hears the announcement. Lights off. Blinds closed. With a finger over her lips she points to the corner of the room where all the students scurry and huddle together.

School safety is on everyone’s mind. From the Oval Office to the principal’s office, the topic unfortunately is trending. Lockdown drills are now commonplace mandates that serve as a cornerstone for safety protocols. But, what impact do these drills have on our children? Let’s look at it from a scientific perspective.

We  Cannot Reason With the Amygdala

We know it’s a drill.  A drill means practice. We are just practicing in case a dangerous person were to come into the school.  There isn’t really someone posing a threat to our safety, it is just the building secretary checking to make sure the teacher locked the door.

However, when that door handle rattles, students will undoubtedly react. Even though students know in their cognitive minds that lockdown drills are just practice, the amygdala, the part of the brain responsible for survival, does not know. The protective part of the brain goes into action before our frontal lobe has a chance to explain the lack of threat. However much we prepare our children, we cannot reason with the amygdala.

Trauma Resides in the Nervous System

So what happens when in that moment when the door handle shakes? The amygdala fires and sends out an SOS.  In order to survive, our bodies go into fight, flight or freeze mode. Huddled together, holding their breath, students don’t have the option to fight or flee, so they are left with freeze as the only means of survival. Adrenaline and cortisol are frozen in the nervous system.

“Freeze” is Detrimental

Trauma counselors will tell us that the freeze response has the most detrimental long-term impact on the nervous system. When the amygdala is activated, it is crucial for the body discharges the influx of survival energy. When fight or flee are not options (as in the case of lockdown drills),  the nervous system is left with excess. Repeated activation of the amygdala without allowing for completion of the cycle will leave adverse effects on the mind, body, and heart.

Bringing Move Mindfully ™  into your Lockdown Drill

So, what can we do? Lockdown drills are our reality. The lights off, huddle and hide routine is now commonplace. However, integrating three Move Mindfully ™ strategies into your lockdown drill will mitigate some of the potentially negative lasting impacts.

Step 1: The Huddle

When students assume the huddle position, cue them into Child’s Pose. With head below the heart and a curved spine, this position naturally relaxes the body. Take long, deep breaths to activate the relaxation response. Another benefit to this pose is the elimination of the visual stimuli that can cause hyper-vigilance (i.e. waiting for the door handle to shake, sounds in the hallway). Blog Bonus- Download Child’s Pose from our Move Mindfully Card Deck for suggested language. Please note: We want to practice these skills when the body and mind are calm so that we can easily access them during high stress times, like lockdown drills.

child's pose lockdown drill

Step 2: Release

It is absolutely critical that students are given an opportunity to release after a lockdown drill. Our best option is to tap into the “flight” response and run a lap around the school. If that is not possible, shaking, jumping or tapping are viable options. The body uses these movements as a way to discharge the stress hormones released during the lockdown drill.

shaking release

Step 3: Re-Integrate

Finally, returning to a relaxed-activated state culminates the drill. Cue students into 2-3 Forward Folds, which helps the body tap into a calming response. To transition back to learning, use the breathing ball and take 10 belly breaths.

belly breathing

As long as lockdown drills are a reality for our schools, we can support our students with the science and practice of Mindful Movement. What have you tried during lockdown drills? Have you tried using child’s pose? Leave a comment.

Be Well,

Stephanie Kennelly

6 replies
  1. Laura
    Laura says:

    Our schools are trained in ALICE. I struggle with the idea of preparing kids and worrying about those that live with trauma. I love the idea of using something like our tornado drill position and turning it into “child’s pose” to help reduce stress! I’m going to make that suggestion to our administration.

  2. Jeanine Long
    Jeanine Long says:

    I love this and it’s timely in more ways than one. We have a drill tomorrow and I will be sharing this with my staff. THANKS so very much!

  3. Andrea
    Andrea says:

    I love these ideas! As a preschool teacher we mostly explain to children that we are practicing being quiet but it still can be scary and stressful to do something so outside our normal routines. Plus young children understand that it is a serious activity and feed off the adult energy. I’ll be putting these into practice next time we have a drill!

  4. Susan Surby
    Susan Surby says:

    We had our first full lockdown today. I wish I would have had my kids do these, especially afterwards. We had no idea how long the lockdown would take so my kids read while sitting in front of bookcases under the windows with blinds. Afterwards, the suggested activities will be perfect the next time. Thank you!

  5. Christy
    Christy says:

    I’ve always had my kiddos watch what I do and copy it…like tapping my shoulders, rubbing my belly, making a pattern (legs, legs, shoulders, head), to take their minds off of the drill. I have found that this takes their focus off the door and activity outside the classroom and focuses them on what’s happening in front of them. We always do a movement activity afterward and then a refocusing activity to get back to learning. I love the idea of child’s pose, but I’m afraid the children will be hyper-sensitive to the sounds around them. Thank you for the idea…I will give it a try one of these times. In the meantime, I will teach them this technique as a calming activity.


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