Why Master the Mountain in schools?

Why Master the Mountain in schools?

Why Master the Mountain in schools? The neuroscience

I have always loved anatomy and physiology. From science lessons in school, anatomy/ physiology and neuroscience at university and throughout my yoga studies and self directed learning, the body and how it functions will always fascinate me. There is more and more evidence every year supporting the link between yoga, mindfulness and breath on the physical body as well as mental and emotional health.

In a recent article by the Sydney Morning Herald it states that nearly half of Australian school kids are highly stressed at school which is having negative impacts on academic performance and mental/ physical health. The ripple affect on young Australians and society is not to be underestimated. Stress often leads to higher drop out rates which then can lead to repeated inter-generational problems of low academic outcomes, unemployment, poverty and contribution to the community.

Yoga and mindfulness based programs have shown to be effective in the US and also more recently right here in Adelaide at Clapham Primary School. Have a read of the amazing results here:

Master the Mountain Programs in schools: Some amazing results

There are three areas of the brain which are effected by yoga, mindfulness, breathing and other techniques used in the master the mountain programs.

The prefrontal cortex

The prefrontal cortex is responsible for higher level executive functioning such as emotional regulation, planning, problem solving, learning, concentration/attention, creativity, self-observation, memory retrieval and appropriate social behaviour.

It’s thought that the prefrontal cortex isn’t developed completely until age 25.

The prefrontal cortex is stimulated and development is aided by: conscious breathing, mindfulness meditation, mindful exercise like yoga and eliciting positive feelings/gratitude. During these activities we are spending time connecting to our physical experience which leads to the nervous system being better attuned to the environment.

The Hippocampus

The hippocampus is largely related to the consolidation of information from short-term memory to long-term memory and the recall of information. During times of stress and other strong emotions, the hippocampus is not as available and therefore memory, recall and the consolidation of information is hindered.

The Amygdala

The amygdala is a primitive part of the brain, which releases stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol and helps us stay out of danger, which is important at the onset of fear or danger (aka stress response: Flight/fight/freeze response).​ This is an important response in the body and some stress is useful especially when we need to get out of danger.

The stress response becomes counter productive when there is prolonged stress over a long period of time. When we experience longer periods of low level stress (meaning sometimes we are unaware we are stressed) not only do we notice a range of symptoms such as inconsistent sleep, immune depression, weight gain/loss, digestive issues and irritability it can effect the way our brain works and how we think and behave. 

This is the same for children. When they are stressed, their amygdala is activated, which means their hippopotamus and prefrontal cortex are less available and learning is hindered. 

The short Master the Mountain activities used throughout the school day has been seen to help children and teachers remain in a learning state. They can truly gain the most out of their day and the rest of the curriculum as well as teaching them lifelong skills in how to calm down, focus and learn. 

Reference article link:

​https://www.smh.com.au/lifestyle/health-and-wellness/nearly-half-of-australian-school-kids-are-stressed-heres-how-to-fix-it-20180126-h0omvq.html

Master the Mountain Programs in schools: Some amazing results

Master the Mountain Programs in schools: Some amazing results

It is so exciting to be teaching Master the Mountain programs in schools. What’s even more amazing are the results we are noticing for children, siblings, teachers and parents in such short periods of time. Master the mountain is a unique in-school program which blends mindfulness, yoga, breathing, tapping, positive psychology, speech and language concepts and more. Everything I wished I learnt at school!

Clapham Primary School and Master the Mountain in Term 3, 2018

Clapham Primary School integrated Master the Mountain programs into every year level. The teachers were trained in the first 5 modules (as shown below), which we implemented into the classroom, for 2 weeks at a time, in term 3. The teachers used the activities in the classroom for 5-15 mins everyday and I taught 20 minute sessions every Friday. We also ran a successful parent information session because a lot of parents were reporting children were teaching them the activities at home.  The parents loved learning about the neurological, physical, emotional and metal benefits and left feeling wonderful themselves.

Linda Carofano, Program Director

Master the Mountain Modules include:

Module 1 – Focus and concentration
Module 2 – Understanding your mind
Module 3 – Relaxation and stillness
Module 4 – Emotional awareness
Module 5 – Anger Management

Not only do all the modules include everything i wish I was taught at school but all activities  are suitable for space constraints in classrooms, align with the curriculum, are physically safe, can be modified with guidance and take between 1-5 minutes. The teachers especially loved the detailed lesson plans with scripts so activities ran smoothly and effectively.

“A fantastic program that is easy to implement in a classroom setting. The exercises are broken into clear steps, with scripts and you get maximum benefit in short periods of time.”

Ben Hillier, Year 4/5 teacher at Clapham Primary School

The amazing results

I was overwhelmed with the positive feedback we received during and after the Term 3 service at Clapham Primary School. All the teachers noticed improvements in focus, listening and stillness, the ability to feel and process emotions and awareness of thoughts and actions. Student comments are heart melting!

“Yoga and mindfulness makes me feel calm and peaceful. I have even used it at home. One night when I couldn’t get to sleep, I put my hands on my belly and felt my belly move up and down with my breath. I felt more calm and went to sleep.” Poppy, year 5

“Yoga and mindfulness helps me relax and relieve stress. It helps me learn and concentrate during class.” Kyle, year 4

 

“It helps me to relax and reflect, which helps me get rid of any stress or worries. I can concentrate on my work better without getting distracted talking to people around me.” Starley, year 7

 

“It makes my mind calmer” Isobel, Reception

Jodie Kingham, Principal at Clapham Primary School

“Master the Mountain is a professional, supportive, engaging, and dynamic program that is designed to support all students and staff in their overall wellbeing. Since Master the Mountain has been implemented at Clapham Primary School its success in supporting students and staff has been clearly evident. Staff have noted students:

• increased concentration throughout the day,
• being able to independently self-regulate,
• accessing the tools and strategies taught to support them when feeling anxious or overwhelmed and can articulate how they are feeling to others (whereas previously they may not have),
• decision making has been more thoughtful and considered.

Staff have described how the modules provided are extremely helpful; in particular, the script is clear, succinct and assists them to confidently deliver the sessions. The support from Master the Mountain staff is outstanding. The varying activities/lessons are easy to deliver, are age appropriate, well timed, and can be administered in a classroom setting easily – there is no need to move to a special space. A wonderful strategy for life, teaching students that these can be used anytime and anywhere!

Students now have a common language and understanding of mindfulness and techniques to use to support them in their everyday lives. Many students have shared how they are teaching their families and using these strategies at home, or at sports, music lessons etc. Master the Mountain has enabled our school to be able to build lifelong skills and strategies within students to support them now and in the future.”

Jodie Kingham
Principal

Services and contact

Master the mountain services include: tailor made incursions taught by MTM staff, training teachers, parents and staff to deliver the programs, professional development sessions, information sessions for parents, yoga classes for teachers, retreat days and more. Contact us at hello@masterthemountain.net

Yoga meets speech and language therapy: what I learned from a small boy with a big smile

Yoga meets speech and language therapy: what I learned from a small boy with a big smile

Linda Carofano, Program Director

I meet a lot of amazing kids in my work. But you know you sometimes meet a child who finds their way into your heart at first sight? Well, Archer was one of them.

I first met Archer towards the end of 2015, when I was a speech therapist by day and a yoga teacher by night. At 3 years old, he just radiated warmth and love.

Archer’s tricky start

Archer was born with very low muscle tone, so he couldn’t feed properly and was prone to pneumonia and other respiratory diseases. He had eating issues and was prone to aspirating liquids, so he was being fed thickened fluids through a feeding tube.

Because Archer had spent a lot of his early years in hospital, his speech and language development was very limited. He was over three years old but he had severe language delays and was struggling to sit still and focus on anything.

Archer also had a very loving older sister, Mya, who attended a mainstream school nearby.

First things first, a personal approach to speech and language therapy

Archer and I embarked straight away on a personalised speech and language programme. We had weekly speech sessions, focusing on Archer’s pronunciation, his vocabulary and his ability to put words together: extending him past his comfort zone, gently and with humour. I regularly visited him at his childcare centre and kindy, training his SSO to implement some of the speech strategies we had been using.

The yoga connection

It wasn’t long before I noticed that Archer’s low muscle tone affected not only his physical abilities, but also his speech and language. I knew straight away that yoga would be helpful to him, and within a week he started coming to our weekly family yoga classes, along with his Mum and his older sister, Mya.

Soon enough Archer started to bring his yoga thinking to our speech sessions: he would often use yoga breathing, visualisations and mindfulness, meaning he was more able to sit and listen, and he had much more confidence. It was then I knew there had to be a special connection between yoga and speech and language therapy.

Archer and Mya get their flamingos on.

Yoga plus speech and language therapy: a two-way street

And of course speech and language therapy makes a difference on the yoga mat, too. I realised that I had always used speech techniques and language stimulation in my yoga class and this was part of the reason the kids in our classes (from 3 years old to thirteen) had always been so engaged, focused and committed to working hard.

Side stretch increases core strength and muscle tone.

Archer in 2017

As I write this, Archer is doing brilliantly. He’s a different child to the one I met in 2015.

He’s just started mainstream school (when I first met him, it was highly unlikely that this would happen): he now loves school, can listen to instructions and will happily sit at a table and focus on his work. His vocabulary has gone through the roof and he is acquiring all the right age-appropriate literacy skills: he can recognise and write several sounds,including his name. He hasn’t had one respiratory infection since he started yoga, and no hospitalisations either, despite having weathered two South Australian winters over this time. Now when I look at Archer I se a confident, happy, resilient little boy, willing to give things a go and simply loving life.

The future

Archer and I will continue with his fortnightly speech sessions for a term or so, to make sure he integrates well into his new school, and I will work with his teacher to ensure the environment is appropriately set up for his needs. I don’t think he’ll need me for much longer!

Lessons learned from a little boy

Archer really helped me see the relationship between children’s physical, emotional, speech and language development; and helped me understand how yoga can enhance all of it. He also helped me properly understand the powerful link between speech and language therapy and yoga, and the amazing things that can happen when you combine the two.

I’ve learned that the relationship between speech and yoga is a two-way street. Yoga delivers improved respiratory health, which is vital for speech. And in yoga, because you’re focused on the body while the mind is still, the speech and language therapy goes much deeper. I’m not just talking about killing two birds with one stone: I’m talking about the ripple effect you get when you combine two disciplines and create something ten times more powerful.

Archer has helped me believe in myself, and shone a light on the magic than can happen when you combine speech and language therapy with yoga. Above all, he’s taught me that perseverance and a positive attitude can get you anywhere.

Want to know more?

At Master the Mountain we are changing the lives of kids like Archer all over Australia. Contact us to learn more about the work that we’re doing.

Or subscribe to our newsletter to receive a free downloadable lesson plan, which combines specially designed yoga exercises with a powerful speech and language script.

Free yoga and mindfulness resources for children.

 

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