Saturday, January 17, 2009

Stress Reduction in the classroom

In my past three posts I have discussed the use of core stability balls, staying active in the winter and using yoga to reduce stress. I would like to suggest a few more ways to use these techniques to benefit the students in your classes. These techniques have helped me a great deal to stay positive about my school work and to stay physically active.

By introducing students to the core stability ball in either the classroom or the gym students would be able to try something new and increase their physical activity levels. In the classroom it would more then likely be used as chairs. This will help overall posture, concentration, muscle tone, balance, and overall learning ability. When students are forced to sit in hard chairs that are sometimes attached to the desk, it limits their ability to move around, stretch and be active in a constructive way. There is sometimes a fear that giving students a ball to sit on may be dangerous (what if they fall off?) or that they will throw the balls at each other, but students will typically meet the expectations that the teacher has and the expectation is that the students will learn to sit on the ball and be respectful of classroom materials. I feel that students will enjoy using the ball and will find it a fun and easy chair to use. As a backup I would still have a few regular chairs in the classroom for students who prefer them or who can not behave responsibly with the stability balls.

Students can become depressed at any point in their lives and teachers should be aware of their student’s emotional and mental health so that they can step in and help when needed. Teachers can incorporate aspects of mental health into their teaching and find out how students are doing by building relationships and paying attention to patterns in student behavior. During the winter depression can be very serious and students should be encouraged to receive help when needed. Every student will benefit from fresh air and outdoor activity, so encouraging students to get outside even when it’s snowing and cold is important for their overall health. It is important to remember to dress appropriately and to listen to the body when it says that it is cold. Students often get home from school and do their homework, watch

TV, play video games or go online. They rarely go outside to sled, build an igloo or take a walk around their neighborhood. Walking in the snow is similar to walking on sand and is a great way to keep your muscles moving. Parents, teachers and other adults that interact with students can help students to enjoy the winter and stay active at the same time.

Yoga can be a lifelong skill that can help build muscle, increase flexibility, and increases mental focus and concentration. It can also help to relax the body and the mind to reduce stress. Students can be taught these techniques at any age and children really enjoy trying the different yoga positions. I have been teaching the children that I watch (I am a nanny for three children) yoga for the past three years and they really enjoy the physical activity and the concentration that it takes to hold the pose and balance. They have become quite good and look forward to doing it. The poses can be used in the classroom to help students expend their energy and refocus. Helping students to focus on their breathing, quiet their minds and focus on how their body feels can help them to relax and focus before a test or a quiet activity. This can also help students who are coming from lunch or PE and have a lot of unfocused energy. Yoga helps the body and mind come together and focus on what is at hand.

I have given resources and tips for three of the activities that I participate in and that help me manage my stress, there are many more and it is important to take time to find what helps you. Each person is unique and will find their own coping strategies and ways to manage and reduce their stress. Stress is a normal and healthy part of life, but when there are too many stressful events or feelings, it is important to take time to refocus and give the mind and body a break to relax.

I hope that each of you will take time to figure out what works for you and to look at some of the links below. Good luck in all you do, stay healthy and active, and keep learning!

Links to stress reduction techniques:

Tai-chi -

Learn Massage-

Receive massage-

Meditation at IC-

Friday, January 16, 2009


I have always been a big fan of Yoga, even though I am not the most flexible person in the world or even very good at doing the different poses, I enjoy the way my body feels after I do a few poses or a whole routine. I began doing yoga with my mom when I was a child and have continued to practice on my own. I always enjoyed getting into a difficult pose and then holding it for as long as I could. It stretched my muscles to new lengths and warmed up my entire body. I have a yoga mat that I roll out across my bedroom floor so that I can stretch out and then do some meditation to reduce my stress, wake myself up or to relax.

Unfortunately when stress levels increase due to my everyday life I often neglect my body and my mind. When I know that I am going to be in my room all day, I try to roll out my mat before I even get started. This helps me to remember that my body and mind need to take breaks from learning and working. I try to take short breaks so that I don’t get overwhelmed and exhausted.

There are many different types of yoga and many classes are available all over Ithaca. Ithaca College offers a variety of different classes at different difficulty levels and many classes are available around the community as well. To find more information on different types of yoga and availability of classes, check out the links at the bottom of the page. I have tried a few different classes through the Ithaca City Health Club and I tried Bikrim’s Yoga this last fall.
Many types of yoga include a mixture of breathing, meditation, and poses. Some classes repeat the same routine and some do a mixture of different types. I have tried a relaxation yoga class, an intermediate class and a Bikrim’s yoga class.

The relaxation class that I tried made me feel truly relaxed at the end. It took place in a dimly lit room that was very warm. Each participant had a stack of yoga blankets that they sat or lay on. The instructor led the class through each pose at a very slow pace and would walk around the room adjusting and guiding each person. The last ten minutes was a guided meditation that helped each of us to focus on breathing, thoughts and muscle relaxation. I recommend this type of yoga for periods of great stress. A guided relaxation period can benefit each of us greatly from time to time and remind us of the importance that our mind plays in our health.

Intermediate Yoga was a bit tough for me since I was still very much a beginner the first time that I took the class. I was able to attempt all of the poses and the teacher modified some of the more difficult poses to help the participants that were obviously struggling. I made it through the class and definitely worked out every muscle in my entire body. I felt rejuvenated and had a huge boost in confidence after making it through (there were a few points where I felt like I might just fall over). I only went once to the class but hope to have time and money to enroll in a class soon.

This last fall a friend of mine and I signed up for the trial at Bikram’s Yoga. The deal is that you can go to as many classes a day for ten days for ten dollars. Bikram’s Yoga is the process of performing 26 asana’s or poses in a specific order in a very hot room. You complete each asana twice and the whole process takes over an hour and allows you to do things you did not know you could do. The teachers instruct the class in a very strict and almost military way, pushing the participants to keep going, stretch farther, and hold the pose longer. I went a total of five times throughout the ten days and felt great after each class. Many of the members go twice a day and some go three times. The heat was very intense and even through I felt empowered and amazing at the end of each class, a membership can be very expensive and it takes a great time commitment.

Yoga can be done with people of all ages, I started as a child and it became part of my lifestyle. It can be taught in Physical Education Class as well as Health Education Class. This can help students to manage their stress, be physically active, and bring the components of a healthy body and mind together.

I recommend that you try different types of yoga and see which one works best for you and fits into your life. Share what you learn and try with other people in your life. Everyone can benefit from yoga no matter what their age or ability level. It has helped me to be more flexible, relaxed and to reduce my overall stress.

More information on Yoga:

Types of Yoga-
Ithaca College Yoga-
Bikram’s Yoga in Ithaca-
Create your own routine-
Sunrise Yoga Studio-
AHIMSA Yoga Studio-

These are just a few, look up “yoga classes in Ithaca NY” to find more

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Staying positive in the winter

Anyone who has spent a winter in upstate New York knows how cold and long it can seem. Between the overcast sky and the shortened days, winter can be a dark and depressing time. Many people suffer from seasonal depression and others just feel unmotivated and lonely. It is all too easy to fall into a depression in the winter time and I for one suffered horribly from this each year throughout my teens and into my early adult years. Each winter I found it all but impossible to get out of bed, to get dressed in warm clothes and to tackle the activities of the day. I felt miserable and neglected my physical, mental and social health. I would get into a pattern of neglect that was very difficult to break out of. I would gain weight, stop seeing my friends, sleep all the time and my grades would drop in school. Then about three years ago I made a plan.

The night that it happened was beautiful but bitterly cold. I was sitting on my friend’s porch watching the clear night sky. The moon was full and bright. We had been discussing all the negative aspects of Ithaca weather and the winter in general when I realized that I did this same thing every winter. “What was the point of complaining?” I wondered. I have lived in Ithaca my whole life and love the community and the town. I have no plans on moving south and if I do move it will not be out of New York, so I decided right then and there that I was going to change my attitude about the winter. I declared to my friend that I was going to start enjoying the season and all the activities that take place in Ithaca during this cold and cloudy time.

That winter I built a complete snow family and a snow fort that fit four. I had many snowball fights, I took pictures in the woods behind my parent’s house, I went for walks with my parent’s dog, and the list goes on and on. The point is that I stayed active, I had fun and I looked forward to each day. I got involved in community events, stayed warm and kept my social life going even though it was cold. I have kept up these activities each winter and have not been depressed since.

This worked for me, but some people suffer from seasonal affective disorder or SAD. This is more serious and I recommend that you check out the link at the bottom of the page for more information on this disorder.

I recommend that each of you take a look at your winter attitudes and behaviors and if you feel that you are in a funk, change your behaviors, have fun and invite your friends to tag along. I am always up for a winter walk in the woods or a day of sledding, so let me know if you are interested in coming along with me. The more you get outside the more you see the beauty of this cold season.

Before you go out to play in the snow remember some winter safety tips.

  1. Check the weather if you will be going for a long walk.
  2. Wear layers that let your skin breath and that keep you warm but not overheated. Wear a hat, scarf, gloves, and boots. This will help keep you warm and protect your extremities form frost bite.
  3. Follow signs that are posted on hills and trails. They are there because the area is not safe. Many people are injured or killed each year due to dangerous trails. If you are caught breaking the posted rules the ticket can be as much as $200! Don’t risk hurting yourself or your wallet.
  4. Take breaks from your play to get something to eat and drink and to warm your fingers and toes.
  5. Have fun and enjoy the winter time!

Winter Activities in Ithaca:

Greek Peak

Cass Park{DDB45CEB-0216-4E27-9C95-6F61B2C2F196}

The Rink


More information:

Seasonal Affective Disorder

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

No more pain and stress

As a student I spend many hours each day sitting at my computer. Even though I am conscious of my posture and the way that I am sitting, I have still developed chronic back pain and circulation problems. Sitting for these extended periods of time causes me to stiffen and be uncomfortable, which in turn creates problems with concentration and causes distractions. Being in pain creates a stressful work environment that does not allow for optimal learning. I have heard about the benefits of exercise on the brain and have personally found that I concentrate best if I take frequent breaks to walk or stretch in order to get my blood flowing and my muscles moving. I have tried a variety of chairs and cushions over the years but they all resulted in the same problems.

Before I moved to Rochester to begin the second half of my student teaching, I completed my final shopping spree at Wegmans. As I strolled through the aisles I spotted the perfect solution to my problem; a core stability ball. I had used the ball before when I was at the gym and I knew a few people who used them regularly. I realized that by purchasing a core stability ball, I would have better posture while using my computer, increase blood flow to my legs, and be able to move and exercise while working. I purchased the ball and gave away my old desk chair. Over the next 9 weeks I used the ball every day. I was spending 5-8 hours a day at my computer and it would have been excruciating if I had not made that spontaneous purchase. Since making the switch, I have had no back pain, I lost weight and gained muscle tone, and I was able to reduce my stress level at the same time. I have also increased the blood circulation to my legs by moving and stretching while sitting at my computer.

As I type this, I am bouncing, swiveling, rocking, and balancing. I have fun while working at my computer and I took the pain and dread out of the equation. I would recommend a core stability ball to anyone who spends time sitting for long periods of time, or who wants to take the stress and pain out of studying. They can be purchased from a variety of companies and stores, both online and around the community. The $25 that I spent has been well worth the relaxed and fun experience of using the ball.

Here are a few other tips for decreasing stress on the body while working at a computer.

1. Purchase ergonomic keyboards, wrist guards and mouse pads.
2. Take short breaks every 20-30 minutes.
3. Stretch and move your arms and legs while working to keep blood flowing to the hands and feet.
4. Drink plenty of water and eat healthy snacks such as vegetables and fruits.
5. Listen to music that helps you relax, focus and that encourages movement.

For more information visit: