Why Social-Emotional Learning (SEL)?

Kids used to learn social and emotional skills largely through play, conversation, and other live person-to-person interactions. Today, many children have far fewer opportunities and many more distractions.

And though computers, smartphones, and other devices let us be more connected than ever, research has shown that social and emotional learning comes short when our interactions are mediated by technology.

We also live in an increasingly non-reflective culture, often driven by reaction rather than intention. We become uncomfortable with our own thoughts and feelings, even unaware of what we are feeling.

Social-emotional learning (SEL) helps fill these gaps, focusing on five core competencies: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision making.

Recent research has shown that SEL interventions improve academic performance, as well as reduce behavioral problems and increase prosocial behaviors such as empathy and cooperation. These are two big reasons why school districts and even whole states have begun to include SEL within their educational mandates

SEL interventions may also reduce depression and improve self-esteem. And they can be especially helpful for children on the autism spectrum, helping them develop better social awareness, communication skills, and interpersonal skills.

SEL the Yoga Calm Way

The Yoga Calm curriculum includes more than two dozen activities specifically designed for nurturing social-emotional skills, yet SEL processes are easily worked in with the physical yoga poses, as well, providing a fully integrated learning experience. Our book Yoga Calm for Children offers many tips for doing so, and our courses offer even more in a dynamic sharing environment.

The end result is more than mere “grit” or resilience, more than attitude or leadership. The noncognitive competencies instilled and nurtured by Yoga Calm contribute to a real emotional intelligence, giving kids the tools and skills they need to thrive.

Here’s a small sample of the stories we regularly hear from teachers, counselors, and others after implementing Yoga Calm:

  • After a relaxation in which students listened to the Strong Voice inside each of them, a fourth-grade girl who struggles with anxiety states, “My strong voice told me that even if my mother never gets a good job, some day I will be old enough to get a good job and create a good life for myself.”
  • A boy whose mother is dying in hospice joins a Yoga Calm group. When it comes time for Volcano Breath and the kids are asked to think of someone or something they want to be strong for, he tells the group about his mom. There is silence, then a collective “oooh” from the children. They immediately say they all want to do Volcano Breath for his mom. They begin to breathe with great intention and display wonderful empathy through their movements.
  • A sixth grader asks to lead a sequence of poses, but before beginning he turns to a new classmate whose mother has recently died in a tragic accident. The leader looks the new student right in the eye and says, “I’m doing this for your mother.” The whole group grows silent in a moment of honoring. Their yoga is beautiful.

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