Mindful Breathing is on the Curriculum for New York City Schools

The exercises are part of a plan to increase students' mental and physical wellbeing.

Sep 13, 2023
Mindful Breathing is on the Curriculum for New York City Schools | The exercises are part of a plan to increase students' mental and physical wellbeing.

The school year just opened on September 7 for New York City students but there is something new on the curriculum; mindful breathing. This is part of a plan to improve the mental and physical health of students by putting mindfulness into the school day.

The teachers began training on how to incorporate mindful breathing into the school day over the summer break, according to the New York City government website. The city’s department of education teamed up with the Yoga Alliance to create the yoga and mindfulness program.

The new mindfulness curriculum
The mindful breathing practices will be rolled out soon for all students from pre-k through 12th-grade and will consist of two-to-five-minute daily sessions. At least one staff member per school will be trained to lead the breathing exercises.

The program was trialed in the spring of 2023 in Public School 5 in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood in Brooklyn, reported CBS News. Third grade student Noah, Cach and Shawn believe that the program is working. “When I get into problems, I take a breath so nothing can happen to me,” Shawn told CBS.

Eric Adams, NYC’s mayor and David Banks, the school chancellor said that this is just the first step in creating more mindful schools that will include gardens, peaceful rest spots, and yoga. “There's nothing more important that we can teach our kids than mindfulness,” Banks said.

Why deep breathing exercises?
The nation’s largest school district is starting with deep breathing because of health benefits that include helping to lower blood pressure and cortisol – the stress hormone – levels. This will help the students calm down and focus on their work.

“Besides quieting the mind, it makes the person get more in touch with their feelings. The caveat, therefore, would be some kids will get more in touch with some painful subjects – things are happening at home, making them sad, will get in touch with some feelings that will need follow up," psychiatrist Dr. Carole Lieberman said.

While Eastern cultures have used deep breathing exercises for thousands of years, this is something that hasn’t been taught in the Western world, Adams told the NYT. “There’s a science to breathing,” he said.

While critics of the program say that it doesn’t go far enough to address the mental health crisis that worsened during the pandemic, reported NYT, the mayor said it is a low-cost way to help improve students’ wellbeing. A program to provide virtual mental health support for highschoolers is being planned but no details have been released.

“I get asked a lot of questions about, ‘What are you doing? Kids are going through a lot. What are your mental health programs?’” Banks said. “There’s nothing more important that we could teach our kids than mindfulness [and]deliberative breathing.”

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Bonnie has dedicated her life to promoting social justice. She loves to write about empowering women, helping children, educational innovations, and advocating for the environment & sustainability.