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The Holistic Life Foundation has created, developed, and piloted a twenty-four (24) week mindfulness curriculum, based on the structure of their successful after school program. The curriculum empowers students with tools and skills for peaceful conflict resolution, improved focus and concentration, greater control and awareness of thoughts and emotions, improved self-regulation, as well as stress reduction and relaxation. The curriculum is based on yoga, meditation, breathing, tai-chi, centering, and other mindfulness techniques. The curriculum consists of two (2) sessions per week each lasting forty-five (45) minutes and taking place during resource periods. Sessions start with a brief centering exercise, then yoga and tai-chi exercises, followed by breathing, then a discussion on a selected topic, and ending with a meditation. Participants are given assignments between sessions to reinforce lessons. A majority of the sessions are taught with the use of yoga mats, but several sessions are taught from the chair to demonstrate practical methods of applying techniques learned while in the class room setting.
The Holistic Life Foundation has partnered with The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and The Prevention Research Center at Pennsylvania State University to facilitate a randomized control study on the curriculum in four Baltimore City Public Schools. This was also the first ever randomized controlled trial of a school-based mindfulness and yoga intervention for urban youth. Preliminary results a have been obtained and a scientific paper was published in the October 2010 edition of the Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology. The curriculum is currently being studied, with the same partners, as a part of a larger, three year, federally funded trial in six Public Elementary/Middle Schools in Baltimore City.
Findings from the study showed that students participating had a positive impact on problematic responses to stress including rumination, intrusive thoughts, and emotional arousal. Participants also showed a reduction in involuntary stress reactions, which leads to improved social, emotional, and behavioral development.
“The program has helped me because now I know different routines and exercises that I can do at home that helps me lower and reduce my stress. So whenever I get stressed out I can just do a pose and sometimes I can show my mother and my family.”
–4th grade girl
“Most important thing I learned in the program is that it’s all different ways to deal with your stress like instead of like fighting and stuff.”
–5th grade boy
“It helps you relieve stress when you really feel stressed out or you’re really mad and focus on what’s inside of you and just make sure that you stay calm.”
–5th grade girl