Energy, Emotion and Activity:
Creating an Optimal Learning Environment
Classroom energy levels can vary greatly depending on the time of day, subject, activity, school events and even the teacher’s mood. But energy levels are incredibly important for retaining information. So, how can mindfulness help you to create the right kind of energy in your classroom?
The yoga-lovers among you may be aware of the three Gunas. A key concept in many Hindu philosophies, Gunas are the three stands or qualities that make us who we are. They are:
• Rajas – Passion, action and confusion
• Sattva – Goodness, construction and harmony
• Tamas – Darkness, destruction and
But what has this got to do with classroom energy?
The three gunas can also be seen in different levels of energy; rajasic, sattvic and tamasic. Whilst rajasic and tamasic energies have their place, to maximise learning retention, sattvic energy is what we need to aim for.
The Three Energy Levels
Whilst rajasic energy is high-energy, i.e. when we feel excited and fired-up, it is hard to control our minds in this state. Rajasic energy can also be frantic or angry. It can make us feel like our mind is all over the place, jumping from one idea to another, with little consideration or thought-process behind it. Imagine an excitable puppy running around causing chaos – this is your mind when you are running on rajasic energy.
Feeling sluggish, anxious and withdrawn? No doubt you are in a tamasic mind-set. Whilst we can feel content in a tamasic state, for example, after a satisfying meal or when we’re cozy in bed, it can also make us feel slow and lazy. Do you have pupils who are often ‘away with the fairies’? Chances are they are in a tamasic energy state. This is your puppy mind in sleepy whining mode.
In between the rajasic and tamasic energy levels, is sattvic energy. This is when we feel calm, mindful and ‘in the moment’. This is the best energy state to learn in as our concentration and retention levels are at their highest. To have a productive classroom this is the energy level to aim for. In this state, your puppy mind is well-trained, observant and under control.
Modern life often influences us to be in a rajasic state. In the graph below we can see that a typical teacher’s day can be mostly spent at a rajasic or tamasic energy level, with only the small amount of time taken for yourself at a sattvic energy level. But if we are consistently in a rajasic energy state in the classroom, how can we expect pupils to be in a sattvic one? By becoming more mindful, and adding mindfulness to our daily routine, we can become more sattvic ourselves, which will in turn influence our pupils too.
Classroom Energy Levels and Mindfulness
Getting from a tamasic to a sattvic energy level is difficult, it’s much easier to get to sattvic level from rajasic. So, to avoid a slump after lunch, why not try a five-minute high-energy activity followed by a five-minute mindfulness exercise. This should help the majority of pupils be in a great state of mind for afternoon lessons.
Struggling to get to a sattvic energy level yourself? Try these great tips for adding a mindful energy boost to your day from Huffington Post:
1. Meditate When You Wake Up
Meditation – staying present with emotions, thoughts, and body sensations without passing judgment or reacting – is a way to increase energy and reduce stress. There have been countless studies at the UCLA Mindfulness Centre about the value of meditation to health and wellness.
2. Drink Green Drinks
A green drink can boost your energy 10 times more than caffeine. They also contain minerals which are vital to health and survival.
Stretching reduces stress and clears your mind. Do some stretching with your pupils in the classroom for a quick energy boost during the day. When you’re stuck in an afternoon slump or waking up, try an invigorating Sun Salutation, it could be exactly what your body needs to fight fatigue.
4. Take a Break from Electronics
Humans are connected on an electronic grid that pretty much controls the way we think, feel and respond. Step away from electronics at night and take quiet time to embrace your inner life and surroundings. Enjoy nature, speak face to face with a friend, and don’t look at your phone when dining or conversing. In 2015, a Swedish study found that young people who used technology heavily had a pronounced risk for mental health problems like depression, stress, and sleep disorders.
Becoming more conscious of classroom energy levels and trying to maintain a sattvic level is a great way to start adding mindfulness to the school day. In part two of our mindfulness series, out next week, we’ll be looking more closely at ways to integrate mindfulness into your classroom on a deeper level, and at some of the statistics that show that mindfulness can aid learning and improve behaviour.
Do you practice mindfulness in your classroom? You can share your favourite ideas and activities in the comments section below.
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