Episode 28 – Mindfulness & Physical Education

In this episode of The PE Geek podcast, we explore a collection of tools and resources that you can use to expose your students to Meditation and Mindfulness. In recent years, there has been incredible innovation in this area and a number of game-changing resources have arisen. These have been used in my classroom on a number of occasions with great success. I have also been using an incredibly powerful device to improve my own mental state that has been part of the secret to my increased productivity

Apps & Resources explored in this episode include

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00:28 Jarrod Robinson: Hello everyone and welcome to Episode 28 of the PE Geek Podcast. And as always, thanks for taking the time out of your day to tune in from wherever you are, and I certainly hope that you’re able to get something from this episode. In fact, I hope you do out of every episode, but this one is certainly gonna be interesting, because it’s wrapped around a topic that I don’t consider myself to be an expert in. I certainly consider myself knowledgeable in the use of technology and resources associated with that, but this particular topic I have experience in, but not necessarily an expert in it. I mean, so I’m gonna be giving you my perspective on using technology with this particular area in mind. And it’s more based around my own experiences of having my students use it, and also doing it myself.

01:21 JR: Now, over the last month we’ve had an enormous increase in the amount of people who are actually downloading and listening to the podcast. And that is really amazing, I mean there’s so many people that are starting to appear to actually be listening to the episodes, and that goes a long way to ensuring that we get as many people onboard as possible. Because as our downloads increase, our rankings increase in iTunes and other podcast networks, and it just means more people get a chance to see it, which is awesome, because the more people that are seeing it, the more conversations it starts and the more resources people get exposed to. And I think over and above everything else, it just means that there’s more people that are potentially learning from the things that are being shared. So, we’re really excited to dive into the next few episodes. Episode 30 is something very unique, in that we’re actually having a couple of guests coming on, sharing their successes related to technology in PE. And I look forward to sharing those people with you, but yeah, let’s dive into today’s content.

02:29 JR: Now, as I briefly alluded to in the introduction, today’s topic is going to be all about mindfulness and physical education. And I mean mindfulness in itself is becoming more and more popular. And basically it has a real strong connection with meditation, and those styles of activities, such as maybe yoga and et cetera. So, I don’t particularly assume or think of myself as an expert in mindfulness, but I do know of a number of resources that are tech based that I’ve used to help explore and showcase this to my students. Now, if you’re really unfamiliar with that word, basically mindfulness is all about training yourself to pay attention in a specific way. And when a person is mindful, they’re able to focus in that present moment. And not thinking about things that are happening in the future or in the past, and become more intentionally able to concentrate on what’s happening around them. And to be honest, this is really that sort of characteristic and stereotypical view of what meditation is in itself.

03:41 JR: And it’s actually a really, really, really powerful tool to be able to do effectively. And for many reasons, science backs this up, but it helps you to clear your mind, it helps you to focus on your surroundings, and your body, and your environment. Slow down your thoughts, and help you concentrate, and relax and deal with stresses and so on. So, it isn’t something that people can just do instantly, it is a skill like anything else and we do need to practice it, and do it over time to get the benefit of it. But through things such as meditation and yoga, these are actually able to become skills that we can see improving. And the reason that we’re gonna be talking about it today is that I have actually tried to implement some of these various tools into my senior classes and so forth. And the reason behind that is we actually look at it, in the senior classes for example, as a way to improve a person’s performance from a psychological perspective, but I also see value in actually using it to teach students about mindfulness and how to actually cope with living in a 21st century world.

04:50 JR: Very different to years gone by, and a lot of focus should be wrapped around trying to teach these skills to students as well. Now, I was really heartened last year to see Joey Feith at ThePhysicalEducator.com, who blogged about his elementary Wellness Month that he was implementing at his school. And this whole month was dedicated to actually focusing on various wellness processes and strategies and so forth, that his elementary aged kids were gonna be focusing on. And I thought that was amazing, and if you are interested in actually seeing more about that, then head over to his website at ThePhysicalEducator.com and you’ll find the blog post in there that’s related to Wellness Month. And it has the entire process of basically outlining how he was running this with his students. And the basic part is, he had hydration week, exercise, sleep. And one of the other things that was part of it was wellness. I mean, sorry, mindfulness.

05:56 JR: And he was using a couple of different tools to make this, and integrate this into his school. And I thought it was absolutely incredible, and from that point in time, it’s made me more conscious about trying to expose students to this. Prior to that activity, I had familiarised myself with a couple of the tools that we’re gonna be talking about, and used them personally, but yeah, definitely making them aware to my students. And making that something that we explored, so gonna dive into the couple of tools that I’ve been using to try and increase my mindfulness, and increase my skills in the area of meditation.

06:39 JR: Now one of the first tools I wanna share with people is something that I personally have been using and having lots of success with and it is called Muse, which is a brain sensing headband, and it’s an amazing example of bio feedback being used to actually improve your own brain and cognitive function. Now, if you’re interested in checking out where and how to purchase one of these, you can go to pegeek.com/muse, which is M-U-S-E, and basically what it is it’s a headband that you wear obviously, and it takes you through with the connected app, a series of exercises that are designed to actually improve your mental fitness, and the basic premise is that we train our bodies to improve our physical fitness. This is all about training our minds and getting some bio feedback around the things that we’re doing and thinking. So it actually motivates you to work towards improving your brain functioning or improving how you respond to stress, improving emotional states and so on.

07:48 JR: And basically all you need to do is connect it to your mobile device, open it up, and you can experience a series of three, five, seven minute workouts that are all about trying to improve your focus and mindfulness and so on. And basically the bottom line is that it actually senses whether your mind is actually becoming distracted. So if you’re working or reading a book for example, doing anything like that, distractions get in the way, and your mind starts to stray away from those things and sort of scientists have found that these indicators are what leads, or can lead to unhappiness. So what Muse does is it actually guides you through those particular moments by giving you audio cues through the headband, that basically help you become more attentive and focused. And the bottom line is that over a period of time, you can actually build these skills up, so that you can catch yourself before these… Before you become out of focus, which is really amazing.

09:03 JR: So, pretty game changing sort of technology. Put a headband on, go through like a meditation type routine that the app takes you through, and basically you are able to get these bio feedback results that are all about trying to make you smart, not smarter, but your brain function smarter. Pretty amazing stuff to be honest, and what it actually measures is the electrical energy in your brain, and it can use that to determine whether you are focused or out of focus and so on. So go and check it out. If you’re interested you can go to the pegeek.com/muse.

09:42 JR: Now I can imagine situations if you’re teaching sports psychology or anything along those lines, you could be using this with students. I mean, you can one device and you can have kids basically move around and share it, do a five-minute session, and explore how that actually works, to fulfil a lot of the other goals in your program. So amazing stuff, particularly like the fact that it’s gamified, so as you work towards your goal you actually get to see the improvements that you’re making, and all of those sorts of things. So highly recommend, and it’s probably a reason why I’m actually starting to feel a whole new level of focus and concentration related to everything that I’m doing in my teaching.

10:28 JR: Now the first experience I ever had with meditation was wrapped around the application, Get some Headspace. And I actually found and discovered this when I was doing some research for my senior PE class that were looking at meditation and its impact on sports performance. And as a result of it I found and had heard other people talk about Headspace as a really powerful app to actually teach people about meditation and mindfulness. And it got me sort of thinking that I could try this out first, and I did, and that was the first experience I had participating in the Take 10! Program. And the basic idea is that you use the app, connect yourself to the application via a set of headphones or just put your phone aside, and lie there or sit comfortably in a chair, and it takes you through these 10-minute meditation, or introduction to meditation workouts.

11:29 JR: And the basic premise is that it actually teaches you what you need to know to actually make this a skill that you can actually see some real benefits from. So lots of science behind it. The guy that’s actually created Headspace, not only does he have an amazing voice that’s perfect for meditation, but he’s really knowledgeable in the space. I could pretend to sit there and take my students through something like this, or I could expose them to the people who are the best in the world at this, and have them basically go through and teach me.

12:03 JR: The first time I ever used this with my students, it was a matter of me connecting it to a set of speakers, we all closed the blinds in the classroom and sort of used that as an opportunity to explore what it was that we were doing and talking about and we made it a regular activity for the period of time that we were focusing on sports psychology. So highly recommended, you can head to pegeek.com/headspace to actually download the app and start to make your way through the Take 10! Program. And if you complete the Take 10! Program, it actually gives you the ability to open up to hundreds of hours’ worth of meditations, ranging from 60 minutes right through to two-minute work… Quick meditation activities. So I highly recommend that.

12:53 JR: If you’re looking for another resource in the same sort of space, then you know I can’t go past recommending Smiling Mind, which is along the same vein. It’s a sort of gamified version of meditation whereby as you meditate, you actually award badges and so on, and you can track how many sessions you’ve done and minutes and so forth. And the thing that I really like about it is it actually breaks up the meditation into age ranges as well. So you’ve got the seven to 11 years old program, the 12 to 15 years program, the 16 to 22 years, the adults, and then you’ve got some sort of smaller bit… Sized programs. You basically pick them and then you work through the various activities that are inside each of those that are all about trying to teach you about your brain and its ability to meditate and become mindful and focus on the various things that you’re doing.

13:54 JR: So I’ve had some success with that, with myself looking to actually introduce that into a junior curriculum earlier, I mean, at some stage during this year and the basic premise is that it could be used at the end of a physical education practical sessions so that students have the ability to refocus and rejuvenate their minds after they’ve been highly wound up and energised in a practical physical activity settings. So looking forward to seeing how that would work out and then sort of blogging about that.

14:32 JR: Another app that I’m really fond of, and have mentioned a number of times, is Yoga Studio. Now, Yoga Studio is not necessarily directly tied to mindfulness, but it is along the same vein as relaxation. It goes hand in hand with meditation, and the Yoga Studio app is by far the best yoga app that I’ve come across. The movements are really flowing and high quality production of the actual actions from the instructor inside the app. Basically, this is the way in which I teach yoga and have taught yoga in a number of classes and it means that I don’t have to know anything about it. In fact, I don’t know anything about yoga but I get to teach it because I use Yoga Studio and the best part of it is that I actually get to join in with the students.

15:21 JR: So if you’re interested in checking out Yoga Studio and then maybe projecting it to a large screen and having that teach your students, then head along to the pegeek.com/yogastudio, and it will redirect you to the app store where you can download the app. Highly recommended, definitely go and check it out if you haven’t yet. Whether you use it in your class or not, there’s still potential for you to use it in your personal life, and those sort of gains can eventually find their way into the classroom as well.

15:52 JR: Now, while we’re on applications that I am fond of, there is an app that is great just for quick relaxation and it’s actually called Breathing Zone. And Breathing Zone, it’s quite simple, all it does is it actually forces you through a slow, controlled breathing regime. So you start the app and then you basically have to focus on what’s happening, listen to it, and actually respond. I’ll give you a quick demonstration of it so that you can hear exactly what you need to be doing.

16:25 Speaker 2: Breathe in… Breathe out… Breathe in… Breathe out…

16:37 JR: There it goes. So that’s just an example of it. I had classic strings turned on but you don’t need to have that, you can turn off the background. So it’s just like so.

16:49 S2: Breathe in… Breathe out.

16:51 JR: And you can actually customise the speed at which the breaths are occurring. So you can do it much slower, like so.

17:00 S2: Breathe out.

17:02 JR: And eventually the voice disappears and you actually end up in this really controlled breathing that is definitely shown and proven to actually be really effective in returning people’s concentration and focus and reducing stress levels and so on. So I’ve used Breathing Zone at the end of sessions before in highly sort of energised sessions where I know the very next session in a traditional classroom. And we had a couple of students that were just completely off the rail was after PE classes, and we actually use Breathing Zone with the whole group to return them back to that normal level of excitement and enthusiasm. That’s not always the way in which we dealt with it, but it was definitely one of the ways that we showcased it. Now, I’ve used Breathing Zone myself for that exact same reason after working late and long hours and you’re stuck on a computer screen. Using Breathing Zones sort of helps me focus and sort of switches me off before you might go to bed.

18:10 JR: And the final app I wanna share with you is one that is also very similar to sort of Choose Muse in a way, obviously, it does it all without headbands and so on. But it is actually a biofeedback tool. It’s one of the first biofeedback apps that I’ve ever seen and it is called Stress Doctor and it’s by the same people who have released a number of apps like heart rate apps and so forth and an app called Stress Check which is really impressive app on its own. And I definitely recommend going checking Stress Check II which is an amazing app by Azumio.

18:45 JR: But Stress Doctor is by them as well and what it does, is it actually allows you to put your finger over the camera lens, and it tracks your heart’s variance in terms of the beats and the distance between beats and so on. And it actually correlates that to a sort of stress level, and the whole premise is that you are taken through a breathing cycle which is all about reducing your overall stress and yeah, it’s actually quite cool. So, it’s an example of biofeedback being used to help shape our mindset and mindfulness. So, highly recommend it and if you’re interested in checking out, go to pegeek.com/stressdoctor.

19:26 JR: And that brings us to the end of Episode 28 which has been focusing on mindfulness and it’s role in PE, but I guess more precisely, it’s just more in education and in your personal life as well. And as I mentioned from the start, I’m certainly not an expert when it comes to mindfulness, but I know from a number of these resources which I’ve used and have been able to showcase these to my students. Some of them I use personally, others I have used with students and like anything, it’s a skill. If you practice it over and over, then you can get better at it and as the research would suggest, it is certainly something that we should look forward to and try and actually include into our daily lives and the lives of our students.

20:11 JR: Okay. That brings us to the end of Episode 28. So, I’ll see you next time in Episode 29. See you later.



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