Researchers study how mindfulness meditation affects students

BALTIMORE - Researchers are studying the effects of mindfulness in the classroom.

The practice was once synonymous with yoga studios. These days, even major corporations offer the training to employees. Mindfulness practices involve focusing on the present and on breathing.

Researchers at Johns Hopkins University are studying the effects of mindfulness training on students in urban elementary schools.

Before students at Baltimore City public schools start reading and writing, they begin the day with reflection by participating in a daily two-minute-long mindfulness exercise.

"A lot of these students are coming into school in a state of fight or flight," Dr. Tamar Mendelson, with Johns Hopkins University, said.

Mendelson analyzed mindfulness instruction in Baltimore public schools as elementary students were trained on breathing techniques and yoga poses for 45 minutes four times a week for 12 weeks. Before and after the program, students were surveyed about how they reacted to stress.

The survey suggested that the children had less rumination and fewer intrusive thoughts after the training. The school offers a mindful moments room where a certified instructor leads students through exercises if they seem stressed in the classroom.

Baltimore is not the only place with mindfulness in the classroom. More than 300 schools will have their students practice mindfulness in a study to improve youth mental health.

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