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Do astronauts use yoga exercises to train for missions? That’s the question I asked myself as I was lesson planning for an upcoming unit on Flight and Space for my classes. Immediately, I found a large amount of information and determined that, yes, yoga is definitely used by astronauts and recommended by doctors to counteract the effects of low gravity and space-sickness.
With this answer I realized not only could I effectively learn and teach simple yoga to my middle school students and have them take it seriously, but I could also create resources for the upcoming TMG Train Like A Martian Challenge. This event is happening worldwide with classrooms and school participating along with people of all ages around the world.
3 Yoga Exercises that Would Work With Students
I interviewed our yearbook advisor, who is currently taking night classes to become certified in yoga instruction. She showed me some exercises that would work with students, including three key areas: breathing, twisting, and balancing.
- For breathing, we used Ujayi (inhale) and Pranayama (exhale). It is important that students understand that astronauts are under a tremendous amount of physical and mental pressure and that breathing is something that should be given a lot of attention. That is where our class lesson on Train Like a Martian starts.
- Next, we attempted to twist our bodies in order to release toxins and expand our breathing abilities. Depending on the group of students, this can be done sitting or standing. Since my classroom is a cramped computer lab, we opted for the sitting version.
- Finally, we ended with balancing practice. I demonstrated the tree pose first, using my drishti (concentrated intention), and then had every other student stand, while their partner observed. Then we switched. This way students could see each other’s pose and provide positive reinforcement.
Students were very curious at first, but quickly came to realize how important it is to slow down and focus on one thing at a time. This focus is critical for astronauts as they train. There is no room for error and being able to breathe, twist, and balance are important aspects of what they need in order to have a successful mission.
I encourage teachers to try the breathing, twisting, and balancing exercises with their students. It makes for a great warm-up for the start of class and I will continue to use it even after our unit on Flight and Space.
Video Demonstration of Yoga In The Classroom
See the video below in which I demonstrates breathing, twisting, and balancing. It was my very first attempt at doing yoga and I offer you, my fellow classroom teachers, the opportunity to try for yourself these three exercises that are helpful for astronaut training as well as an easy physical activity for your students. If I can do it, so can you!
Yoga Basics: For Classroom Teachers
For more information on how yoga benefits astronauts and assist in your Train Like a Martian activities, please visit the following resources:
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Jeff Herold is in his 16th year of teaching. He has taught everything from Kindergarten through 12th grade and community college. Currently, he teaches S.T.E.M. to 7th and 8th graders at Hillcrest Middle School in Glendale, Arizona. While not volunteering at local elementary schools at their science nights, he enjoys paragliding, attending professional development, and spending time with his family. His favorite student is his 5th grade son, Skyler. Jeff is the 2015 Arizona Air Force Association Teacher of the Year and 2015 Arizona Challenger Space Center Educator of the Year. Jeff is a member of The Mars Generation Student Space Ambassador Planning Committee and the Train Like a Martian Planning Committee. You can follow his S.T.E.M. adventures on Twitter @STEMJeff.