Sunday, 2 February 2014

Using yoga and mindfulness to improve student employability.

I like doing yoga. I don't do it nearly enough and when I do practise it I find it calms my mind, stretches out my tight limbs and lowers my stressed shoulders. So I was thrilled to find out I had won tickets to the Om Yoga Show last September.

The conference was a mix of practical sessions, suppliers selling their wares, and lectures. A lecture I found particularly interesting was led by an organisation called Teenyoga which, as its name suggests, was about yoga for teenagers. TeenYoga works with the Institute of Psychological Sciences at Leeds University to develop programmes for schools based on mindfulness and yoga. 

Teenagers, we were told, are increasingly stressed; they worry about money, death of loved ones, and body issues. The UK is no longer bottom of Unicef's list of developed countries for children's well-being but is still only 16th. Obesity levels have has doubled and alcohol levels among teenagers are high. Yoga can appeal as there is an emphasis on safety and it is seen as an easier form of exercise to take part in. Importantly, it isn't competitive. It also contains an element of risk which children need as part of growing up and testing boundaries.

Found on Flickrcc.net
I spent several years in Further Education libraries and even though I am now in Higher Education, students still seem to be dealing with the same issues of stress, anxiety and anger. At a few of the institutions I've worked in the Library has been deemed a 'safe place' for students to go even when they have no work to do, presumably because the Library is staffed, is generally warm, and students are treated fairly as the CILIP Ethics Principles states all users should be.

Librarians spend a lot of time teaching students how to be critical, how to analyse and how to search effectively. I'm not suggesting we all add yoga and mindfulness classes to our skill-sets too but I found it interesting to hear how taking part in them improved students decision-making skills, increased their self-esteem, and developed their emotional resilience. These skills and attributes are necessary in the workplace and employability is currently very high on the agenda in the education sector. If organisations like the Ministry of Defence can see the benefits of it for their staff then perhaps it's not the strangest idea.