Guided Meditation in PE Classes

In a variation of the typical gym class, VHS has implemented a new program of mindfulness and awareness. The guided meditation is an exercise where students lie down on mats in the gym and listen to an audio recording of a speaker attempting to soothe the students and bring them into a state a quiet contemplation. The goal of the exercise is to reduce stress and calm the busy students’ minds.

Meditation itself has been scientifically proven to improve mental health. A study performed by UCLA has shown that long term meditation can lead to lead to larger regions of grey matter, or neural tissue, in the brain and strengthen the connections between parts of the brain. Mindfulness exercises have also been linked to lowered levels of depression, anxiety, and a better stress tolerance. Clearly meditation has a positive influence and implementation of the practice into school systems may benefit students who struggle with their mental health.

The head of the program, gym teacher and crossfit coach Nicole Shanley, has this to say about the program:

“I think a lot of people underestimate the importance of recovery on both the body and mind. There was an interesting study I saw about the impact of mental health on physical performance. It talked about how much mental stress affects your body and that’s when I made the connection that this aspect of health should be addressed in gym. To be a well-rounded athlete, human or student we need to provide different options for students to combat stress, anxiety and mental health. One school turned detention into guided relaxation and the impact it had was very positive. I think it should be a tool we give to every student. My goal in PE is to provide students with positive experiences that they can take with them and use for the rest of their life. PE should provide an environment where all students leave feeling and being better which in turn can affect all aspects of their life.”

Additionally students were asked how they thought the guided relaxation influenced their mental health.

Sophomore Brittney Allteni said “guided relaxation positively affects my mental health because sometimes students just need a break in the school day to truly let go and relax. Although students have the lunch period, many are running around talking to teachers or making up work therefore, not truly receiving a break. After guided relaxation, I have a better attitude in school and overall feel more relaxed and awake.”

“It was calming but I could see some other students weren’t feeling it because they were fidgeting around,” said junior Alena Gabbe.

One senior who wanted to remain anonymous said “I don’t think that it helps my mental health. I do believe that it is relaxing for a lot of people but I don’t find the recordings calming like a lot of other people. Sometimes I feel like I’ll fall asleep. While I’ve heard other people say it makes them feel more energetic, I always feel lethargic and tired.”

The effects of guided relaxation seem to vary depending on the individual. While meditation itself can improve one’s overall well being, people must first be open to the experience. For the students who did open themselves up to the experience, clear results were seen. Students expressed a state of calmness and sharpness following the relaxation. Hopefully, future implementation of the program can bring students at VHS a sense of calmness and peace of mind.