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Math, reading, recess, and now breathwork. Starting this fall, mindful breathing exercises will be integrated into the daily routines of more than a million students in New York City’s public schools.

Mayor Eric Adams and David Banks, the city’s chancellor of education, announced the new initiative on June 27. It will require teachers to lead students at all grade levels—from kindergartens to high schoolers—through two to five minutes of breathwork each day. Anyone who prefers not to take a few slow breaths can opt out of the practice.

The Power of the Breath

As most casual and dedicated yoga practitioner know from experience, the simple act of taking a deep breath can revamp your entire day. It’s a sentiment Adams recognizes as well. “Breathing calms your nervous system,” he said in the announcement. “It helps to center us and help us regain our sense of balance and focus. It’s a valuable, low-cost tool that has proven to improve mental health and well-being.”

Slow breathing exercises can reduce stress, promote relaxation, and help you focus. These are critical benefits to the student population. A 2021 survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 42 percent on students felt sad or hopeless and 29 percent of students had poor mental health. By integrating stress-relieving techniques into the classroom, students have the opportunity to be able to learn the tools to self-regulate their emotions, minds, and bodies.

And the initiative comes at little cost to the school day. “We’re not talking about hours,” he said. “Two to five minutes is a game changer.”

In past years, many school districts elsewhere in the country have integrated yoga into the school day. Mindful breathing may be next.

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