Including the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) Commissioner Dr. Ashwin Vasan today announced that all New York City public schools — from pre-kindergarten through grade 12 — will soon be required to facilitate two-to-five minutes of mindful breathing practices in schools every day. Today’s announcement aims to increase physical and mental health, enhance social-emotional learning, and improve New York City public schools’ culture. As part of this initiative, the city has already begun a rollout of a citywide professional development program for educators in mindful breathing practices.
Yoga and mindfulness integration into school communities addresses and supports significant social and emotional needs of the youngest New Yorkers. Studies show that mindful breathing practices support students’ ability to feel secure and receptive while learning — leaving positive impacts from the integration of these practices into the school experience.
“We live in a time of toxic social media communities, constant news flashes, and unfiltered alerts, all leaving a toll on the mental health of our students. But, today, it is time for our students to calm their nervous systems down,” said Mayor Adams. “Mindful breathing can be done by anyone, anywhere, and anytime. We are proud to announce another promise delivered on from our State of the City speech earlier this year that will soon engage all students in mindful breathing practices. Mindful breathing is another way we are teaching our young people healthy habits that will last a lifetime.”
“The mental wellbeing of our students is a top priority for New York City public schools. These are the future leaders of tomorrow, and it’s important that our young people have a robust tool belt of practices to guide them inside and outside the classroom,” said DOE Chancellor Banks. “I’m thrilled that we’re enabling our educators to support our kids in this way, and I look forward to continuing to partner with our school leaders and partners across the city in furthering this essential work.”
“We all have a responsibility to support the well-being of young people,” said DOHMH Commissioner Dr. Vasan. “Incorporating mindfulness into the school day — where they spend the majority of their time — will benefit our young people in their daily lives and for the future, teaching them healthy coping skills which will help them navigate the unpredictable journey of life. I’m proud to work with an administration dedicated to supporting mental health and wellbeing, especially of our children, and commend New York City public schools on this initiative.” “Our school communities are looking for the tools to help our children navigate a world where information and misinformation come at them 24/7, ” said Michael Mulgrew, president, United Federation of Teachers. “By expanding our mental health initiatives to include mindful breathing practices, we are helping our students feel safe, focused, and open to learning. We are pleased to help provide our educators with this ongoing professional learning.”
“The guiding priority of school leaders is to ensure the well-being of their school communities, and the impacts of the pandemic have understandably led to an even greater focus on the mental and emotional health of students and staff,” said Henry Rubio, president, Council of School Supervisors and Administrators. “We commend Mayor Adams and his administration for highlighting the benefits of mindfulness and providing an opportunity for all students to participate in mindful breathing practices next school year. The city’s investment in professional development programs aimed at healthier habits can provide lifelong value for our children, and we look forward to collaborating on the implementation of this initiative.”
Today’s announcement follows through on another commitment Mayor Adams made in his State of the City address earlier this year, in an effort to ensure that young people have access to the tools they need to develop habits for good mental health and overall wellness throughout their lives.
The DOE’s Yoga & Mindfulness Teacher Preparation Program is the first Yoga Alliance-approved yoga and mindfulness program in a public school system nationwide. Yoga Alliance is the nation’s largest nonprofit association representing the yoga community. The Yoga & Mindfulness Teacher Preparation Program is building the capacity of school staff to integrate yoga and mindfulness into DOE public schools to engage students, teachers, and staff.
In March 2023, in partnership with the Yoga & Mindfulness Teacher Preparation Program, DOE began to roll out a professional development program to train educators and other school staff in the implementation of mindfulness breathing practices and tools that can be used in the classroom to support the social and emotional needs of students and the wellness of their entire school community. The professional development sessions are virtual and available to all staff. Educators also have access to online resources to aid in facilitating these practices. In order to ensure schools are free to implement this work in the ways that best suit their school community, school leaders will be empowered to implement this initiative in individualized ways, but all New York City public schools will soon be required to offer all students mindful breathing practices in school every day.
In December 2019, then Brooklyn Borough President Adams’ Office funded the first cohort of 30 DOE employees to graduate and become certified as yoga and mindfulness instructors as part of the Yoga & Mindfulness Teacher Preparation Program.
“Our youth need a sense of security in their everyday lives. With the use of mindful practices in classrooms and school communities, students are able to have social and emotional support where they need it most,” said New York State Assemblymember Alicia L. Hyndman. “It is in times of distress that our youth looks to educators for guidance, and Mayor Adams’ mindfulness program is the step in the right direction to provide mental health support.”
“Mayor Adams, Chancellor Banks, and Commissioner Vasan understand that education requires a whole child approach: students’ mental wellbeing is as important to the learning process as the lesson plan or textbook,” said New York State Assemblymember Jenifer Rajkumar. “Mindful breathing practices can reduce depression, stress, and physical pain, while improving the immune system and cognitive ability. Teaching these practices to our children will lay the foundation for them to excel in school and in life. The DOE’s Yoga & Mindfulness Teacher Preparation Program is a powerful tool in Mayor Adams’ arsenal to fulfill his plan for our students to experience better health, emotional maturity, and supportive school cultures.”
“I applaud this administration’s decision to implement the millenniums-old techniques of yoga and mindful breathing,” said New York City Councilmember Rita Joseph. “This is a great step in the direction toward ensuring that our city’s young people are healthy both physically and mentally.”
“Mental health and self-care are as important for students as they are for adults,” said New York City Councilmember Marjorie Velázquez. “By investing in programs like yoga, we are teaching students the art of mindfulness and meditation, widely accepted practices aiding mental, physical, and emotional well-being. These steps to modernize fitness education programs will go a long way in helping increase academic productivity and mental stimulation for our children. I look forward to seeing this program implemented in my district and the city.”