Mayor Adams, who has been outspoken about the power of mindfulness, announced Tuesday he will roll out mandatory “mindful breathing” be offered to all students at NYC public schools.
All grades will participate in 2 to 5 minutes of breath exercises during morning homeroom and advisory periods, gym classes, and various times of day, he and Schools Chancellor David Banks said.
At least one teacher in each of the city’s 1,600 public schools will need to be trained, according to education officials. Roughly 2,500 teachers have been trained since March.
“Instead of having bullets, we will have breath,” Adams said at a news conference at P.S. 5 Ronald McNair in Bedford-Stuyvesant, among the hundreds of schools already offering the exercises.
“Instead of having violence, we will have balance. We must deal with the stress that our scholars are dealing with every day. Ignoring it is not going to solve it, and we are willing to solve it.”
All schools will be required to offer the program, though students will have the option of participating or not.
This spring, Adams insisted that city school kids desperately need “some form of spirituality” to cope with the environment they’re growing up in. After coming under fire for comments that guns came into schools once prayers were taken out, he clarified that his support was for “ways of going inward,” including meditation and breathing practices.
“Breathing calms your nervous system,” Adams said Tuesday. “It helps to center us and help us regain our sense of balance and focus. It’s a valuable, low-cost tool that is proven to improve mental health and wellbeing.”
During Tuesday’s announcement, Three elementary school students led their classmates and reporters in the “ocean-sounding” breath in through the nose and out with a whisper. Participants were encouraged to think positive thoughts and of “the things that make you happy” during an instrumental piano track.
Staff participate in professional development through the pre-existing Yoga and Mindfullness Teacher Preparation Program, which according to its website graduated its first cohort of 30 “mindfulness instructors” in 2019 funded by Adams when he was Brooklyn borough president.
The training is a five-part virtual series with each session lasting two hours and teaching multiple distinct exercises. It was not an additional cost, according to a spokesperson for the public schools.
Banks said the format of the breathing practices could vary from school to school.
“We don’t want it to get in the way,” the chancellor said. “We don’t want this to be oh yet another mandate.”
“Let’s go after the low-hanging fruits also,” he said.