Usage of breathing, physical and relaxing exercises as daily tools for working with motivation and focus during schooling

 
Usage of breathing, physical and relaxing exercises as daily tools for working with motivation and focus during schooling
MASARYKOVA UNIVERZITA V BRNĚ

                               PEDAGOGICKÁ FAKULTA

                            Katedra anglického jazyka a literatury

  Usage of breathing, physical and relaxing exercises as
   daily tools for working with motivation and focus
                    during schooling

                                     Bakalářská práce

                                          Brno 2014

Vedoucí bakalářské práce:                             Vypracoval:

PhDr. Alena Dobrovolná                                Martin Winkler

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Usage of breathing, physical and relaxing exercises as daily tools for working with motivation and focus during schooling
Prohlášení

Prohlašuji, že jsem svou bakalářskou práci zpracoval samostatně a užil pouze citované literární
prameny, materiály a zdroje. Souhlasím, aby byla tato práce uložena na Masarykově univerzitě v
knihovně Pedagogické fakulty a byla tak přístupná ke studijním účelům.

V Brně dne 4. dubna 2014
                                                    …....................................................
                                                                 Martin Winkler

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Usage of breathing, physical and relaxing exercises as daily tools for working with motivation and focus during schooling
Bibliografický záznam

WINKLER, MARTIN. Usage of breathing, physical and relaxing exercises as daily tools for
working with motivation and focus during schooling : bakalářská práce. Brno : Masarykova
univerzita, Fakulta pedagogická, Katedra anglického jazyka a literatury; Vedoucí diplomové práce
PhDr. Alena Dobrovolná

Acknowledgements

  I would like to express sincere gratitude to my supervisor PhDr. Alena Dobrovolná for her
valuable advice, help and enthusiasm. Furthermore I would like to thank Mgr. Miroslava Vychytová
and other teachers for the most valuable help with the research and the practical part, Bc. Juliana
Tomková for her assistance with the photo documentation and overall support and, above all, all the
deities, Kami and gods that are making all that exists possible.

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Usage of breathing, physical and relaxing exercises as daily tools for working with motivation and focus during schooling
Anotace

  Bakalářská práce 'Využití dechových, fyzických a relaxačních technik při práci s motivací a
soustředěním během běžné školní docházky' se snaží zdůraznit význam dechu a relaxace při výuce.
Cílem práce je shromáždit dostupné informace k danému tématu, porovnat dostupné zdroje a
informovat čtenáře – učitele o problematice. Dále se práce snaží najít propojení mezi dechovými,
relaxačními a motivačními cvičeními a běžným školním prostředím a zjistit, jaký názor mají učitelé
a žáci na daná cvičení. Ve své práci téma představuji v teoretické části, po níž následuje část
praktická, sestávající z výzkumu a praktických cvičení. Výsledky výzkumu jsou porovnány a
vyhodnoceny na základě teorie obsažené v první části práce.

Annotation

  The diploma thesis 'Usage of breathing, physical and relaxing exercises as daily tools for working
with motivation and focus during schooling' aims to emphasize the significance of breathing
patterns and relaxation during schooling. The objective of the thesis is to gather data on the topic
and to compare available sources while informing the target reader, the teacher, of the issue.
Furthermore the thesis attempts to establish a connection between the breathing, relaxing and
motivational exercises and the typical school environment while establishing what opinion the
educators and learners have towards the exercises. In my work I introduce the topic in the
theoretical part and follow with the practical exercises themselves as well as the research in the
practical part. The research results are compared and evaluated on the basis of the theoretical part of
the thesis.

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Usage of breathing, physical and relaxing exercises as daily tools for working with motivation and focus during schooling
List of contents

Introduction ................................................................................................................................... 6
1.0 Theoretical part ........................................................................................................................ 9
               1.1 Objectives and the concept .............................................................................. 9
               1.2 Importance of breathing patterns ................................................................... 13
               1.3 A brief summary of mechanics of the breathing apparatus .......................... 16
               1.4 Breath, learning environment and axiety ....................................................... 21
               1.5 The educator - Dan Millman .......................................................................... 23
                      1.6 Introduction to exercises ................................................................................ 24
                              1.6.1 Health and safety ............................................................................. 25
                              1.6.2 Physical, breathing and relaxation techniques ................................ 27
                              1.6.3 Auto massage as a part of exercises ................................................ 28

2.0 Practical part .......................................................................................................................... 31
               2.1 Practical exercises .......................................................................................... 31
                         2.1.1 Background behind the four exercises ............................................ 33
                         2.1.2 Exercise n.1 ..................................................................................... 34
                         2.1.3 Exercise n.2 ..................................................................................... 40
                         2.1.4 Exercise n.3 ..................................................................................... 43
                         2.1.5 Exercise n.4 ..................................................................................... 46

                      2.2 Practical observation ...................................................................................... 55
                             2.2.1 Background behind the practical observation ................................. 55
                             2.2.2 Observation n.1 ............................................................................... 56
                             2.2.3 Observation n.2 ............................................................................... 58

                      2.3 Survey methodology - questionnaires ........................................................... 60
                             2.3.1 Background behind the questionnaires ........................................... 60
                             2.3.2 Extensive questionnaire for teachers .............................................. 61
                             2.3.3 Short feedback questionnaire for students ...................................... 62
                             2.3.4 Limited questionnaire for teachers ................................................. 63
                             2.3.5 Evaluation and comparison of the results ....................................... 63
                                    2.3.5.1 Evaluation - Extensive questionnaire for teachers ........... 64
                                    2.3.5.2 Evaluation - Short feedback questionnaire for students ... 72
                                    2.3.5.3 Evaluation - Limited questionnaire for teachers .............. 75

                2.4 Conclusion ..................................................................................................... 76
Resume ........................................................................................................................................ 78
Key words ................................................................................................................................... 79
Bibliography ................................................................................................................................ 80
Attachments ................................................................................................................................. 85

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Usage of breathing, physical and relaxing exercises as daily tools for working with motivation and focus during schooling
Introduction:

  The issue of motivation and focus during schooling has been a relevant one since the first ancient
teachers started to teach their ancient students. To this day it is one of the crucial tasks of the teacher
to work with focus and attempt to support her students in the terms of motivation (here it should be
stressed that throughout the thesis I use 'she','her' and 'hers', in place of both 'the student' and 'the
teacher', instead of the more traditional 'he', 'his' or 'he or she' simply as a matter of preference and
convenience). It has been proved repeatedly that the motivated learner who is feeling comfortable
and is willing to learn has much smoother and more significant positive results in the learning
process than the student who is uncomfortable and lacking motivation. During the past decades
there has been a significant number of works, books and academic writings on the topic of
motivation, stress and on how to support the students and help them learn. A substantial number of
known educators and experts in the didactic field (Harmer, Lightbown, Widdowson..), many of
which can be found in the bibliography of this thesis, have touched on the topic in their works.
There have been books and scholarly writings on how to motivate students, how to achieve a
healthy class environment, how to relieve stress and tension and on how to help students focus
during long school sessions. This thesis attempts to provide a different opinion and take on the topic
of motivation and focus using unconventional methods, teachings of American author and educator
Dan Millman, and practical exercises not often seen in traditional schools while trying to establish
connections between described methods and traditional approaches.

  I (also referred to as 'the author' in the text) have chosen this topic for the bachelor thesis myself
mainly due to the fact that the theme of breathing, relaxation, stretching and meditative exercises lie
both within the fields of my interest and my expertise. I have been acquainted with Dan Millman, in
whose seminars I have participated in in the past, for a number of years and during my studies at
Faculty of Education I have repeatedly contemplated on how to conjoin his education methods with
classical schooling. There is a strong connection between the exercises and techniques of Dan
Millman and my own life experience since for over a half a decade I have been actively spending
time doing half-professional singing, both in a choir and solo, practicing Hatha Yoga, Tai chi and
'The Peaceful Warrior Exercises' with skilled lectors and learner groups and I have been generally
focusing on the state of my body and mind and its connection to learning process while closely
observing learners around me. This is relevant to the thesis since all of those activities mentioned
above are closely connected to breath work, breathing patterns and practical exercises and
workouts. It was during those exercises and sessions that I have come to realize the deep connection

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Usage of breathing, physical and relaxing exercises as daily tools for working with motivation and focus during schooling
that exists between the inner state of a mind of a student, her breathing pattern and the amount of
tension and the results of a learning process. It is clear that just as the more motivated person learns
more easily that a person unmotivated, the student who is feeling comfortable, is focused and calm
has much easier job learning and memorizing the relevant than the one who is feeling stressed, tired
or aching. It would be almost impossible to argue against the fact that physical welfare of a students
plays just as important role in the learning process as the psychical, mental state of a learner. This
fact is supported both by the 2011 German study of University of St. Gallen and by D. Millman,
who repeatedly reminds the reader how important it is to feel well physically when doing mental
work and vise versa. I strongly believe that the correct breathing and stretching exercises directly
influence the one's ability to focus and learn. During the past years in the group sessions of Hatha
Yoga, Tai chi and other activities I have regularly observed that stressed students tend to learn
significantly slower and with more difficulties than those who are relaxed with minds at peace. And
since this fact does not apply only to martial arts or physical exercises but to all human doing,
including teaching and learning, I realized it might be beneficial to attempt to connect the specific
breathing and relaxing exercises with learning and teaching process. Every educator and any teacher
is aware of the fact that it is better for her students when they are relaxed and calm but rarely she
would practically work on it. It could be argued that educators tend to focus significantly more on
the sole process of teaching using intellect than on how the students feel physically and how can
that affect the learning process. Teachers would often hope that the students will stay relaxed and
calm enough during the lessons to learn properly and unhindered rather than actively strive to help
maintain the balanced state in which the best study results can be achieved.

  During the research and the process of writing of the thesis a number of well-known authors have
been consulted. It would come as no surprise that the more recent works and books of known
authors such as J. Harmer, P. Ur, T. Hedge or J. Scrivener have been worked with along with the
works of D. Millman. However a great deal of comparison and information have been drawn from
older titles of perhaps less known authors such as E. A. Charlesworth and R. G. Nathan, whose
book Stress Management: A Comprehensive Guide to Wellness was published in 1982. It is clear
that the topic of motivation, stress and the ways of working with it during learning processes have
been relevant ones for a significant amount of time.

  The objectives of this thesis are, due to the length and the scope of the background connected to
them, discussed and presented in full length and depth in a separate section at the beginning of the
first chapter (1.1). In regards to structure, this thesis consists of two major parts. In the following,

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Usage of breathing, physical and relaxing exercises as daily tools for working with motivation and focus during schooling
shorter, theoretical part the objectives of the thesis are discussed in more detail, the teachings of
educator Dan Millman are presented complemented by the introduction of the practical exercises
(chapter 1.0). In the second, longer, practical part I describe the practical exercises and discuss,
report and contemplate on the experiments, observations and surveys connected to the topic
(chapters 2.1 – 2.3). The second part and the whole thesis concludes in the last section of the work,
the conclusion (chapter 2.4).

  As mentioned above, this work consists of theoretical and practical part. Since the extent of this
thesis does not allow for deep theoretical comparison of classical 'western' didactic methods,
'eastern' educational methods and Dan Millman's 'peaceful warrior' methods, it focused mainly on
the practical aspect. Even though the opinions of Dan Millman on teaching and learning seems
relevant to me as the author it would be unwise at best to expect the target reader to share the same
feeling. It is because of this that an extensive research, practical experiments and multiple surveys
of opinions of both teachers and students has taken place and are discussed and presented in the
practical part. As said earlier in the thesis, the issue of breathing, exercise and its effects on one's
ability to learn lies within my field of interest and as such I plan to develop the topic further during
and at the end of my master's programme through the diploma thesis. Should an opportunity arise I
intend to devote a great deal of work to the theoretical field and comparison of known authors, their
approaches and methods with those less conventional (such as those from Dan Millman). The
purpose of this bachelor thesis is merely to introduce the topic and attempt to establish whether the
teachers and students in Czech schools would be even interested in such exercises and techniques
and what the general opinion on and what level of knowledge of the techniques and exercises is
among our teachers. What is more, the major part of the teachings of D. Millman are more of a
practical value than theoretical and thus it is only natural that the theoretical part serves as a
background and is shorter than the practical segment which carries the bulk of the thesis with the
exercises, experiments, questionnaires and conclusions.

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Usage of breathing, physical and relaxing exercises as daily tools for working with motivation and focus during schooling
1.0       Theoretical part

                                                                      You're never promised your next breath.
                                                                                             Lenny Kravitz

1.1 Objectives and the concept

  The objectives of this thesis are numerous. In the first, theoretical part they are as follows: To
introduce the topic of breathing patterns and its effect on learning process. To introduce the
opinions and approaches of American author and educator Dan Millman. To establish a connection
between Millman's teachings and didactic and educational process. To introduce innovative
techniques and practical exercises that can be used in classroom environment.

  In the second, longer, practical part the objectives are: To present in clear, simple and structured
way guidelines for the exercises so that they can be easily taken into practice by a teacher. To carry
out a research and a survey on teacher's and student's opinions on the topic of the thesis. To
practically test the presented exercises in real classrooms and observe whether the exercises and
techniques have an impact on the lesson and the learning process. Make a conclusion based on the
predictions and theory from the theoretical part compared to the gathered feedback and results from
the practical part. Based on those steps and objectives two main research questions could be
formulated: What is the attitude of learners and educators towards the practical exercises? Do the
exercises and techniques have any impact on the learning process?

  Furthermore, there are two basic concepts behind this thesis that are directly connected to the
objectives: Firstly it is the fact that in traditional schools, where often frontal teaching of sometimes
rather excessive number of students takes place, the main focus lies on the learning process and the
state of student's mind, on an ability to remember and understand using intellect. Students are
encouraged to focus on what they do with their heads and brains solely and thus they are
memorizing, learning and understanding while often completely neglecting the rest of their bodies
such as muscles, backbone and spine nerve system or digestive and breathing apparatus. Teachers
are encouraged to support their pupils in learning, to try to keep them motivated and help them in
any way possible to learn what the curriculum asks them to. It is often a struggle because students,
especially during longer lessons or when in big groups, tend to feel uncomfortable, tired, bored and
thus unmotivated. An argument could be made that this disconnecting of physical and mental is

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Usage of breathing, physical and relaxing exercises as daily tools for working with motivation and focus during schooling
bound to lead to undesirable consequences. In eastern societies this thesis would not come as major
surprise since this connection between the 'physical and emotional' is deep rooted in the culture and,
in fact, even in traditional schooling. However in the traditional educational environment the
tendency is to forfeit the physical part of a student and maximize the focus on the intellectual part.
This leads to both students and teachers ignoring the aches and pains of their bodies, ignoring the
physical frames that sit in classes, ignoring the tension that starts to build up during the long and
demanding lessons as well as ignoring the needs of fresh air, light and sufficient water supply. All of
this has a strong negative effect on the learning process and, more importantly, the motivation of a
student and yet it would seem that very few works dealing with motivation, learning and teaching in
schools concerns itself with this topic. Jeremy Harmer describes motivation as 'some kind of
internal drive' which certainly is the case however it could be argued that motivation is, at least
partially, also an 'external drive'. Harmer in his book The Practice of English Language Teaching
discusses the topic of motivation as a 'drive' to sufficient length. He describes two categories of
motivation: Extrinsic and intrinsic, later of which consists, among others, of physical conditions that
'have a great effect on learning and can alter a student's motivation either positively or negatively'.
(Harmer, 1991, pages 3-8) This hints at Harmer's awareness of an issue of physical conditions in
class however he chooses not to focus on the topic further. It is worth mentioning that even though
the author of such caliber would choose not to focus on the topic of physical conditions and
physical welfare of the students further he is still aware of the issue and lists it as one of the
important factors during schooling. (Harmer, The Practice of English Language Teaching, 1991,
page 5, subchapter Success in language learning) It would seem that even today a significant
number of schools employ the traditional frontal teaching in larger classes where both students and
teachers have grown accustomed to the pains, aches, shortages of breath and air and physical
troubles that they experience and they do not attempt to do anything about the problems since they
feel those are a necessary evil. It is clear however that it is most demanding to focus on the learning
process when feeling uncomfortable, stiff, dehydrated, sleepy or aching all over from the constant
sitting in an unnatural position on a school chair. It should be noted that many modern schools
employ alternative, new approaches other than the traditional teaching but even such schools could
benefit from the teaching of Dan Millman and the activities presented within this thesis.
Unfortunately it is not possible to fit all of those problems into this work and thus the focus lies
solely on the uncomfortable feelings, stiffness, pains, aches and problems with breathing patterns
while touching on topics of sitting patterns and feelings of anxiety. The issues of insufficient water,
light or flaws of energy field, which many scholars would rather believe does not exist, are not
discussed here despite their major and direct impact on everyday schooling.

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The second concept is based around the fact that the most demanding and stressful situations in
schools are often the moments of examination and tests. In a typical situation when a student is
asked to step forward and stand in front of a whole class the chosen student already feels
uncomfortable. It is exactly the moment when she is asked a question that she needs her brain and
memory the most. Unfortunately, since stress and feelings of anxiety that go together with such a
stressful situation dampen the ability of a student to think and remember what she needs, at that
moment the student often fails to recall the particular information. This effect is by Dan Millman
called 'brain suffocation' and basically describes the state when the brain needs the fresh oxygen the
most, either for intellectual or physical feat or test and does not get it due to the tension build up
within the body. It is exactly the stressful situation when the breathing pattern of a student changes
and the brain gets even less oxygen than before. It should be noted that the brain is not really
lacking the oxygen required for its proper biological function but the term brain suffocation is rather
a way of describing the moment when the person in such situation finds it difficult to think
rationally or produce results due to the stress and altered breathing pattern. Even if an average
student does breathe normally during the class to properly supply her brain with an oxygen and
feels relaxed, calm and ready to learn, at the second she is asked a tricky question or given a test the
breathing pattern shifts and the brain starts to 'suffocate'. Those moments of stress can be
devastating in the long run for both the younger and older learners and humans in general. An
argument could be made that this example leads only to limited exposure to stress and tension,
possibly once a school day or less. However a student is stressed repeatedly by various situations
and occurrences during a schoolday even though the stressors might not be particularly strong.
Charlesworth and Nathan write: 'Smaller stressors and briefer stress responses can add up to
hundreds a day. These can be parts of our lives that we hardly notice and almost take for granted.'
(Charlesworth and Nathan, 1982, page 4) The authors in this context refer to a working member of
modern society but schooling ought to be perceived as an occupation, work or a job of students.
Moreover, the whole concept of brain suffocation, the difference between being relaxed or stiff and
stressed relates to a different term - affective filter, which is discussed below. Any teacher of martial
arts, sport, physical education or any exercise in general will confirm the importance of breathing
and breathing patterns on one's ability to focus, learn and to provide results. Breath is directly
connected to heart rate, blood pressure and thus directly to emotions of a learner. It is a common
practice in some of the eastern countries to integrate a short physical, breathing exercises or
stretching activity into the classes to help students not to lose the connection between the body and
the mind. To help them relax and not to 'suffocate' prior to or in between exams. Thus one of the
topics of this thesis is to attempt to provide examples and guidelines as to how to achieve this

                                                    11
connection and not to forget the physical welfare of a student that has so much to do with the
learning process.

  The hints and confirmations of this important connection between the body and the mind can be
found in most of the well respected authors' works in some way or the other. For instance, Hedge in
her Teaching and Learning in the Language Classroom in the chapter 1.3.3 Affective factors
rephrases Krashen and explains his concept of affective filter in her own words:

  Krashen (1985) has suggested the notion of the affective filter. This is a representation of the way in which
affective factors such as attitude, anxiety, competitiveness, and other emotional responses can help or hinder
language learning. The filter can be imagined as a sliding barrier which moves into place when a student is,
for example, tired, dispirited, tense, or angry, and which prevents the processing of input. (Hedge, 2000,
chapter 1.3.3)

  For the argumentation in this thesis the most crucial part of Hedge's text here is the effect of
anxiety, tiredness and other factors on the learning process. Even though the term coined by
Krashen - 'affective filter' does not claim too much attention nowadays it is a concept to which
many other approaches from different authors could relate. One thing is certain: The fact that the
effect of feelings of anxiety, fear or simply when the students are tired or sleepy have substantial
effect on their ability to learn and Hedge acknowledges this. Thus it is the main objective of this
thesis to attempt to highlight the issue that does not claim much attention in our culture and school
environment despite its importance.

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1.2 Importance of breathing patterns

                 Breath is the bridge which connects life to consciousness, which unites your body to your thoughts.
               Whenever your mind becomes scattered, use your breath as the means to take hold of your mind again.
                                                                                                 Thích Nhat Hanh

  To breathe in (to inhale) and breathe out (to exhale) is a fundamental skill of any human.
Breathing pattern directly effects the health, mind state, stress level, blood pressure, function of
majority of the inner organs, ability to focus or face strain and general well-being. Correct and
natural breathing ensures the brain and other crucial body parts are sufficiently supplied with
oxygen and thus can operate properly. In the modern age of anxiety and lack of physical labour, it is
most importantly brain that often suffers from unnatural and harmful breathing pattern. When
observing children during a game it is clear that they breathe naturally and normally. Without
negative stress and with an opportunity to move freely, stretch out and breathe in unhindered the
breathing pattern of kids is usually sound. In contrast to this under the circumstances of stress or
tension the breathing patterns become suffocated and strangled by fear, stress or feelings of anxiety.
The breath's ability to supply the body with oxygen it needs diminishes quickly when under
pressure. A constant worsening of breathing patterns and less healthy life style in general is
especially true for people living in the very fast and stressful 21st century when majority of the
population suffers from feelings of anxiety or stress on a daily basis. This, together with decline in
physical work, movement and exercise and the rise of cars, elevators and comfortable chairs leads
to majority of the population spending more time with unnatural, shallow breathing than with the
natural, proper one that uses the breathing apparatus to its full extent with minimal energy usage. It
is not however only the society and the 21st century causing this issue; the issues do develop slowly
during a lifetime of a person, since childhood, and often acquire the maximum devastating effect in
the adulthood. Throughout Millman's books an example of infant or a young baby is referred to
multiple times which is relevant to what has been discussed above. Millman says that when
observing a small baby one can observe that the baby breathes in and out naturally and deeply, its
belly bulging in and out, chest expanding. The breathing pattern and the whole body of an infant is
in harmony, not burdened by the situation or society. When scared however this natural healthy air
exchange ceases to exist if only for a very limited time. Children even when upset for a longer
period of time, when crying for instance, do not loose the ability to breathe in and out naturally. It is
during one's lifetime that one forgets the natural state of breath and more and more uses the tension
related high breathing (also referred to as upper breathing) which is discussed in chapter 1.3. The
recent rise in modern high breathing goes in hand with rise in unnatural, twisted sitting positions

                                                       13
and body posture in general, Millman observes. Consequently it is the breath and physical welfare
of students that is often neglected in modern schools which contrast with the clear fact that the
breathing pattern as well as the physical state directly influence the student's ability to learn. It is
not only the above mentioned example of the student asked a question by the teacher in front of the
whole class ceasing to breathe properly, airway suddenly clenched and tight. It is also a case of a
student sitting still by her desk for hours, working intellectually, without properly breathing in to the
abdomen, supplying her body with oxygen it needs for the intellectual work. Another thing that
should be kept in mind is that it is during schooling when children sit at their desks and listen to
their teachers when they create and form patterns of behaviour, movement and thinking for the rest
of the life. This is nothing new and one of the main reasons the schooling occurs. However with
positive changes in children's behaviour and with beneficial patterns and new knowledge being
learned they are also susceptible to learning and creating harmful patterns. An example might be an
incorrect sitting position; student, collapsed in her chair and breathing almost entirely without the
help of diaphragm, develops a habit that can stick to her for the rest of her life. Should schooling
since early childhood help develop a habit of shallow unnatural breathing, should the breathing
apparatus and airway debilitates and brain gets accustomed to working with insufficient oxygen,
being that because of unnatural breathing pattern, collapsed sitting position or breathed out
classroom, then it is reasonable to suspect that similar habits will persist throughout the whole life.
It is generally understood that school ought to help prepare its students not only intellectually but
also to educate them in a fields of healthy lifestyle, humanistic approaches etc. and yet it would
seem from the practice that it is the healthy lifestyle, healthy breathing and stress management, that
is often lacking.

  In the previous chapter an issue of stress caused by testing or asking students questions has been
introduced. That is a situation when a student subconsciously employs a natural breathing pattern
and her body functions are unhindered until a test or similar stressful situation is introduced. It
should be noted that the ability to cope with stressors in a class is different for each individual
student. Incorrect breathing pattern that many students (and adults alike) shift to when in certain
situation (sitting in a classroom or in an office) and not moving from the place sometimes for hours
is bound to impact the ability to think, learn and reach desired results. Charlesworth and Nathan
recognize this. In their Stress Management: A Comprehensive Guide to Wellness they have
expressed scepticism about students and working people alike being able to keep healthily prepared
for the stresses of a day. They underline how important it is to 'squeeze' an exercises, relaxation or
stretching technique into a stressful work or a school day. They warn that in response to stress, one's

                                                    14
body often become tense. The tension accumulates and hinder one's ability to achieve good results,
especially during a long day. Even though it could be argued that Charlesworth and Nathan are not
accomplished educators nor is their work directly connected to teaching practice and thus their
remarks are not to be taken too authoritative, they do, however, raise issues that have a direct
bearing on the theme of teaching and stress and are worth quoting at some length:

  When we are in good physical condition, we have a greater capacity to resist stress and strain. We react
more slowly and less drastically to environmental, physical and psychological stimuli. Physiologists have
repeatedly shown that a regular exercise program will improve endurance, reduce total peripheral resistance
in blood circulation, lower systolic and diastolic blood pressure, increase the inner size of arteries, increase
the number of capillaries, lower blood lipids and improve lung capacity and muscular strength.
(Charlesworth and Nathan, 1982, page 425)

  Later in the chapter the authors stress that during a long taxing day at work, or school for this
purpose, an exercise have always a positive impact on the results even if the exercise takes some
time that would otherwise be used for working, or learning for that matter. Even if one cannot have
a proper exercise regularly during such a day, they say, at least a limited exercise or stretch is in
order. It is on this basis, among others, that the short practical exercises for classrooms are
presented in the practical part of this thesis. The quotation from Stress Management above
correlates directly with what Millman writes in his works. Exercise, including relaxing, stretching
or breathing exercises help resist and cope with stress and strain. Relaxed, active learner reacts less
drastically to psychological stimuli and a student who is overall fit, as Millman writes in Wisdom of
the Peaceful Warrior, have demonstrably and consistently better study results than a student
suffering from harmful movement patterns and breathing habits.

                                                       15
1.3 A brief summary of mechanics of the breathing apparatus

  Even though it is not in the purpose of this thesis to discuss and describe the breathing apparatus
and how the breathing works in detail, at least basic concepts are required. It is important to
remember that the processes of respiratory system and lungs are closely connected not only to blood
pressure, heart rate and digestion but also the function of hearth, abdomen muscles, pancreas, liver
and other body parts. The focus here will however lay mainly on the lungs and abdomen since those
are the most crucial for the understanding of practical parts of this thesis and the exercises. The
breathing pattern affects the body posture and vice versa and all of the mentioned body parts and
functions are interconnected. However, this thesis has allowance for discussion of only limited
number of functions and organs. What is more, this thesis is not a human physiology scholarly text
and consequently a number of more common terms instead of Latin ones is used in the descriptions
and later in the practical part so as to allow the potential teachers to understand more easily what is
the thesis discussing and describing.

  When breathing in (which is often referred to as inhalation) it is the respiratory system doing the
majority of the work. The diaphragm (on which more below) tightens and contracts and by doing so
it increases the space in the chest cavity, where lungs lay, so that the lungs themselves can expand
and fill with air. As the lungs enlarge, the chest cavity gets bigger as well complemented by the
belly bulging out (to an extent which depends on the type of breathing), air travels through the
mouth or nose, through windpipe into the lungs and bronchial tubes that they contain. The
minuscule parts of lungs that hold the air are called alveoli and it is there where oxygen is taken to
the body by the blood vessels. At the same time, carbon dioxide which is a waste product of a body
is shifted and moved from the body to the lungs and to the alveoli so that it can be safely breathed
out.

  When breathing out (often referred to as exhalation) it is the respiratory system together with the
rib cage muscles and the diaphragm doing most of the work. During the exhalation the diaphragm
relaxes and thus returns to its original space within the lower chest cavity from which it shrank
during the inhalation. The rib cage muscles also recede to reduce the space in the chest cavity. With
the amount of space within the chest shrinking, the air with more carbon dioxide and less oxygen
that has been gathered and stored for a short amount of time in alveoli is then breathed out from the
lungs through the windpipe and nose or mouth from the body. Both inhalation and exhalation can be
done in several ways with the bulk of work laying on different body parts and organs.

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Consequently, breathing in and out can, depending on the breathing pattern, suppress or assist
different body functions while required more or less energy depending on the type of breathing.

  Professor Michael White from breathing.com describes two effects: hyper-inhalation and
hyperventilation. He describes hyper-inhalation as 'relaxing and energizing breathing' even though it
can be under certain circumstances forced and chest-based. He writes:

  Bad breathing is over-stimulation (high chest dominant). When the faster breathing is predominately chest
it can still be somewhat appropriate but only in the sense that it resolves an immediate emergency and then
reverts back to healthy slower deeper easier balanced breathing as soon as the emergency is over. Within
seconds to a few minutes hopefully. Wild animals seem to do that (adapt and recover) much better than most
humans but humans can be trained to adapt by developing their breathing in optimal fashion. (White, 2013,
breathing.com, breathing-mechanics article, fifth paragraph)

  It is exactly what M. White describes as high chest dominant over-stimulation that many students
experience during schooling. Particularly at times of stress and tension the shift from middle or
lower breathing, the hyper-inhalation as White calls it, to fast upper breathing happens almost
immediately and automatically. However this kind of breathing hinders the ability to focus, recall
and think as mentioned earlier and thus is not well suited for typical schooling environment.
Millman simply calls those two different breathing patterns 'deep breathing' and 'shallow breathing'
and in School of a Peaceful Warrior stresses the importance of not falling into the trap of shallow,
upper breathing that is becoming a staple of our age in every stressful situation.

  To understand the differences between 'deep' and 'shallow' breathing patterns a function of
muscles deserves deeper understanding. Expansion and shrinking of lungs and the whole movement
of chest (in academic discourse often called thorax) are ensured mainly by breathing muscles:
diaphragm, abdominal muscles and inside and outside rib muscles of respiration. The capital role
between different breathing patterns, mainly lower or middle and upper breathing, is played by the
several times mentioned diaphragm muscle. Diaphragm is a dome-shaped sheet of internal muscle
that extends across the bottom of the rib cage and separates the upper part of the torso, chest cavity,
from the lower part. The extend of the movement of diaphragm is usually about 2-3 centimeters but
with shallow breathing this movement can be greatly reduced and on the hand greatly increased
during physical activity such as sport. In school environment where the students sit still, often
shrugged, collapsed and bend into unnatural positions for longer periods of time, the shallow

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breathing with reduced diaphragm movement takes place. In attempt to improve the breathing
pattern of such student a special care should be taken to work with diaphragm. See Illustration n. 1
for reference.

                             Illustration n. 1: Diaphragm

  There are two major kinds of breathing, here also referred to as breathing patterns: Costal, or
more commonly chest breathing (by some authors also called upper breathing) and diaphragmatic
or abdominal breathing (by some authors also called middle breathing) later of which is sometimes
divided further into 'middle' and 'low breathing'. Furthermore a special term here is so called
'clavicular breathing'. Since the practical part of this thesis revolves around those basic types of
breathing a short description follows:

Upper breathing

  During chest or upper breathing an outward, upward movement of the chest takes place,
effectively creating more area for lungs to expand to. This movement is often accompanied by the
rise of shoulders as a result of the skeleton and the ribcage shifting position. The way the muscles
and lower and upper halves of the lungs work makes it so this type of breathing is not as effective
when resting or lying flat. One of the numerous but perhaps most important problems with chest
breathing is that the body needs more effort and energy to reach the same results as with the middle
breathing due to the fact that chest breathing requires more work to be done in lifting the rib cage in
opposition to exploiting the natural movement of the muscles. This extra work means that the body

                                                   18
uses up more blood oxygen and thus more frequent breathing occurs. Even though the upper
breathing has its uses, in modern day particularly during exercise, it is not appropriate for ordinary
day when walking, sitting, resting or walking slowly and it is not suitable for school environment
due to turbulent and disturbing effect it has on focus. Originally the upper breathing was meant to
provide energetic way of pumping the oxygen into body as quickly as possible during alerts or fight
situations. Another function of upper breathing is that shorter, shallower breathing helps the body
should it suffer an internal injury which under most circumstances is not the case in school
environment. Consequently chest breathing is most often associated with other symptoms of arousal
and tension such as fear or feelings of anxiety. The unsteadiness of the body connected to the high
breathing is directly connected to the emotional state of a student meaning that she experiences
unsteadiness of the emotions and mind in general and lowered ability to think rationally and focus.
Upper breathing can be often observed in classes especially of young adults and adults and
particularly in the stress situations. With this becoming a common sight and chest breathing
becoming more prevalent over time it may be difficult for a student to switch to middle or lower
breathing consciously. Thus a vicious circle is formed without the student realizing it: The student
finds it difficult to concentrate and focus due to the wrong breathing pattern which in turn leads to
difficulties in focus and student feeling uncomfortable. The student becomes unsteady, her inner
state turbulent and not suitable for the schooling environment and learning process.

Middle breathing

  Abdominal breathing or middle breathing makes the most out of the dome-shaped diaphragm
muscle. Diaphragm, being pushed downwards providing more space in abdomen cavity so that the
lungs can expand, in particular the lower half of the lungs that has bigger air capacity. When
breathing out the diaphragm relaxes and returns to its original position naturally forcing the air from
the lungs out of the body without the extra effort and energy usage. Middle breathing is thus the
most efficient energy wise due to the greater expansion of chest cavity and due to the fact that the
lower half of the lungs that is prevalent with this kind of breathing is more effective than the upper
half (this is caused by a greater number of alveoli). Abdominal breathing also saves energy because
of the natural movement of the diaphragm. Less energy and oxygen is expended on the breathing
itself because expending diaphragm helps sucking the air to the lungs and expelling it back.
Furthermore, the rhythmical massage that the contracting dome-shaped muscle provides during

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middle breathing for the rest of the organs in abdomen helps blood circulation and overall peace and
relaxation of the body. It has been observed repeatedly that breathing using diaphragm reduces
fears, feelings of anxiety and high blood pressure all of which have negative effect on the learning
process. The natural, rhythmical and deeper abdominal breathing leads to mental relaxation and
allows deeper focus while helping the mind to stay on the desired topic without losing motivation to
do so. Middle breathing is often associated with infants, babies and young children who still did not
have a chance to develop harmful breathing patterns. That is why more cases of incorrect breathing
can be observed with classes of young adult and adult learners. J. Friedman and N. Saunders say:

  If breathing of small babies is observed, it comes clear that their bellies, their abdomens, are bulging and
getting bigger and a few seconds ago they fall and flatten back into the original position. The reason for this
is that the three quarters of what babies breathe in and out is done via diaphragm and not via lungs.
(J. Friedman and N. Saunders, 2007, page 21)

Clavicular breathing

  Sometimes put together with upper breathing, clavicular breathing is based on drawing the
minimal amount of breath into the lungs in one in-spiration. This kind of breathing is accompanied
by a movement of rib-cage muscles which carries the bulk of the work instead of the diaphragm.
Similarly to the high, chest breathing, a significant effort must be subconsciously made in order to
breathe in and out. Breath frequency with clavicular breathing is usually faster than with middle
breathing however it has been observed that in situations when the person is passive (such as sitting
at one place for a longer period of time) the frequency and speed can slow down. Consequently the
body might suffer from slight lacking of oxygen - the small amount of air is still breathed in, at
slower rate, and a chunk of the oxygen is used for the breathing itself. Shallow, clavicular breathing
is harmful if used for prolonged time for it is the most superficial and least effective kind of
breathing. The problem with clavicular breathing is that it is similar to the upper breathing but,
while being more harmful and taxing for the body, majority of the people are unaware that their
breathing pattern is as such. As described above, the shift to the shallow breathing can happen easily
during longer periods of sitting still especially when the body posture is unnatural, twisted or
collapsed which is often a case in school environment.

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1.4 Breath, learning environment and anxiety

                                                 One way to break up any kind of tension is good deep breathing.
                                                                                                  Byron Nelson

  Unnatural and shallow, fast breathing is one of the typical symptom and consequence of fear and
feelings of anxiety and stress. Peter Owen wrote in 1966: 'No one has ever described the horrors of
illness called anxiety. Worse than any illness of body is this illness of mind for it's elusive and does
not cause sympathy.' (Peter Owen: The Journals of Anais Nin, London 1966) As established earlier
in this thesis, fears and feelings of anxiety have a significant negative impact on the learning
process and thus it should be in every teacher's interest to help her students in this regard. More than
one hundred years ago S. Freud wrote that all of the emotional descriptions have basis in feelings of
anxiety. Even though there are much more consequences of anxiety than just thumping heart or
sweaty hands during schooling, none of them can compare with the devastating effect that the
shallow breathing has on the learning process.

  So far mostly situations that can cause stress and fear in the student were discussed. Giving
presentation or being tested in front of the others, when the correct breathing pattern is crucial, is
affected by the shallow upper breathing. It has been observed that the teacher often notices the fear
or anxiety and the breathing difficulties that the student experiences but rarely she will focus on
students breath pattern further. Despite all of this it is breathing during the calmer periods when
students simply sit still at their desks that is equally important for the learning process. Boredom,
sleepiness, lack of interest or apathy all depend, among other things, on the breathing pattern and
sitting position of the student. Upper and clavicular breathing described earlier being the top causes.
And it is through breathing and a manner of sitting that the teacher can dampen the negative effects
those harmful habits have on the students. This is supported by a fact that children up to eight years
old are often encouraged by their teachers to sit straight so that they do not 'collapse' into their
chairs as some young adults and adults would do.

  It would be difficult to argue against the fact that the air in the classroom also effects the learning
environment. The difference between stiff and fresh air is even more important for classes where
dozens of students sit sometimes for hours. To allow students to be able to focus, think and learn to
the best of their abilities, the sufficiency of fresh air and oxygen is just as important as enough
water supply. The issue of water supply and the connection between drinking and learning is not

                                                    21
however the topic of this work. It is often observed that when teachers notice depression in student's
work or weaker study results they often search for the reasons among insufficient preparation,
absent mindedness, student not paying attention or students not interested in the topic. The teacher
would rarely blame the physical state and well-being of the students or the classroom environment
for the study problems. It is however insufficient air supply that can very well cause a number of
problems and even without students realizing it directly causing their study difficulties. Nonetheless
it should be kept in mind though that even when class is full of fresh air it will do little good to the
learning process when students do no breathe in properly. Long periods of sitting still and the
absence of movement and physical activity results, as mentioned above, in the practice of shallow,
upper breathing. It is argued by Millman in his School of Peaceful Warrior that those effects of
stiffness, sitting still unstretched and insufficient air supply can cause more harm to the learners
than not paying attention, weariness or genuine disinterest.

  Yet it is not only Millman who writes about the topic of breath, anxiety and learning. An
extensive research of various works of various authors has been carried out with the result of
discovery of several authors tackling the issue. Tricia Hedge, the author of Teaching and Learning
in the Language Classroom, does touch the issue of environment of the classroom and its effect on
the learners several times throughout her book. In chapter 1.4 she gives several examples of
important factors that provide potential or constraint (for learning) one of which is: 'the physical
constrains of the classroom'. Hedge then proceeds with different topic but returns to the effect of
physical environment later in the book saying that the students have easier time learning if they feel
comfortable. Even though the authors like Hedge rarely go into depth when it comes to the issue of
physical welfare and physical environment of the students it is clear that they are aware of the issue.

  Another point that should be mentioned is the beneficial effect of any physical exercise, not just
the breathing and relaxing exercises presented within this thesis, on mood and happiness. It is, as
Millman reminds us, in human nature to find enjoyment in their bodies and work and that is
especially true for young learners and students. Students at school are often deprived of physical
activities and thus even the little bit of exercise with their bellies, lungs and breath can help them
feel better, hence improving their ability to learn. As B.A. Luttman from the Orchard Vale
Community School found out after lengthy observations and experiments, the capacity of young
learners of elementary education raises dramatically after any exercise or an physical activity or
after a break during which they are allowed to go outside, run around and relax (2013). This further
highlights the importance of including some sort of exercise into the standard class.

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1.5 The educator - Dan Millman
                                               Correct body posture is a way of amalgamating with gravity (…).
                                                        Correct life attitude is a way of amalgamating with life.
                                                                                                  Dan Millman

  A significant portion of the ideas and opinions expressed earlier in this thesis have originated
from the books and teachings of one very special teacher – an American author and lecturer in the
self-help field mentioned in the introduction as well as in several places earlier. He published a
number of works on the topic of learning, self-improvement, exercise, breathing and meditation.
The works of Dan Millman are interesting and relevant to this thesis because they connect the
eastern philosophies and techniques of Yoga, Tai chi and many other exercises and philosophies
with the classical approaches and philosophies of the western countries. In the majority of
Millman's books he talks about the doctrine of 'The path of peaceful warrior' which consists of
several conceptions dealing mostly with physical and emotional welfare, learning, breathing,
meditation, various exercises and ways of dealing with other people and ways of improvement one's
life in general. Since Millman has been a tutor and a teacher for over thirty years his teaching is
very relevant to an average teacher on any kind of school. His predictions tend to be accurate and
relevant to the learning environment both in standard classes in state schools and in various courses.
Dan Millman's conceptions and opinions on how to improve teaching and learning in a particular
field or how to tackle a problem often varies from the standard approaches described by Penny Ur,
Scriverer, Harmer and other well-known authors and it is this difference that bears special
importance for what other way of improvement and progress is there other than testing and
comparing new strategies and approaches. He offers an alternative angle from which to look at the
learning process and attempts to conjoin the teachings of eastern cultures with those deep rooted in
America or Europe. It is not the purpose of this thesis to present Dan Millman or his teachings in
greater detail however his opinions and approaches are expressed on several occasions in theoretical
part be that direct quotations or paraphrases. The second, practical part of this thesis carries the bulk
of what has been inspired by Dan Millman with its exercises. See the activities and the background
for them below.

  Apart of the term 'The path of peaceful warrior' mentioned above there is one more expression
coined by Millman – 'The exercise of peaceful warrior'. The workout is a whole programme that can
be found in multiple books dealing in self-help, training and performance and consists of between

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ten and fifteen individual exercises most of which are in theory fairy simple and easy to learn. The
exercises that Dan Millman suggests as tools of working with improvement, energy, stress and
training have roots in Hatha Yoga, Tai chi and meditation but also consists of segments from Aikido,
Ninjutsu, Ju-Jutsu and others. Millman's exercises come from various sources but they all have
several aspects in common: They all work with physical and emotional at the same time, they all
focus on breath and breathing pattern, they are all devised to help relax and combat oneself rather
than other people and they all focus on improvement of the fundamentals and basics. Consequently
'The exercises of peaceful warrior' are not a form of martial art and rather a self-improvement
technique. The exercises presented within this thesis inherit this approach and under no
circumstances should the potential teachers be worried about the health and safety of their students.
See chapter 1.6 for more on health and safety.

1.6 Introduction to exercises

                                                                Whenever I feel blue, I start breathing again.
                                                                                             L. Frank Baum

  This chapter introduces the exercises that are used throughout the whole second part of this
thesis. It deals with health and safety and the connections between the exercises and the typical
class environment. Lastly the chapter introduces the concept of breathing, physical and relaxation
techniques and the concept of auto massage that all play crucial role in the exercises themselves.

  It should be noted that the chapters here describe and introduce the exercises of the author of this
thesis, not those of Dan Millman presented in his books. For the original workouts of Dan Millman,
not altered or changed for the needs of class environment, a reader would have to consult either
Everyday Enlightenment, Body Mind Mastery or other publication by Millman that deals with the
'Exercise of peaceful warrior'. Several exercises from this thesis are inspired by Millman's but
besides the inspiration they are new and presented only in this thesis. Those are Three breaths for
life and Fear not – auto massage. Others have been borrowed from Millman and slightly altered to
better reflect the needs of students and to better fit into classroom environment, those being Circle
out distracting thoughts and Antedate back ache.

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