As final exam season approaches, the increase of test anxiety does as well. Coming from someone who struggled with test anxiety growing up, this topic is near and dear to my heart. (And is probably the main reason I do the work I do!) Last summer, I completed a 200 hour yoga certification program called Breathe For Change. The training is geared specifically toward educators and students and offered many helpful exercises for students to practice. I learned a few basic exercises that I believe can help decrease test anxiety (or any other anxieties) if practiced regularly.
3 Collective Breaths - Sit tall in your chair and place both feet flat on the floor. Lift through the crown of your head. Close your eyes or simply lower your eyes to the floor. Place one or both hands on your heart center. Connect to your heartbeat. Take a SLOW deep breath in through your nose, and then big sigh out your mouth. Repeat this THREE times. This exercise is easy and can be very effective if it is practiced DAILY. Before school, at the start of each class, before a test, after lunch, or before students go home at the end of the day. The more we practice, the quieter our bodies become. (It's just like playing an instrument or a sport, the more you practice, the better you get!)
Forward Fold - I realize this may not be the easiest thing to do in the middle of class but it certainly can be done at the beginning of class before the bell rings. Here's how it works: Stand with feet hip width apart. Press into the bottoms of the feet. Soften the knees so they aren't locked. Lift through the crown of the head, standing tall. Reach your hands above your head while inhaling deep and slowly hinge at your hips folding forward while exhaling, reaching your hands toward the floor. (You do not need to touch the floor. Just reach your arms down as far as possible.) Allow your arms and head to dangle, and pause here for a moment (or two) and then slowly lift yourself to standing again. Repeat. If you find yourself getting dizzy, drink some water! *Prior to trying this exercise, please check with your physician if you have any health concerns.
Power Pose - Have you ever watched Grey's Anatomy? The characters strike a "power pose" before they head into surgery. This is a very similar exercise. Stand with feet hip width apart. Press into the bottoms of the feet. Soften the knees so they aren't locked. Lift through the crown of the head, standing tall. Lower the eyes to the floor (while still keeping your spine tall.) Open your shoulders by spreading your fingers wide, face palms of hands forward at your side. Hold this pose for two minutes. Focus on your breath, press into the bottom of your feet. This pose helps build confidence within us.
The key to all of these exercises is to practice them regularly. Since many exams will be starting soon, I would highly recommend getting started NOW! Good luck!
If you feel like you need a subtle reminder to breathe throughout your day, here are a few phone wallpapers that may help you out!