PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — As the morning school bell rings and students rush through crowded corridors, teenagers in one Portland classroom settle onto mats and meditation pillows. They fall silent after the teacher taps a Tibetan “singing bowl.”
“Allow yourself to settle into the experience of being here, in this moment,” teacher Caverly Morgan tells two dozen students at Wilson High School.
The students are enrolled in a for-credit, year-long mindfulness class meant to ease youth anxiety and depression and to prevent violence. For 90 minutes, three days a week, they practice a mix of yoga, sitting and walking meditation, visualization techniques, deep breathing, journaling and non-judgmental listening.
The idea behind mindfulness is that focusing on the present moment helps a person deal better with stress, difficult emotions and negative thoughts.
Mindfulness, yoga and meditation have gained popularity among Americans in recent decades, buoyed by studies showing their benefits to emotional, mental and physical health. The centuries-old practices have roots in Buddhism and Hinduism, but Western culture has secularized them to focus on physical postures, breathing and relaxation techniques.
Such practices are now offered by corporations like Google, Target and General Mills to their employees. Prison inmates, hospital patients and the U.S. Marines are using them to combat stress and illness, increase focus and well-being. And now schools all over the country are introducing the practices.
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