What is a growth mindset and how can yoga support it?
What is a growth mindset?
“In a fixed mindset students believe their basic abilities, their intelligence, their talents, are just fixed traits. They have a certain amount and that’s that, and then their goal becomes to look smart all the time and never look dumb.
In a growth mindset students understand that their talents and abilities can be developed through effort, good teaching and persistence. They don’t necessarily think everyone’s the same or anyone can be Einstein, but they believe everyone can get smarter if they work at it.”
Dr Jo Boaler’s paper on ‘the mindset revolution’ concludes that: “when students believe that everybody’s ability can grow, their achievement improves significantly”.
With a growth mindset, a person is more able to adapt to change and to overcome failures. They are more resilient. They are likely to be more successful, since they will continue to try (practice makes progress). In addition to this, a person with a growth mindset will suffer less from stress and anxiety, since they believe that they can learn from their mistakes and that failure does not define them.
In Meet the Robinsons (2007), a Disney movie about a time-travelling inventor, Aunt Billie tells Lewis: “From failing you learn. From success… not so much!”
This is a wonderful example of encouraging a growth mindset. In fact, the Robinson family consistently celebrate failure and praise continued effort and perseverance. Their family motto is to “Keep moving forward”!
How yoga can support a growth mindset
So how can we help foster in our children this belief that their progress and successes are achieved through determination, practice and effort? How can we encourage this?
And how can yoga help us to do this?
1.Encourage risk taking
As we know, in order to develop and grow, we sometimes need to take risks. We need to make mistakes in order to learn form them. Yoga supports and encourages this process. Our Children Inspired by Yoga classes offer a safe space to try new postures. Each pose is fun and the emphasis is on practice (as in adult yoga practice), rather than perfection.
Mistakes are part of the fun and failure is an important part of the learning process. For example, when we wobble or fall in a balance pose, we simply try again. Each time we try, our balance improves a little.
2. Using positive and affirming language
Language plays a huge role in supporting and developing a growth mindset, especially in children. By praising a child’s effort, resilience and process, rather than the end result, parents, teachers and care-givers nurture the child’s belief that they can overcome setbacks and succeed with practice and hard work.
So for example, instead of saying “Great job, well done!” or “You’re great at tree pose!” (fixed mindset) a Children Inspired by Yoga teacher might say “I can see that you are really concentrating on improving your balance today.” or “When you wobbled and fell over just then, you didn’t give up. You stood up and tried again. That’s how you improve! I’m proud of you for having another go.”
When children struggle with a pose, those with a fixed mindset might say “I can’t do this.” or worse “I’ll never be able to do it!” However, in our classes, children are gently encouraged to add another word when they fail: “I can’t do this YET.” This subtle linguistic change can have a dramatic impact. Children begin to realise that with enough practice and effort, they will progress and improve.
3. Seeing real results through persistence
With continued yoga practice, children will recognise this progress and development through effort in themselves. They realise that with practice, they can stretch further, or hold a position for longer. Or they may be able to balance on one leg now. This real and directly relevant evidence is a powerful confirmation that their ‘talents and abilities can be developed through effort, good teaching and persistence’.
Parents and caregivers can highlight this with more positive language “Remember when you first started coming to classes and you told me that the other children could bend and stretch more than you? Now you’ve practiced for a whole term and you are just as bendy and strong as Tatty Bumpkin. You should feel proud of yourself for trying your best and joining in every week.”
4. Relieving stress to aid learning
Stress and anxiety impede progress. They cripple our learning and development and hinder our ability to succeed. We can use yoga breathing techniques and mindfulness to relieve anxiety and reduce stress, removing these barriers, be they fear of failure or lack of belief in ourselves.
Our classes use yogic breathing techniques such as bee breath, deep belly breathing & relaxation, along with mindful techniques such as this feather activity, to help children learn to deal with stress and regulate their emotions. As a result, children are calmer and more eager to learn (and therefore succeed).
Yoga is an essential life skill and a tool for cultivating a powerful growth mindset.
For us, this quote from Learning Lotuses perfectly sums up the benefits of a growth mindset: “A growth mindset encourages a love of learning that leads to embracing challenges and persisting through setbacks/failures, learning through criticism, and finding inspiration in others. Growth mindset leads to higher achievement rates and a greater sense of control over learning and abilities.”