Jai Luster has developed a program that integrates concentration and breathing techniques for calmer more productive schools and classrooms. In this interview he discusses his innovative approach to changing the entire school culture. In this interview, he also shares how Sri Gurudev Swami Satchidananda inspired him to bring concentration and breathing practices to the schools.
Integral Yoga Magazine (IYM): What is the Calm Classroom?
JL: It’s our primary program that trains teachers and administrators in a series of easy to learn exercises that are implemented in the classroom for thirty seconds to three minutes in duration. The techniques are comprised of a combination of age appropriate stretching exercises, breathing techniques, concentration practices, visualizations and creative games. These practical skills help students and teachers develop a neutral self awareness, which leads to inner calm and mental focus.
IYM: What is so effective about neutral self-awareness?
JL: Once you develop inner self awareness you begin to notice your thoughts, emotional states, moods and physical feelings. As you begin to concentrate the mind you start to calm down automatically. The students and teachers develop an attitude of neutral self-observation and begin to bring upset or unfocused emotional and mental activity under calm control. Most states now have guidelines for teaching social skills and emotional control. Our program directly correlates with the social emotional learning guidelines that schools now know are important to student success.
Our training staff travels from Chicago to anywhere in the country and sets up the initial system. We supplement this with a mentoring program, where we go in and coach the teachers in an ongoing manner. We are starting to explore how to have the type of success we’ve had in the Chicago public schools across the entire country. I met with Swami Ramananda at the New York Integral Yoga Institute, and we are discussing how to reach the New York public schools. I’d like Integral Yoga teachers to know that we are available to start a program in any school district. We are looking for people who are committed and have the combined skills of Hatha Yoga and meditation in their life, as well as business expertise.
IYM: What inspired you to bring concentration and breathing practices into the schools?
JL: My lifelong love for Yoga and Gurudev and my desire to expose our children to practical life skills at a young age so they have the tools they need to not only manage stress, but to thrive and to live peaceful, useful and healthy lives.
IYM: What did Gurudev share with you about teaching Integral Yoga?
JL: He said that you can adapt the outer form of the teaching to meet the needs of whatever group you are working with. The real goal is helping uncover the inner peacefulness in each person. He said that if your intention and outcome is to support people in coming to a more peaceful, healthy and useful life you are teaching Integral Yoga. These words have given me the freedom and creativity to adapt Gurudev’s teachings to the terminology and capacities of the students and teachers in the public schools.
IYM: Would you talk about the impact Gurudev had on you?
JL: He was by far the most influential adult in my life. He completely changed my life— a total turn around. I needed to meet someone like him and the experience was beyond anything I ever imagined. The influence he had on me, during all of the years I lived at the ashram in Connecticut is hard to put into words. He shared himself as an example, as a role model of a wise and wonderful teacher and an unconditionally loving human being. It was not only what he shared with me intellectually but how he actually lived the teachings of Yoga. Not a day goes by that he isn’t in one way or another present for me.
About Jai Luster
Jai Luster is the founder of the Luster Learning Institute, a nonprofit organization that helps kindergarten through 12th grade classroom teachers and students. To find out more about Luster Learning Institute go to: lusterlearning.org. If you are interested in bringing the Calm Classroom to a school district near you email Jai directly at jai[at]lusterlearning.org.