Getting the Down Dog into Schools: Yoga in the Classroom

What is Yoga?

Originated in ancient India, Yoga typically means ‘union’ between the mind, body and spirit. It involves the practice of physical postures and poses. As the name suggests, the ultimate aim of practicing yoga is to create a balance between the body and the mind. In order to accomplish it, the practice makes use of different movements, breathing exercises, relaxation technique and meditation. Yoga is associated with a healthy and lively lifestyle with a balanced approach to life.

Research on Integrating Yoga into Schools

To many, integrating something like yoga or medit

Yoga

However, more and more research has been done on the benefits of integrating yoga into schools without bringing a religious or spiritual aspect into the classroom.

A study completed by Slovacek, Tucker, and Pantoja (2003) investigated the relationship of introducing yoga into an inner-city  charter school  (kindergarten through 8th grade) with the following variables: academic performance, discipline, attendance, and students’ attitudes toward themselves.

The researchers broke down the yoga curriculum by grade level and studied the effects of the practice accordingly. The study found that although yoga did not increase school attendance (which was already high at 97%) or students’ general attitudes toward school, it did find a significant correlation between students’ self-esteem (positive correlation), students’ physical fitness (positive correlation), and undesirable behaviors in the classroom (negative correlation). In addition, grade point averages for students in the middle school levels increased significantly during the time yoga was used in  the school (data was not available for elementary level students).

The Mind-Body Awareness Project (MBA) is another intensive study that was researched within several different communities of at-risk and adjudicated youth. MBA works with other organizations and academics in order to conduct better and more specific research on mindfulness-based programs and their effects on youth populations facing challenges such as depression, substance abuse, and violence.

MBA’s intensive 10-session program uses coded and qualified in-depth interviews and the following scales/measures to gain a complete picture of the intervention:

  1. Perceived Stress Scale (PSS-10)

  2. Healthy Self-Regulation Scale (HSR)

  3. Mindful Attention Awareness Scale (MAAS)

  4. Rosenburg Self-Esteem Scale (RSE)

  5. Teen Conflict Survey- Impulsivity

  6. Medical Outcomes Quality of Life Scale- 36

The MBA project piloted at Camp Glenwood in San Mateo, California (2005). This community contained at-risk and incarcerated youth (i.e., Severe At-Risk Male Offenders). MBA conducted their Experiential Inquiry-based curriculum with three core principles: 1. meditation (vipassana), 2. yoga, and 3. council (group process). The curriculum lasted 10 weeks, at 1.5 hours per week totaling 15 program hours and an day-long retreat, giving each youth participant a total of 23 program hours. At the end of the study, MBA found the following results:

QUANTITATIVE: ·perceived stress decreased: 17.7% – 28% ·anger/provocation decreased: 10.5% ·conflict resolution ability increased: 25% – 29.8% ·emotion regulation ability increased: 13% – 15% ·overall mindfulness increased: 10.5%

QUALITATIVE: Percentage of youth who say they- ·feel physically better after coming to class: 95% ·feel less stressed after coming to class: 93% ·feel better about themselves after coming to class: 85% ·noticed less conflict with others: 64% ·reported sleeping better: 78% ·able to use what they’d learned to deal better with being in the hall: 82% ·are better able to ‘cool off’ when they get angry or upset: 78% ·spend some time each week doing breathing meditation or stretching: 66% ·plan to use the skills they’ve learned in class once they leave the hall: 89% As you can see, the MBA program had a significant impact on the youth at Camp Glenwood. To read more about MBA’s past and current research, please click here: The Mind-Body Awareness Project: Research

To read more about The Study of Yoga Ed at the Accelerated School, please click here: A Study of the Yoga Ed Program at the Accelerated School

Why Should Yoga be Integrated into Schools?

Information provided by yogainschools.org

Not only is yoga a practice that can be incorporated into classes such as physical education and music, it is also a practice that will help students maintain a higher level of focus and attention on their academic performances.  Below are some benefits of getting the downward dog into your school:

  1. an increase in students’ physical strength, flexibility, balance and relaxation

  2. improved individual student capacities for focusing, concentration and retention of new information

  3. positive impact on students’ social and psychological development as expressed in higher self esteem (confidence, efficacy) and body awareness and the ability to self-regulate

  4. reduces peer pressure

  5. increased ease in classroom management for both students and teachers

  6. greater management of life stressors for both students and teachers

In addition, Zipkin (1985), Proger (1980), and Naveen, Nagendra, and Telles (1997) found that yoga can have a very positive impact with students diagnosed with ADD/ADHD. He found that when completing a yoga program, children with ADD and/or ADHD experienced:

  1. decreased hyperactivity and impulsivity

  2. increased self-control

  3. increased attention spans

  4. reduced anxiety, leading to higher IQ scores and improved complex learning skills

  5. increased spatial memory

Resources

Mindfulness meditation training changes brain structure in eight weeks  | “Participating in an 8-week mindfulness meditation program appears to make measurable changes in brain regions associated with memory, sense of self, empathy and stress”

Yoga (alternative medicine)  | “Yoga is a healing system of theory and practice, its a combination of breathing exercises, physical postures, and meditation, practiced for over 5,000 years”

YoKids Yoga  | Yoga education for school age children and home room teachers.

Radiant Child Yoga  | “The deeper purpose of teaching children yoga is to help them maintain their natural wisdom and radiance; or if their light has been dulled by events in their lives, to help them regain their inherent state of being.”

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