By Faye Martins
Why is Yoga in schools an issue? People of all ages and abilities can benefit from Hatha Yoga. It gently stretches muscles and ligaments, facilitates blood flow within the body, and encourages deep breathing. The yogic philosophy includes taking the time to breathe consciously, and still the mind for a time. People can benefit from quick yoga breaks throughout the day, where they stretch, breathe, and re-energize the body and mind. If schools incorporated yoga into the curriculum, or trained teachers to incorporate it into individual classrooms, perhaps students and teachers would be better able to focus, learn, and deal with the stresses of the day.
Academic standards continue to rise on a yearly basis, causing schools to take on a greater burden for the welfare and academic success of all students. Government sanctions require specific numbers of students to reach specific benchmarks, regardless of the diversity of students’ abilities, backgrounds, and needs. As a result, schools are stressed out, teachers are burning out, and the students are feeling it too.
Yoga in schools can help. With little to no cost to school districts, they can begin to incorporate a healthy practice into the classrooms to teach stress management, and to encourage healthy habits throughout the rest of young people’s lives. Yoga in schools requires little to no equipment, depending on how it is practiced, and teachers can easily be trained to teach a few basic, stress relieving poses to students.
I am not suggesting the students roll out the Yoga mats, foregoing other academic responsibilities, but instead to incorporate Yoga into a hectic day. Perhaps teachers can take five minutes before a test to lead students in a deep breathing exercise, or do a series of neck and shoulder stretches for three minutes before a particularly intense class is over. If Yoga practice takes place on a regular basis, students will realize the benefits soon, and might even begin to incorporate Yoga into their lives away from school.
Many schools have varied and exciting physical education programs, where a unit on Yoga could fit in nicely. Sports teams can use it to stretch and cool down muscles after practice, to visualize winning the game, and to relax during particularly stressful times during a match.
Yoga is a healthy, lifelong activity used to relieve and cure a number of common ailments. Who knows what these children’s futures hold. By teaching them yoga, we are giving them a helpful tool to use for the rest of their lives. Schools are responsible for turning out well-rounded, well-educated individuals. They could be doing a disservice to the students if yoga wasn’t part of the school day.
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