By Rachel Holmes
How will yoga in schools change the future? With the use of technology and tight school budgets, children and young adults around the world need activity. As a result of this need, certified yoga instructors are finding work as independent contractors in public, private and preschools. It is no surprise, considering the global culture of instant gratification, that the current generation of children has a hard time focusing, does not get enough exercise, and does not get enough nutrition.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children spend no more than 1-2 hours a day watching television or participating in entertainment media like video games; however, studies show that the average child or adolescent spends six or more hours a day on combined entertainment like television, computer programs, video games, and DVDs. The AAP concludes that as a result of this media consumption, children and adolescents are more vulnerable to increased health risks like obesity, poor self-image, increased aggression, lowered academic performance, and a lack of adequate nutrition.
Some specialist yoga teacher training certification courses are specifically geared toward teaching children. These teacher training programs give instructors the skills needed to engage a classroom full of children at a time when kids need to release pent up energy. One way schools have tried to combat the negative effects of physical inactivity during class time is by introducing yoga training into the school day. Yoga in schools is successful. Due to the fact that studies have shown that children who practice yogic exercises are more engaged academically, struggle less with anxiety or hyperactivity and are physically healthier and more active, giving children a chance to practice yogic techniques in schools can benefit the entire system.
Benefits for Schools
Since introducing a daily, 30-minute yoga lesson into her fourth-grade classroom last fall, teacher Janae Andrews has noted that her class as a whole has become better at focusing and staying on-task. She agrees with researchers who have concluded that yoga enables students an opportunity to feel more settled as it gives them strategies for dealing with stress or negative emotions.
“We started with 10 minutes of deep breathing exercises,” Andrews explains, “and we coupled that with dimmed lights and soothing music in the background. That was all we did at first, and right away I could tell a difference from the way the students were behaving right before we did yoga to the way they behaved right after.”
Eventually, Andrews says she began to spend more class time leading yogic exercises. “I found a way to lead the students through fun, active poses while reinforcing lessons from the curriculum.”
Jordan Hands, a 2nd grade teacher in a nearby school system, concurs with Andrews that weaving songs, stories, and props into a yoga training session is a great way to get his young class engaged. “They remember the material better if we sing a song about the alphabet while coming up with poses that mimic letters or words.” He laughs, “Once, we even did a spelling bee with yoga!”
Many teachers don’t feel they need to go that far, since a normal yoga class for kids is comprised of a warm-up, a flowing routine, and a concluding time meant to calm the brain and relax the body. Students will benefit physically from the activity, emotionally from the release of endorphins and mentally from the renewed ability of the brain to focus.
“Yoga,” Hands concludes, “is the best method I have to enhance classroom behavior and increase basic skills retention. Why wouldn’t I use it?”
For those who are considering becoming a yoga instructor, there are definite needs in every aspect of life. If a teacher is patient and likes to work with children, giving children life skills for good health and success is desperately needed.
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