As school districts continue to tighten their budget, certain classes become extinct to make way for a more fiscally efficient approach to education. If the days of playing kickball, bombardment and whiffle ball in PE classes are long gone, what is taking their place to fulfill the physical activity requirements of growing children?
In 2001, The Accelerated School in Los Angeles, California piloted a program called YogaEd, designed by Tara Guber, in an effort to bring yoga into the classroom. The objective of this strictly secular curriculum was to teach proper posture and body awareness, techniques for relaxation and stress management, and self esteem building through compassionate problem resolution. The program’s goals were to instill life long habits for healthy living, enhance physical, social, emotional and mental health, and strengthen academic performance.
In 2003 a study was conducted to determine the results of the program, and the findings were in full support of not only its continuation at the Accelerated School, but also in the advancement of sharing the curriculum with more than 150 other schools.
Since then, other types of school yoga programs have been created. For example, on the East Coast, a three-year pilot program spearheaded by Lisa Flynn was welcomed into the Central Elementary School in South Berwick, Maine. After receiving positive feedback, Lisa created Yoga 4 Classrooms and has inspired over 1000 teachers and certified nearly 250 in her ChildLight Yoga certification program.
Sharing the same goals, classroom yoga programs have proven success in the enhancement of childhood education. However, it has not always been fully supported. According to an article in the New York Times, which came out when yoga in the school system was still just a budding endeavor, some parents and members of the community of Aspen, Colorado shunned the idea based on yoga’s religious undertones. To alleviate this potentially nationwide concern, school yoga programs have eliminated any language or actions that may be deemed or construed as religious, making it acceptable to all students regardless of their religious preferences.
Here is a look of the top five proven benefits of yoga in the classroom.
1. Increased self esteem
2. Improved physical health
3. Higher grades
4. Reduced stress and anxiety
5. Better problem solving skills
Both of these programs, as well as many others, offer high standards of training for teachers, nurses, administrators or anyone wanting to share the benefits of yoga in the school system. While some may require previous experience in yoga either by having a certification or by being a seasoned practitioner, others need no prior experience as they prepare you for the undertakings of teaching yoga in the classroom.
How long does it take?
Each program has a different timeline for different levels of training. A full yoga certification recognized by Yoga Alliance (a governing body of yoga training) for example, is a 200-hour program. Yoga 4 Classrooms however offers a full day workshop plus ten, 30-minute segments of hands on instruction in the classroom.
What is the cost?
A yoga certification course can run somewhere in the range of $2000. However, specific training programs for yoga in the classroom are considerably less, and can be supported by grants, or other outside funding. In addition, teachers participating in the same school can often share the cost of training.
Your local school district may have lost the funding for physical education, but that doesn’t have to mean the end of healthy kids. More than ever before, it is up to teachers to do what is necessary to see that students are not missing out on the benefits of leading an active lifestyle.