Friday, March 13, 2009

Yoga in Schools

An article from today's Saint Paul Pioneer Press discusses a new program to teach kids yoga as part of their regular physical education curriculum. Teachers report that in addition to providing good exercise, yoga also seems to help keep kids calmer and more focused in their regular studies.

"Each year, it's getting bigger and bigger," said Cheryl Crawford, a trainer for YogaKids International, an Indiana-based company specializing in yoga programs for children.

Crawford helped develop YogaKids Tools for Schools in 2005, which shows teachers how to incorporate yoga into kindergarten-through-fifth-grade curriculum. Since then, she has trained more than 600 educators nationwide.

"Kids are stressed," Crawford said. "Teachers see that this works."

Teachers using her program, and others like it, show flashcards with yoga poses to their students, who then go into the moves. They also teach how to breathe in a pose.

While what is being taught here is nothing like the sort of yoga that is used in magical practices and is instead based on the "exercise yoga" that is taught pretty much exclusively for physical fitness, it still sounds strikes me as a good idea. It's certainly a big improvement over some the awful stuff I had to do in gym class as a kid. When you're not that physically fit and a nerd to boot, trust me, dodgeball can really make you hate life and most of your fellow classmates. I would have much rather learned yoga, and apparently the kids involved in the program agree.

"They say they're feeling less stress," said Flaminio, a former Minneapolis schools social worker. "The attendances have changed because the kids don't want to miss yoga day."

One advantage of a program like this is that if later in life kids decide that they want to explore the more mystical side of the discipline the muscle memory for the various poses will already be present. The spiritual discipline of yoga is a lot easier to learn if you already can do the postures without too much trouble, because it makes it easier to concentrate on doing proper pranayama and cultivating the appropriate mystical states of consciousness that accompany a genuine practice.

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4 comments:

Suecae Sounds said...

This sounds really good. Physical education should make kids feel good about their bodies. But it seems like this is 'radical thinking' unfortunately. I think this Yoga light thing has enormous potential.

Robert-Joseph said...

I loved practicing yoga and the health benefits that came with it, but I don't want it in schools largely because of the spiritual background asosiated with it.

There are at least two Yoga cults out where I live. They set up studios, people go in thinking they'll get in shape, and it's basically a cult recruitment facility. A few years ago one of these cults actually got into the local school system, after recruiting several teachers and administrators, under the guise of teaching children yoga exercises.

The group a while operating at several different schools before they were caught on anyone's radar, and the group's purpose was not to directly recruit these kids, but rather to teach and brainwash them in a way to prepare them for recruitment once they became a little older.

I'm also of the opinion that this country really does need a much better health and physical education training in schools, as is evidenced by the health of both adults and children in this country, and it's something we shouldn't try to find a quick fix for.

Honestly, PE classes are largely jokes. We need smaller classes that allow the instructors to have more one on one time with individual students to both teach them healthy habits and develop an exercise program for them. We also need greater student supervision and a tougher stance on bullying, which is more prevalent in PE classes which are typically overfilled and under-supervised.

Sorry about the largely non-metaphysical comment. I actually went to school to be a teacher and still have some pretty strong views on education.

Suecae Sounds said...

We have the same problem in Europe. The kids who need PE the most are often the most likely to flunk out. I've heard about experiments with massage for kids though here in Sweden, and it seems like it is very popular.

This think about Yoga Cults are distressing though. Hopefully this isn't one of these cases. But it is always good to keep a critical eye out on projects like these.

Ananael Qaa said...

A few years ago one of these cults actually got into the local school system, after recruiting several teachers and administrators, under the guise of teaching children yoga exercises.

Obviously if something like this were going on, it would be a serious problem and the program wouldn't belong in schools. On the other hand, there are plenty of teachers out there who just teach the physical side of the discipline without any sort of indoctrination or discussion of any of the spiritual aspects of the practice. Witness the "power yoga", "core yoga", and so forth that is taught at a lot of fitness centers.

Honestly, PE classes are largely jokes. We need smaller classes that allow the instructors to have more one on one time with individual students to both teach them healthy habits and develop an exercise program for them. We also need greater student supervision and a tougher stance on bullying, which is more prevalent in PE classes which are typically overfilled and under-supervised.

I agree 100%. But I also don't see why yoga couldn't be part of such a program as long as it is taught in a way that doesn't try to indoctrinate kids.