Yoga in Schools 

Benefits of Yoga for Children 

Emotional Benefits 
  • Eases anxiety 
  • Emphasizes present moment awareness (ideal for school)
  • Expands on social awareness 
  • Helps with emotion regulation 
  • Helps with impulse control
  • Helps with stress management
  • Improves self-control
  • Improves self-expression and self-esteem 
  • Increases concentration 

Mental Benefits 
  • Helps with sensory integration 
  • Improves cognitive thinking (attention, memory, and problem solving skills)
  • Improves executive functioning
  • Improves lisenting skills 
  • Improves prefrontal cortex functioning, which focuses on the ability to plan 
  • Increases ability to focus 
  • Promotes thinking and memory 

Physical Benefits
  • Improves balance and coordination 
  • Improves fine motor skills and mid-line crossing 
  • Improves flexibility and strength 
  • Improves respiratory function with use of breath
  • Improves sleep
  • Strengthens immune system by reducing stress

Overall Well-Being 
  • Facilitates mind-body connection 
  • Promotes a positive and impactful classroom and school climate 
  • Emphasizes a healthy mind, body, and soul 
​​ Benefits of Yoga for Children in School

Research 

"Let's start at the very beginning... A very good place to start..."

Research is the most impactful way to gain an understanding of the evidence behind the benefits of yoga for children in schools. 

Books
  • Mindfulness and Yoga in Schools: A Guide for Teachers and Practitioners by Catherine P. Cook-Cottone 
  • Best Practices for Yoga in Schools by The Yoga Service Council 

Peer-Reviewed Journal Articles 

  • Effects of Mindful Awareness Practices on Executive Functions in Elementary School Children (link)
  • Mindfulness-Based Programs and the American Public School system (link)
  • Mindfulness-Baed Interventions for Improving Cognition, Academic Achievement, Behavior, and Socio-Emotional Functioning of Primary and Secondary School Students (link)
  • Effect of Yoga on Academic Performance in Relation to Stress  (link)
  • Yoga in School Settings: A Research Review (link) 
  • School-Based Yoga Programs in the United States (link)
  • Evaluation of an After-School Yoga Program for Children (link) 
  • Enhancing Preschoolers' Self-Regulation Via Mindful Yoga (link) 

Yoga in Schools 

Schools are not only faced with the task of educating students, but have recently become a "one stop shop" for servicing the needs of students. And, not only academic needs, but  emotional and behavioral needs as well. Because students spend 180 days a year in school, five days a week, for about 6-7 hours a day, schools are an inevitable environment where students' needs are explicitely observed. Teachers have become not only educators, but therapists, nurses, caregivers, cooks, and much more. The needs of students are not based solely on academics anymore, but rather are composed of a variety of emotional, mental, and physical needs, which are often the root cause of academic needs. So, instead of focusing solely on academic needs, schools are now faced with the challenge of being a resource for students' emotional, mental, and physical needs. More recently, schools now have school social workers, doctors that come in routinely, dental visits, and more. As society changes, so does the school environment. 

As schools adapt to constant change, it can be difficult to find and implement resources that improve students' emotional, mental, and physical well-being while simultaneously working to finish curriculum deadlines, improve standardized testing scores, and meet state standards. Many schools have implemented yoga and mindfulness, either during the school day, before or after school, or a combination of both. The purpose of integrating yoga and mindfulness within the school day is twofold in the sense that 1) Yoga and mindfulness during the school day provides a motor break for students and 2) Yoga and mindfulness during the school day provides emotional, mental, and physical benefits (see above section) which positively affect academics. At the same time, yoga before or after school is just as effective as it can set a positive tone for the school day and help students to settle down before class but also gain energy after class. 

Because schools are mandated to follow state and curriculum requirements, it can be difficult to understand 1) How yoga and mindfulness in school can be feasible and 2) How yoga and mindfulness supports the missions of schools. Below, is a brief outline that details such:

Yoga Supports Social and Emotional Learning (SEL)

The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL), describes SEL as the process in which students learn how to effectively understand and manage emotions, set and achieve goals, create and maintain relationships, make responsible decisions, and acquire the skills to feel and show empathy for others. CASEL outlines five core competencies that are important for students to understand.  

​    1. Self-Awareness: Identify emotions, recognize  
        strengths and weaknesses, gain self-confidence,
        understand how emotions, thoughts, and values
        influence behavior, and build upon a healthy
        growth mindset.

    2. Self-Management: Manage stress, impulse
        control, set and work toward academic goals,
        and improve organizational skills

    3. Social Awareness: Empathize with others,
        appreciate diversity, and have respect for
        others.

    4. Relationship Skills: Esablish and maintain
        healthy peer relationships, improve
        communication skills, and resist urge to engage
        in risky or inappropriate social behaviors.

    5. Responsible Decision-Making: Identify problems
        and analyze situations and ability to make
        constructive choices based on standards, safety
        concerns, and social norms. 

Self-awareness and self-management are internal body awareness skills in yoga. Students with ADHD and behavioral difficulties learn how to regulate their body through movement and breath. 

Social awareness and relationship skills are interpersonal skills in yoga. Students build upon these skills through partner poses, group games, and mindfulness activities.

Responsible decision-making is a skill in yoga in which students learn how to be in their body and what it means to be in their body. 

Essentially, when these five social-emotional core competencies are out of line, students have difficulty with academics. 
Yoga Supports Common Core State Standards 

According to the
Massachusetts Common Core Standards, English Language Arts/Literacy, Mathematics, Science and Technology, History and Social Science, Health and Physical Education, and the Arts, should meet specific guided principles in order to best prepare students for college, careers, and life as productive citizens. 

English Language Arts/Literacy

  • Successful readers 
  • Rich vocamulary 
  • Read aloud
  • Challenging text
  • Diverse literature 
  • Effective writing sills 
  • Perspective taking 
  • Discussion 

A yoga class within the school could be specifically built around a text that the class is reading, allowing students to "act out" the story through yoga, which specifically targets visual learners. In addition, songs and rhymes can be used through yoga to develop communication and language skills. Further, students can create their own stories through yoga poses and recall the story to the class, which targets memory skills.

Mathematics 

  • Logical thinking
  • Problem solving 
  • Word problems 
  • Computation skills
  • Mathematical notations and symbols
  • Collaborate with others to solve problems 

A yoga class within the school could be specifically built around a math lesson that the class is working on. Students learning to count can hold postures for a certain amount of time. Or, students learning about shapes can identify shapes made with the body. Partner and group poses can improve students' ability to collaborate with peers. And lastly, engaging in physical activity to understand a more complex skill builds upon students' growth mindset, which positively affects their overall academic success. 

Arts

  • Dance
  • Music​
  • Creativity and Imagination 
  • Performance
  • Reflection 
  • Culture 

Yoga is a form of creative movement and thus is an example of artistic form. Music is often used in yoga to enhance the class either as a compliment to the poses or as a mindful listening activity. In addition, sounds are incorporated into yoga through chimes, bells, and singing bowls. And, art projects such as mandala coloring or simply mindful drawing with the eyes closed are examples of how yoga reflects the arts. 

Science and Technology/Engineering

  • Explain external world
  • Make connections
  • Experimentation
  • Problem solving
  • Collaboration 

A yoga class within the school could serve as a way for students to visually make connections between science and the external world through poses and movement. Breathing exercises facilitate the science of breath. In addition, qualities of poses can be described, similar to qualities of elements and concepts like metamorphosis and photosynthesis could be acted out through yoga poses. 

History and Social Science

  • Culture
  • Geography
  • Historical figures
  • Politics   

A yoga class within the school could serve as a way to tell a historical story through poses. Classes can be built specifically around a class lesson by explaining landmarks, figures, and other concepts through poses and movement. Lessons about culture, specifically Buddhism, can be incorporated into a yoga class. 

Health and Physical Education

  • Decision making 
  • Self-management
  • Communication
  • Nutrition
  • Growth and development
  • Physical activity and fitness

Yoga is a physical activity that not only engages students in gross and fine motor movement, but also encourages students to listen to their bodys and make safe and smart decisions, which promotes a healthy lifestyle. 

https://ivn.us/2013/06/17/5-arguments-in-support-of-common-core-standards/
Three Common Types of Learners 

There are three common types of learners: visual, auditory, and kinesthetic. Visual learners tend to gravitate towards reading and writing tasks. These learners often understand information when it is written down, which includes the use of charts, demonstrations, videos, and other visual materials. Auditory learners may have difficulty with reading and writing tasks and thus gravitate towards listening and speaking activities. Kinesthetic learners gravitate towards movement and touch. These learners need a form of external stimulation. 

Because there are three common types of learners, it can be difficult for students to adapt to just any one learning style. And, in a classroom that is filled with a variety of different learning styles, abilities, and needs, it is even that much harder. However, yoga is a wonderful compliment to this difficulty that many students face. Yoga incorporates all three types of learning styles in a unique and approachable way that students not only benefit academically, but emotionally, and mentally, and physically as well. The yoga instructor is VISUALLY demonstrating poses, verbally explaining each pose, which is accompanied by AUDITORY music in the background, and, of course, yoga itself is a form of KINESTHETIC movement. 
Images from, http://www.discovertexasonline.com/2014/08/3-learning-styles/
Yoga not only compliments the school day, but yoga also facilitates common principles that schools are mandated to implement within class curriculum. Yoga itself is a motor break for students and thus serves as a way for stimulation, which is espeically helpful for students with ADHD and ADD. Yoga eases anxiety related to test performance through the use of breathing exercises to calm the nervous system and enhance the respiratory system. Through partner poses and group games, students build upon relationship skills, team building, anti-bullying, and overallr respect towards others. Students expand self-confidence through balance poses that require concentration. And, in listening to the yoga instructor, students are improving listening skills. Overall, yoga is an activity that includes the five core competencies as outlined by CASEL, can be woven into curriciulum to meet Commore Core State Standards, and as a whole, promotes an overall sense of well-being, which all positively affects academics and sets students on a future path to thrive. 
Supporting Organizations 

Yoga 4 Classrooms (link)
UMass Center for Mindfulness (link)
International Association for School Yoga and Mindfulness (link)
Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (link)
Mindfulness in Education Network (link)
Mindful Schools (link)
Association for Mindfulness in Education (link)
MindUp Program (link)
Susan Kaiser Greenland and Mindfulness (link)
Daniel Siegel and the Brain (link)
Garrison Institute (link) 
Middlesex, MA Public Schools Mindfulness Program (link) 
Now What?

Go to: www.stretchyourselfyoga/yoga-in-schools-services to understand the many services that Stretch Yourself Yoga offers to implement yoga in schools- before or after school and/or during the school day. 
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