The popularity of yoga practice has skyrocketed over the past few years. This added interest has made yoga much more widely accepted—no longer are hippies and new agers the only ones going to ashrams. As the popularity of yoga has expanded, new outlets of practice have emerged—from public museums to city jails to public schools.
The most interesting outcome of the new attention is the use of yoga and meditation in public schools. City public schools can be some of the most depressing and dangerous places to be in America. Be it decrepit buildings, harassment and bullying, physical fighting, or drugs, many of our schools do not create a peaceful learning environment for our children. How can some of our most struggling students be expected to succeed in an environment where they feel unsafe?
The use of yoga in public schools not only serves as exercise, it also alleviates stress, creates more peaceful interactions with others, decreases discipline problems, and can even lead to an increase in grades. Some schools go so far as offering yoga as an alternative to regular P.E. classes. Other programs are implemented in a regular classroom setting and involve more meditation and focus than physical yoga practice.
Yoga Ed is one of the frontrunners in the push for yoga in public schools. Their program started in the state of California but has become nationwide, offering instructors to teach yoga in schools and seminars to train current teachers on implementing classroom yoga. Yoga Ed even offers lists of resources on their website. They have recommended music, children’s books, and have tips on practicing yoga in schools.
Yoga can be used in any school setting from Pre-K to 12th grade (or even into college). It seems just as effective in the lower grades (increased concentration, less fighting) as in middle and high schools (less stress). The two pillars most supported by yoga in schools are Skill Building and Community Building. Yoga is a resource that kids can carry with them throughout their lives to handle conflicts and daily problems in a non-violent way. It also creates a more cohesive, peaceful group dynamic in the school setting.
If a principal seems unwilling to set up a school-wide yoga program, individual teachers can take trainings or find meditation techniques online to use in their classrooms. Yoga is a very accessible (and often free) resource for teachers to build their classrooms into communities and alleviate discipline problems.
Also, for reference (and cuteness), here is a video of classroom yoga in Los Angeles by Sat Naam’s “Yoga in Schools” program.
Here are two other great resources for those who want to learn more about yoga in schools!