Yoga or mindful movements has become increasingly popular with schools in the last decade as more and more people embrace the benefits of mindfulness for children and adults alike.
From teaching emotional regulation to helping students concentrate in class, there are plenty of reasons to make yoga part of your school’s program.
We previously caught up with then Director of the Shir Ami Early Learning Center, Shari Beck-Nahman, to talk about the importance of incorporating yoga into the school’s program and the benefits that she’s observed as a result.
Shari is clear that the choice to include yoga in Shir Ami’s after-school offerings was a very intentional one.
“We took a very thoughtful approach to which disciplines we wanted to have as after-school programs. We decided on karate because it teaches discipline, soccer for the teamwork, and yoga to teach kids mindful tools they could use to self-regulate when needed.”
The increase in mental health issues in children was also a deciding factor in Shari’s desire to make yoga available to her students. Already on the rise before the pandemic, rates of anxiety and depression in young people have doubled in the past years, according to research published in JAMA Pediatrics.
Teaching children mindfulness techniques, including breathing exercises and meditation, gives them a toolkit to use when they feel anxious or stressed.
As a mind-body practice, yoga also helps to combat the hours spent sitting in a classroom, giving students a chance to reconnect with their physical selves and increase their resilience.
Shari noticed that her students used the self-regulation tools they’ve learned from Yogamazia between sessions too.
For example, children who were struggling to find their focus after switching between rooms were able to draw on some of the ideas and poses from their yoga lessons to help them calm down and listen to their teacher.
This increased ability to focus during academic studies is another benefit of teaching yoga in schools. Research has found that children concentrate better and are less likely to be fidgety or disruptive in class when they take part in yoga sessions.
Other studies indicate that learning yoga helps children’s cognitive development too. For example, researchers following the progress of high school students throughout the school year found that those who took part in yoga sessions saw less of a decline in their grade point average as the year progressed.
Another benefit of incorporating yoga into the school day is that the sessions complement the academic curriculum and help children to embed their learning.
Yoga classes can be themed to fit with what the children are focusing on in their academic studies. When we teach yoga in schools, Yogamazia also uses structured curricula so that teachers know what to expect and can pick up some of the same principles in their own lessons.
Although yoga originated in India and is often linked to Buddhism and Hinduism, it isn’t itself a religious practice. However, it can be a tool for schools of any faith to mark special days and celebrations.
The Shir Ami Early Learning Center is a Jewish school, so celebrating Jewish festivals is an important part of honoring their shared heritage, while embracing other diverse traditions such as Yoga. Yogamazia’s sessions complement the school’s focus, with adapted songs to help the children learn poses that reflect symbols of each festival, such as the menorah for Hannukah or trees for Tu BiShvat.
Shari has since retired from Shir Ami Early Learning Center but believed that the true purpose of including yoga in any school is to give children the tools they need to thrive. She stated “yoga teaches different strategies that will help them later in life. We want to give the children tools to live by not just for today but in their future.”
We know that there are plenty of parents who are keen to make yoga a part of their children’s lives. But there are also many parents who don’t have the time, money, or inclination to take their kids to yoga classes.
Offering yoga in schools makes it more widely available to a diverse range of children, some of whom might not otherwise have the opportunity to learn mindfulness and self-regulation in this way.
We’re thrilled to hear how incorporating yoga has benefitted the students at the Shir Ami Early Learning Center. As Shari stated,
“I would highly recommend incorporating a yoga program into schools, whether through the school curricula or as an after-school program. For the sake of both the children and the teachers as they too need to find a way to release.”
As we’d been working with Shari and Shir Ami Early Learning Center for a while, we were curious to know what she liked most about our sessions. She told us,
“Previous companies we hired to do yoga were more playtime/fun/games and while they taught yoga poses, they were not so much focused on other aspects like mindfulness and self-regulation. When we interviewed Yogamazia we liked their approach of incorporating structured social-emotional learning to teach the yoga poses, breathing & mindfulness exercises, while still making it fun.”
If you’d like to find out more about our yoga program for schools, get in touch. We work with schools and childcare centers in the Greater Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and surrounding New Jersey areas and would love to discuss how our yoga classes could benefit your students.
Racine, N., McArthur, B. A., Cooke, J. E., Eirich, R., Zhu, J., & Madigan, S. (2021). Global Prevalence of Depressive and Anxiety Symptoms in Children and Adolescents During COVID-19: A Meta-analysis. JAMA pediatrics, 175(11), 1142–1150. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1001/jamapediatrics.2021.2482
Tulane University. (2018, April 10). School-based yoga can help children better manage stress and anxiety: Researchers worked with a public school to add yoga and mindfulness activities to help third-graders screened for anxiety at the beginning of the school year. ScienceDaily. Retrieved from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/04/180410100919.htm
Ferreira-Vorkapic, C., Feitoza, J. M., Marchioro, M., Simões, J., Kozasa, E., & Telles, S. (2015). Are There Benefits from Teaching Yoga at Schools? A Systematic Review of Randomized Control Trials of Yoga-Based Interventions. Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine : eCAM, 2015, 345835. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1155/2015/345835
Schonert-Reichl, K. A., & Lawlor, M. S. (2010). The effects of a mindfulness-based education program on pre-and early adolescents’ well-being and social and emotional competence. Mindfulness, 1(3), 137-151.
Butzer, B., van Over, M., Noggle Taylor, J. J., & Khalsa, S. B. (2015). Yoga May Mitigate Decreases in High School Grades. Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine : eCAM, 2015, 259814. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1155/2015/259814
Thomas, E. M., & Centeio, E. E. (2020). The Benefits of Yoga in the Classroom: A Mixed-Methods Approach to the Effects of Poses and Breathing and Relaxation Techniques. International journal of yoga, 13(3), 250–254. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.4103/ijoy.IJOY_76_19