By Jenny Park
Yoga is not a common item found in elementary school curriculums or physical education courses, but it might benefit kids more than we know. The benefits of yoga for both children and adults are many, including increased strength, flexibility, balance, concentration, stamina and blood flow. Yogic techniques can reduce stress and allow children a break to focus on their body and breathing, which gives them a sense of self-awareness. Children can practice yoga training as a healthy way to release anger, stress, aggression, or other pent-up energy. As academic curricula becomes more and more rigorous, it is important for students to learn ways to cope. If more teachers incorporated stretching and breathing into the school day, perhaps more children would find it easier to achieve learning goals.
Teachers can easily incorporate yoga into the daily schedule by following a few simple steps. First, they should introduce the concept to students by explaining what the term “yoga” means, its benefits, a little of its history, and why it will become a part of the school day. Teachers should be sure to give age-appropriate explanations, as first graders will not be willing to listen to a half-hour lecture on the history of yogic philosophy. Next, teachers should set boundaries and rules for yoga instruction, such as the noise level expected, where students will stand, or how they are expected to act while performing the yoga poses. Finally, it is up to the teacher to teach the poses by showing the students, naming the pose, and asking them to imitate it.
It may take a bit of time to introduce the concept and the poses, possibly over a three or four-week period. However, once the students know the poses and know the expected behaviors, the teacher can easily lead the class in a stretch or two in the morning, before a test, after a writing activity, during a quick break, or wherever else it seems suitable. Soon yogic exercise will become an integral part of the students’ school days and will most likely carry over to their home lives as well. Teachers might also bring in a certified yoga instructor as a guest once in a while.
As students become more comfortable with the yogic postures, the results will be hard not to notice. Students will feel more focused and ready to learn, scores will go up, and the educational benefits of yoga during the school day will be obvious.
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