According to a news article last week on the BBC, one in five schools now teach yoga as part of the physical education provision.
There is a current trend is for schools to move away slightly from more traditional, competitive sports. Yoga can help students get the physical benefits of getting active and moving the body, improving their posture and physical strength. And also they could learn useful skills to help them develop better concentration, keep them de-stressed and able to handle life-stresses and exams better, and be more in touch with themselves during adolescent change.
Yoga can be great both as a group class where they take a yoga practice as a PE class, but also shorter practices can be used less formally. For example teachers can start off a class with some focusing work such as a short stretch or chant to help settle the class and get them focused on the lesson ahead. Lots of useful possibilities!
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If you've tried yoga, you may already have an idea about the health benefits it can bring, the calm state of mind it can develop, the concentration and self-disclipline it can foster. Finding the right teacher and the right style for you is essential and not everyone takes to it straight away. But it has stood the test of time and has so much to offer.
But can yoga also develop these qualities in children? And could it help them increase there prospects of making more of their time in school for learning?
Yoga is being tried at Quarry Brae primary school near Glasgow who are trying it to find out and so far the results are really encouraging.
The school is in a deprived area and many of the children show up to school without having a structured start to the day, often coming from unsetttled home environments. This can set the day off with a rocky start, and the disruption can spill over into the classroom where concentration and discipline can be challenging. They have been trying starting the day with some yoga techniques, using some physical postures, chanting, breathing, mudras to calm the children down, provide a sense of concentration and discipline and prepare the children much better for a day of group participation and learning. The children are responding well, enjoying the practices, noticing and commenting on how calm they feel and how it is helping them to concentrate and 'feel better'. One 11 year old comments:
"I got hit in the face with a ball, usually I'd go up and start a fight with whoever did it but I don't any more. I used to have a quick temper and yoga has calmed that down."
Many of the physical yoga postures were designed with children in mind. They often have playful names like 'downward facing dog' to help make them memorable and appealing. And practices such as jumping in and out of the postures help keep the young people engaged and challenged as they work through the practice.
The school teachers are supportive and at least one has gone on to be trained as a yoga instructor and is bringing yoga practices in to her classes to help prepare the children for learning.
It takes a specialist approach to help children get the best out of their yoga practice. But what this school has done seems to demonstrate something that should be explored and tried out further, both with children and with adults. Many of us are already embracing the benefits of yoga and gradually learning how to apply yoga to help us in our everyday lives. It has so much to offer from relaxation and calmness, to health and therapy to support and improve health problems, and can even bring a more connected, holistic and spiritual aspect to our everyday lives. Lots to explore.
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