How would you feel about yoga being part of the national curriculum?
If yoga could be recognised for what it is without all the mystical connotations then the schools and education authorities would realise how valuable it could be for the younger generation in todays society.
As a yoga teacher and mother who encourages the practice of yoga for children, I have come across a number of barriers within society which are based on pure ignorance. I strongly feel that it is important to educate authorities about what yoga has to offer, canceling out any fears and judgements.
Physical Education in Schools.
As part of the national curriculum here in the UK, physical education and sports are offered in the daily school program and as after school activities. The idea behind physical education is to attempt to make sport attractive to children of all levels, help to raise standards, improve behaviour and health, increase attendance and develop social skills. This was certainly not something I experienced at school. I remember clearly being taunted and teased for not being able to jump a hurdle, I don’t think I’ve attempted to run since.
Without sounding too bleak all this allows children to participate in a variety of activities including games, gymnastics, swimming, water safety and athletics. Many schools offer a chance for children to take part in outdoor pursuits which are offered as week – long residentials. Although these activities are part of the curriculum, physical exercise plays less of an important role in the education system than any other subject. Here I’m relating to sporting activities in the UK, so please feel free to leave a comment regarding your own experiences in another country, it’s great to acknowledge any differences that may occur throughout the world.
Children spend more of their time sitting at desks on poorly designed chairs instead of exploring the ability to move and to connect with their physical bodies.
During lesson time in school or any other time when children are required to sit for long periods of time it’s good to encourage movement after 20 minutes. It’s usually after this amount of time that levels of concentration start to wane, causing tiredness. A simple solution would be to introduce stretches for approximately 2 -5 miuntes which would help reawaken the mind and body.
- Stretch the arms above the head and come up onto the tiptoes, stretch up high and keep lengthening upwards, feeling the stretch along the sides of the body.
- Place the feet a hip width apart and begin to circle the upper body 10 times anti-clockwise and 10 times clockwise. Make large circles very slowly, try to keep the eyes closed and listen to the sound of the breath. Oh and please don’t forget to smile!
This practice can be done in the work place too, so don’t just think it’s for the children.
Believe it or not children go through a lot of pressures and sometimes this can cause their lives to veer out of control. When they feel stress or anxiety how do they cope? What can they do to release their tensions? Many children resort to misbehaving only because they have no other way of dealing with the feelings that are inside of them.
Introducing yoga into daily school life automatically gives children the tools to be able to deal with their issues on all levels, physically, mentally and spiritually. Yoga asanas ( postures ) have been scientifically proven to increase circulation to all the internal organs including the brain. When oxygen is released around the body it reduces symptoms of fatigue and enhances concentration. Working regularly on yoga postures will increase flexibility and therefore enhance the practice of other sporting activities offered during school time. Flexibility of the body encourages flexibility of the mind and the importance of mind control and meditation skills for children during their school years and beyond. Relaxation and meditation incorporating breath control and awareness steer the mind towards a positive outlook. They give us the ability to sustain our feelings in a balanced way. This can be vital during the temperamental changes that children experience while growing into young adults and I’m guessing many of us will have experienced this, either personally or from watching our own children grow.
This simple practice can be used during lesson times or children’s group sessions to bring harmony back to a hectic classroom environment.
- Create a circle with the class either sitting cross legged on the floor or in chairs. Each child should connect hands with the child on their left and on their right and take 5 minutes of silent time, watching the breath moving in and out of the body while breathing through the nose. After the practice there will be a noticeable difference, the class will be calmer and more attentive.
If working with children who have short attention spans then reduce the time of the practice by 1 or 2 minutes. In time as the children recognise the practice and it’s importance timings can be increased.
When we encourage awareness of the breath then the increase in oxygen around the body is profound, it can also help counteract childhood problems such as asthma and bronchial issues. However remember this is a support not as a total cure.
Yoga and Religion.
In some schools yoga is misjudged. This is due to lack of understanding on the subject. The quote below explains what yoga truly is:
” Is yoga a religion?
It is and it is not.
In religion you have to believe something
And in yoga you have to experience what you want to believe. ” – Yogi Bhajan.
It is about experiencing for yourself and acknowledging where you are at that particular moment in time, mentally , physically and spiritually and not about following a structured religion.
As a yoga teacher offering yoga to children in schools i have often experienced negative comments regarding yoga and it’s philosophy. A number of Christian schools have refused to acknowledge what yoga really is without any solid knowledge or information. Re – education is a necessity for teachers and authorities to gain some form of understanding on yoga and it’s benefits.
Yoga means to unite, to encompass everyone, not to exclude or segregate a particular race or religion. Everyone has the ability to make yoga part of their life and reap the benefits it has to offer.
Yoga Recognised in Education.
There are schools that recognise yoga as part of the education system, but it will often come under a different name such as movement therapy or self exploration. Putting yoga under another title makes it accessible to children of all faiths. One day this should change but at present due to lack of spiritual acceptance, knowledge and unity in certain communities it sadly seems a necessity to disguise the positive aspects that yoga can teach us all.
Miri Piri Academy, India.
The MPA was founded in 1997 by Yogi Bhajan, the first to publicly teach Kundalini Yoga when he arrived in the west in 1968. The study of Kundalini Yoga is a major part of life at the MPA. Until 10th grade children are regularly involved in classes in which they learn the fundamentals of a yogic lifestyle. In the 11th and 12th grade students participate in Kundalini Yoga teacher training courses.
When one student was asked why she was at MPA she replied: ”
” MPA is certainly not a school you find everywhere,
you learn disciplines in mind and soul and that makes it special.
You put yourself in a situation where if you go through a challenge then anything else becomes easier. “