Yoga in the classroom: fad or a new fundamental?
Cultivating mindfulness in schools has received a great deal of attention worldwide due to its association with improved psychological well-being and reduction in stress-related health disorders. Catherine Mihowich, Grade 3 teacher at the International School Saigon Pearl (ISSP) in Vietnam, discusses the benefits she has seen teaching yoga and mindfulness techniques to even the youngest students.
Yoga is such a big part of my private life, I can’t believe it hadn’t previously spilled over into other parts as well. It was only last year when I took a course to become a children’s yoga instructor that I thought about utilising it in my elementary classroom.
Yoga has a number of health benefits: increased flexibility and balance, a boosted immune system, increased muscle tone and strength, weight loss, cardio and circulatory health, improved respiration, more energy, and protection from injury, to name a few. Students can also benefit through increased focus, body awareness and development of gross motor skills, stress management, increased confidence, a positive self- image, and learning how to use their bodies in a healthy way.
After just one session, my students reported a 58 percent decrease in pain, 68 percent reduction in stress and 68 percent increase in relaxation.
Emerging research also suggests that yoga can help students with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) by improving attentiveness, hyperactivity and impulsivity. It may also boost performance in school, and a number of schools are introducing it to physical education or classroom curriculum.
Aside from practicing yoga, we can bring more mindfulness into our classrooms through basic meditation where students sit quietly and either focus on natural breathing or on a word, or mantra, repeated silently. Another way is to concentrate on subtle body sensations such as an itch or tingling without judgement and letting them pass.
Younger students are just learning about their bodies; how to move them and what they are capable of. They engage in active storytelling, dance, and other sensation-building activities.
The aim is not to hold an overly serious yoga class or meditation session, but to bring focus, mindfulness, reach multiple intelligences, and overall, have fun.