Is Yoga, and Spirituality Suitable for Schools?

By Jesse U.

With the benefits of yoga becoming more evident and increasingly popular, I think it is time we look to see if it has a rightful place within the walls of our schools. Yoga is an age-old practice of body and mind that has resurfaced in recent years as a popular form of exercise and as a spiritual practice.

Yoga has shown great potential for producing physical benefits that range from increased flexibility to lowering blood pressure and weight loss. It has also shown to produce psychological benefits such as calming your mind and helping you focus which should be of great interest for schools to implement. Yoga seems like the perfect solution for many problems we find within our youth, but the question is does this practice belong in our schools?

Many people see no problem in implementing yoga into schools because of its wide range of potential benefits that it can offer students and teachers. But, controversy will always strike- I read an article called “Parents sue school for teaching yoga to children” which is a case in California where parents of a child who have christian roots, claim that “two 30 minute yoga classes a week threaten religious freedom and is equal to religious indoctrination.”. The parents went on to sue the superintendent who himself does not really see any problem and has actually spoken highly of the program since it has started in the school. He went on to state that teachers and parents have noticed that the children who are enrolled in the yoga sessions seem much calmer. I think we need to question that eliminating the influence of any religion being taught or practiced in school that we might be running into a problem of potentially dismissing the value of spiritual development and growth for our youth.

The practice of yoga is meant to find focus on your inner self.  It teaches us ways to get in touch with who we are deep inside, and to help us develop a sense of intuition.I think in providing this opportunity to children where they spend the majority of there years as youth is exactly what is needed for their growth and the growth of our education system. Spirituality is an important developmental process that I believe is already a part of our lives, but it just takes some time to find and understand. I think it can be seen naturally at work in schools already through social-emotional learning, and character development. This process has the potential to contribute to our youths’ emotional well-being, resilience and bullying prevention, which is why I think it is very likely that programs addressing children’s spiritual development will continue to gain support from schools.

One example is found in a study called “Spirituality, Religiousness, and Happiness in Children Aged 8-12” which was published in the Journal of Happiness Studies in 2008. This study showed that children who were more spiritual indicated being happier through an assessment of self-reports and survey questions.

One year ago I decided to join a yoga practice and give it a chance. I was in search for another form of exercise and stretching, with no real idea of the spiritual side of the practice or the psychological benefits that it could produce. I could not be happier with my decision to just give it shot, because over the past year I have been personally liberated in many ways. I really have found that my practice in yoga has taught me much better and simpler methods for dealing with stress and has brought me to being more aware of my own actions and thoughts. I now see that yoga can give people a fun, rewarding and shared experience while still keep the focus of the practice on developing your own assets. I have witnessed and been a part of the many benefits that yoga can produce in only a year, and to think of the potential it could have in our youths lives is truly uplifting. I think everyone should give this practice of body and mind a real chance and then formulate an opinion on whether it has a rightful spot in our schools and in our child’s lives.

Holder, M., Coleman, B., & Wallace, J. (2008). Spirituality, Religiousness, and Happiness in Children Aged 8-12 Years. Journal of Happiness Studies, 11, 131-150.

http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs10902-008-9126-1

Marty Graham. ( February 8, 2013). Parents Sue School for Teaching Yoga to Children.

http://www.thestar.com/news/world/2013/02/22/parents_sue_school_for_teaching_yoga_to_children.html

Darla Hernandez. (September 17, 2014). Yoga for Kids Gaining Popularity in Schools and Studios.

http://www.wsbt.com/news/local/yoga-for-kids-rapidly-spreading-in-schools-and-studios/28108640

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5 Responses to Is Yoga, and Spirituality Suitable for Schools?

  1. blpye says:

    This post raised some interesting points. I never really think of yoga as a controversial spiritual practice, rather as a way to stretch and challenge my body in new ways, and to establish connection between all parts of the body. However, a few summers ago I was working for a Christian summer camp that heavily relied on the church for its teachings. One of our staff members raised a similar question about yoga, questioning whether we were going against the church by introducing the spiritual aspects of another area. I personally agree that it really should not matter. Even in the 40 developmental assets there is the idea of religion being important to one’s development. If we don’t teach children ways to be tolerable of other religions and spiritual practices, when will they be able to develop their own opinions and beliefs?

  2. Anonymous says:

    I agree with the comment above and your thoughts throughout this blog. I see no negative aspects to incorporating yoga into schools. This activity has positive benefits that one can not necessarily develop in many other activities. Yoga can release many emotions that especially with youth, do not know how to handle at this point in life. The youth age group needs an outlet when dealing with these difficult emotions and yoga is a perfect exercise for this.
    Another benefit that yoga can offer to youth (whom are currently in the stage of puberty), is learning how to use and control their bodies when going through growth and hormonal development. Many youth are found to not be in “tune” with these changes nor know how exactly to deal with them. When I read a article on how yoga can benefit children they state that scientific evidence is mounting daily for what many have long sensed: that practices like mindfulness, meditation, and yoga can help us address certain intractable individual and societal problems. Also, perhaps more importantly for our global health, for kids dealing with extreme stressors, traumas and abuse, putting these practices into schools could be the difference between failure and success.

  3. katelynpeters2014 says:

    The post above was wrote by me, sorry I forgot to sign in first

  4. j6kj3 says:

    A high school student that I coach hockey recently told me that instead of taking a physical education class she is taking yoga. She seemed really excited about having it as a class, and I thought of it as a great activity for her to do outside of hockey not thinking of all the benefits it has for her. After reading your article Jesse it made me realize all of the benefits it can have on youth. I was just thinking of the physical benefits it can have on her and how she can bring it to hockey. There is more to yoga then I realized, especially reading the stats of how the children are happier I think it is important to bring yoga into the schools. Even in cooperate mindfulness in the classroom could benefit students today to control their stress and anxiety.

  5. b834z says:

    Great post Jesse!
    I definitely agree, yoga should be offered in schools to children because the benefits are unbelievable and so much more than you would expect from a physical education class. I actually took yoga in high school as well as the activity class in kinesiology and they were always the best parts of my day. I never even realized how energized it could make me feel. The stress that youth are having these days as was mentioned in other blogs, could be reduced if they were exposed to yoga exercises. Personally, I found that making the time for yoga helped me cope with external stress, and it actually improved performances all around.
    I don’t think that parents should be upset about the religion of yoga. However, if the course is going to be offered in a school, perhaps the leader of the program should focus purely on the exercise and not so much on the history and background of the practice. Having taken the courses I understand that there is a lot of religion to the exercises. From what I remember there were a lot of prayers and praises in most of the yoga types. Though I never had the religion of the practice stressed in the high school course. Perhaps parents and school board members can come up with a compromise when they are framing the syllabus for the course and parents can tell their children whether they want them to enroll in the course or not. I think suing suing the school may have been a bit of an overreaction.
    I think the course should be backed with another choice such as dance. That was a fantastic course to take in high school. Either way, the students should be able to feel liberated and free in their movement. In terms of the big picture, I believe the students should be allowed time where they must take a physical activity course in school. As mentioned in the post, there are so many benefits to these types of exercise that are major assets to fostering youth development.
    Meggie

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