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Can Teaching Yoga in Schools Lead to a Better World?
by Teressa Ascencia
It has been said that no society can rise above the level of their teachers. The future generation is shaped in our classrooms. The impact of an effective teacher on thousands of learners extends over four decades of his or her professional life. Teaching is one of the most essential professions and also one of the most demanding.
More and more anecdotal evidence and research are pointing to importance of physical activity in the healthy development of children. Children love to move. When they sit still too long, they feel tense and it is more difficult for them to learn. By taking time for a few physical exercises and breathing exercises daily, teachers may easily release this tension and create a more effective learning process. Yoga has the potential to greatly maximize the benefits of movement breaks for children.
Silence has become rare and precious
Our modern world is highly advanced in technology, yet we have lost many of the ancient keys to the art of living. Children often rush to get dressed and off to school. Then, after the demands of their day at school, engage in after school activities and return home to television and homework. Simple exercises and breathing techniques provide a much-needed opportunity for children to enjoy a few moments of silence and stillness.
Yoga in Your School is designed to give teachers movement and breathing techniques to enhance their own energy as they inspire their students to tap into their inner potential and create a harmonious classroom. The Yoga Sutra, an ancient text on Yoga, describes how the “hridayam” or heart center is considered to be the seat of the mind. This ancient text explains that when we are able to access the wisdom of the heart center, an inherent intelligence that is beyond ordinary understanding based on words or cognitive processes, our mental capacity is greatly increased. Experiencing this inner wisdom is much easier when we are quiet and calm.
Stillness and quiet are as essential as action and movement. Yet, children are often bombarded with stimuli of all kinds and sometimes feel as stressed as their parents and teachers. By taking time for a few slow movements and breathing exercises, teachers may encourage their students to relax their body and mind and discover an inner stillness that allows them to access their innate qualities of insight, intuition and inner wisdom.
Enhance physical and mental well-being with Yoga
With its growing worldwide popularity, yoga is already used in educational institutions in many countries. Many schools in North America have already trained teachers to include Yoga as a regular part of the classroom day. It is also becoming a regular part of the physical education curriculum and it offers a non-competitive alternative to competitive sports.
How does Yoga differ from other forms of physical exercise?
It is possible to build strength and flexibility through many forms of physical exercise. The unique aspect of Yoga is that it builds both inner and outer strength, endurance and flexibility. In addition to enhancing physical and mental well-being, Yoga teaches students to concentrate, releases tension and develops inner qualities such as patience and insight. With regular practice, students learn to develop better self-control, inner confidence and focus. Studies have shown that regular Yoga practice unifies the two sides of the brain, allowing information and knowledge to enter the brain at deeper levels.
Practicing Yoga together also enhances the relationship between teacher and students, enabling them to work together and enjoy a more efficient learning process. While toning the body and focusing the mind, regular Yoga practice also strengthens the nervous system, builds inner confidence and teaches students how to better manage the tensions of daily life.
Take a “Yoga Break”
The Yoga in Your School program aims to help teachers integrate simple movement and breathing exercise into their daily classroom schedule to:
- Strengthen physical and mental well being
- Enhance energy and concentration
- Enjoy a calm, content, centered classroom
- Create a more enjoyable and efficient learning process
Taking a few minutes between activities to stretch while concentrating on the breath, helps create calm focused students and a harmonious classroom. Teachers may share a refreshing “Yoga Break” with their students several times a day.
In my book Yoga in Your School, I offer a series of exercises that are easy to do with kids of any age. Each posture or breathing technique may be practiced in less than three minutes, so that they may be used regularly or as needed, when attention or energy begins to wane. The physical exercises are designed to develop concentration, improve motor skills and fitness, develop strength, flexibility and balance as they enhance relationships and inspire a joyful, effective learning process. The breathing exercises are designed to expand lung capacity and increase endurance as they energize and harmonize body and mind. By taking a few moments to stop between activities to breathe and stretch, teachers may create a harmonious classroom with calm, alert children who are receptive and eager to learn.
About Teressa Asencia: Teressa has taught Yoga and Creative Dance for twenty-five years in many countries. She has written and produced several Yoga videos, two Yoga DVDs and three Yoga series for television which were broadcast daily on CBC and the Women’s Network across Canada and aired on many PBS stations in the U.S.A. . Recently she has published two new books, “Yoga in Your School” and “Yoga for Mom, Dad and Me”. Additional information is available on www.YogaInYourSchool.com