Healthy Kids: Down Dog Brings Test Scores Up

Increased test scores, decreased disciplinary problems and happier, healthier kids is every parent and educators dream. Schools across the country are beginning to see this dream come true as they introduce yoga into their physical education programs, classroom setting and after-school club offerings.

Although most parents and educators are pleased with the results, not everyone is happy with the methods.

Thanks to a $1.4 million grant from the Sonima Foundation, formerly known as the Jois Foundation, the Encinitas Union School District hired yoga teachers and began their own three-year study on the effects of yoga on the students. While subject to early law suits, the 4th District Court of Appeals ruled that the yoga program is a secular physical education program and didn’t enhance or inhibit religion, and the program has received great reports from parents and teachers alike.

Benefits of Yoga for Students in School Progams

Proponents of teaching yoga in schools say that aside from the well-known physical benefits of yoga, the classes allow the students to be more relaxed and open to the learning environment. The superintendent of the San Diego school district said he has seen kids use the yoga techniques they’ve learned to calm themselves down and to diffuse potential confrontations.

Additionally, suspension rates are down and attendance rates are up in the San Diego schools offering yoga.

Elizabeth Possey teaches yoga to special needs students at a private school in Memphis, Tennessee.

“The parents and school administrators love it,” she says. “Given the makeup of our student body, yoga class is the only physical class accessible to many of our students.”

Possey’s yoga class is a PE option; none of the students are forced to enroll in yoga. She also teaches a weekly after school yoga club that is very popular with the students.

She says since beginning to teach yoga, she has seen the student’s attention span not only increase, but also they are able to sustain that attention span for much longer.

Possey stresses she only teaches the asanas and some pranayama, leaving out any form of meditation or Eastern culture. But she always encourages both parents and staff to ask questions and address concerns.

Yoga 4 Classrooms®, one of the few yoga teacher training programs specifically designed to teach yoga in a classroom setting, used three years of research in a Maine elementary school to develop their yoga curriculum. They now offer trainings throughout the United States and Canada.

Yoga 4 Classrooms® teachers have found many benefits to bringing yoga into the classroom:

  • Helps students develop healthy ways to express emotion

  • Encourages a sense of community in the classroom

  • Improves focus, concentration and memory

  • Improves postural alignment from sitting at a desk for long periods

  • Creates a calm classroom environment

  • Builds confidence and self esteem

  • Provides regular daily motor breaks

Helen Anne DiMeglio also teaches at a private Memphis school. Currently she teaches the PreK classes where she weaves educational information into the yoga time. For example, if they are focusing on the letter D that week they’ll practice Down Dog, or use the yoga session to discuss healthy habits.

Although the younger kids are amused by the animal names of the poses and the chance to move around, DiMeglio says she has also seen older children benefit from yoga in the classroom as well.

“The teenage students appreciate the non-competitive nature of yoga, the chance to focus on their thoughts and feelings, while also mixing in a bit of silliness and fun,” said DiMeglio.

DiMeglio encourages all teachers to build yoga breaks into their day. Whether it be a few calming breaths before a test or a couple basic poses done with a chair or desk, both students and teachers will benefit from daily yoga.

“Our kids crave a little down time and enjoy the chance to take it in yoga class,” said DiMeglio. “In my classes, I use yoga to encourage respect for self, respect for all others and respect for our beautiful world.”

Interested in more on teaching kids yoga, read about Kids Yoga Teacher Training – with Global Family Yoga.

Jennifer Williams Fields

Jennifer Williams-Fields is passionate about writing, yoga, traveling, public speaking and being a fabulous single momma to six super kids. Doing it all at one time, however, is her great struggle. She has been teaching yoga since 2005 and writing since she first picked up a crayon. Although her life is a sort of organized chaos, she loves every minute of the craziness and is grateful for all she’s learned along the way. Her first book “Creating A Joyful Life: The Lessons I Learned From Yoga and My Mom” is now available on Amazon. She has had her essays featured on Yahoo! and Dr. Oz The Good Life. She is a regular writer for Elephant Journal Magazine, YourTango and YogaUOnline. 

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