Yoga Helps Inner City Kids Deal with Stress, Improve Grades

The Los-Angeles-based Accelerated School has introduced regular yoga classes to help their students cope with the overwhelming stress faced by inner city kids, as well as to improve fitness, grades, discipline and self-esteem.

Many kids growing up in an inner city environment live in a warzone-like environment, surrounded by crime, gang battles, and school violence. Even seasoned adults would find this environment traumatic, and for the delicate nervous system of a young child growing up, the anxiety and trauma connected with fears of school and family violence can be debilitating.

Named School of the Year by Time Magazine, the Accelerated School is a charter school located in South Central Los Angeles, which is one of the roughest, poorest and most gang-ridden regions in the U.S. The Accelerated School has been breaking new grounds by offering YogaEd as a compulsory subject for kids enrolled in their school. The nationally recognized 36-week children’s yoga curriculum combines an active, playful science-based exploration of the body, mind and self with the ancient techniques of yoga.

Teachers at Accelerated School report that yoga has helped students focus better; taking a yoga breathing break also helps to create calmer classrooms. Introducing yoga has helped stressed children come back into the moment, where fears and anxieties can take a back seat. Yoga has also proven therapeutic in helping kids deal with the angers and frustrations that arise from the tremendous challenges they are faced with in both school and family life. As children’s yoga teacher Leah Kalish puts it in an article in, “If children learn to understand their feelings, they know how to process them and express themselves, which builds self- esteem and alleviates stress.”

In 2003, the school published a pilot study charting the therapeutic effects of the school’s yoga program. The study was based on 405 children, who participated in the yoga for kids program. The study found that YogaEd participation increased students’ self-esteem and, not surprisingly, their physical health and fitness. The children participating in yoga classes also showed improved overall behavior and they had fewer discipline problems. And lastly, the yoga classes helped the kids at Alliance Select perform better in school, the GPAs were correlated with the degree to which children participated regularly in the YogaEd classes. For inner city children growing up in dysfunctional environments, such results might just mean the difference between getting a chance at a healthy, happy life or not.

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