Benefits of yoga for schools
Having worked as Head of Modern Languages in a bustling secondary school for 10 years, I can testify to the benefits of yoga on both my personal wellbeing and my performance as a school teacher. It is no exaggeration to say that my yoga practice has enhanced my relationships with students and staff alike, built a supportive classroom atmosphere, facilitated positive behaviour management and given me a unique set of coping skills that have helped me through many stressful and unpredictable challenges that teachers face on a day-to-day basis.
Personally, I am so convinced of the benefits of yoga for schools and workplaces that earlier this year I left the security of a teacher’s pension (not to mention the cushy holidays!) in order to be able to spread the positive effects of the practice even further.
And it’s not just me!
One study showed that,
Of course, it’s not just the teachers who benefit!
Let’s look at how yoga can help children & teenagers in all areas of school life and beyond.
Let’s get physical!
It will come as no surprise that yoga can improve physical health.
But, the physical benefits of yoga are especially useful in the teenage years when it is normal to experience a growth spurt. This sudden change in the size and length of limbs can cause young people to feel clumsy and out of sync with their bodies.
Numerous studies support the findings that,
During our teenage years, we are likely to struggle with body image which can be worsened through peer pressure and bullying.
The practice of yoga is built on the principles of kindness and non-judgment across all areas of life. When we apply this mindset to physical appearance we become more accepting of all body shapes and sizes.
In addition, improving coordination, balance, strength, and flexibility may help to alleviate the side effects of a growth spurt by helping teens to feel more connected to their developing body.
Less Stress; More Yoga for schools!
Through breath awareness and mindfulness, yoga gives teens space to step back and regulate their response to stressful situations in a calm and thoughtful manner.
Indeed, it is the mindfulness aspect of yoga that gives it the edge over traditional physical activity. In this way, yoga can reduce impulsivity, increase patience, and improve the ability to regulate attention in teens.
Coupled with the focus on kindness and self-compassion (Ahimsa), it is no surprise that schools with a regular yoga practice experience a reduction in disruptive behaviours including bullying & hostility.
Academic Performance – work hard; play hard!
Research tells us that,
Equally important is promoting a healthy disciplined practice without becoming attached to the outcome of our time on the mat.
In physical yoga practices, such as Vinyasa, we may attempt physically demanding poses that can also challenge us mentally. Yoga adopts a non-dualistic approach to success and failure. Without doubt, we will fall and we will fail as we practice. But, that’s OK. It’s all part of the journey.
It can be said that yoga teaches us to work hard but not to take ourselves too seriously.
A well-rounded yoga practice encourages playfulness and creativity while developing flexibility of the mind and a healthy approach to failure.
Healthy body – Healthy mind
Given that 66% of all GP visits are stress-related, tackling stress is fundamental to creating a healthy and thriving school for both staff and pupils alike. Through my personal experience of teaching yoga to children and teenagers, I am convinced that the practice of yoga will help the ever-increasing numbers of pupils who experience stress and anxiety on a daily basis.
Following a 6-week programme of yoga & laughter, Llinos, age 16, told me,
As early as 2010, Mendelson’s study on the effects of yoga showed that it reduces anxiety & depression. More recently researchers have shown it also improves stress responses, resilience & coping frequency.
It is still early days in terms of research in this area. However, the studies that have been carried out so far demonstrate compelling reasons for introducing a programme of yoga & mindfulness to both students and staff.
In summary, these benefits include:
- Anxiety management and emotional regulation
- Increased self-esteem and confidence
- Enhanced mind-body-breath connection
- Improved balance, coordination, strength, and flexibility
- Better immune system function and overall health
Hopefully, by now you are as convinced of the benefits of yoga in schools as I am! In my opinion, this simple yet powerful addition to the school day has the power to create happy & productive school environments. Given the research I have seen so far, I would go so far as to say that these practices have the potential to shape young people into kind & positive role models who may become an influence for good in the wider community.
Has your school been positively impacted by the benefits of yoga? If so, let me know in the comments or get in touch on the socials. I can’t wait to hear your story!
Visit Happy Yoga Wales for a range of yoga-inspired wellness solutions including yoga & laughter yoga for schools, businesses and events led by Paula Roberts, an experienced secondary school & yoga teacher based in Conwy, North Wales.
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Wishing you Less Stress and More Yoga!