Kids’ Yoga in Schools and Specialized Treatments

April 21st, 2010 by Dionna | 2 Comments
Posted in Children, Eclectic Learning, Guest Posts, Healthy Living, Just for Fun/Miscellaneous, natural parenting, Preschoolers, Teens, Toddlers

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Today I would like to welcome Acacia, who has written a guest post on the benefits of kids’ yoga. Acacia is a part-time SAHM, a part-time yoga instructor at the Yoga Patch, and an intuitive artist. She fills her days with a lot of play with her 3 year old son Everett (and she has one on the way!), a little bit of responsible mommy stuff, and a little bit of blogging. You can normally find Acacia over at Be Present Mama, where she writes about yoga, being present in your life, and her experiences as a mother.

This article is the second in a three part series on Kids’ Yoga. In the first article Acacia introduced Kids’ Yoga classes and outlined some of the benefits. In this article Acacia speaks specifically to how Kids’ Yoga has influenced children’s performance in school and in specialized treatments for illnesses and disorders.

Yoga Influences School Performance

The efficacy of kids’ yoga has reached the ears of researchers and schools alike. There are two particular schools that have made the news and perked the interest of scholars.

The Accelerated School in urban LA incorporated a Yoga Ed Program to enhance their students’ success. A study released in 2003 examined variables such as academic performance, discipline, attendance, and students’ attitudes towards themselves, yoga, and school. Some highlights of their findings included: increased positive attitude towards self (increased by 20% at the end of the study), a correlation between students with fewer discipline referrals and high participation in yoga classes, greater physical fitness than the school district mean levels of fitness by 23-28%, and a correlation between higher GPAs and a diligent yogic practice.

At Namaste Charter School, opened in a crime-ridden neighborhood of Chicago in 2004, their approach to education is an infusion of yoga and some of the yogic principles with staff training, curriculum, and community outreach. Along with a regular yoga practice, the kids are taught to “take a deep breath when they are angry, relax in child’s pose before a test [or] try a new vegetable on the salad bar.”

There at Namaste, 90% of families are low income and only 10% of adults in their households graduated from high school. Both of these are factors that are linked to low academic performance and higher drop out rates. Previous to its opening, news was released that 23% of Chicago’s young children were overweight compared to 10% nationwide.

A year after its opening, students were scoring high on the Terra Nova (a national standardized test). They were at grade level in language and above grade level in math. They were also only two months behind grade level in reading, in spite of the fact that over half of the students are ESL learners. Overall, the students made 1.3 years of growth in one year. In preliminary study results, BMIs have leveled and percentage of overweight children in the area has dropped from 31% to 28% in the first year of the school’s opening.

Yoga Assists in Specialized Treatments

Researchers have also begun exploring how kids’ yoga improves the lives of children with specific issues. For example, some studies indicate that for children with ADHD or a lot of energy, yoga may prove as a suitable substitute for medication. Learning to focus on deep yogic breaths allows a child to eliminate some of the external stimuli that make it difficult for him/her to concentrate and provides an emotional safety net.

Studies on adolescent girls with eating disorders show that yoga proves effective in reducing depression, anxiety, and self-esteem issues that lead to the disorders. It proves an effective physical exercise for a weakened body.

The Times Magazine reported on a study done by Seattle Children’s Hospital that included 50 adolescents aged 11-16 who had an eating disorder.  For eight weeks, some received usual outpatient treatment and some received that treatment plus two hours a week of yoga classes instructed by a Yoga Alliance certified instructor. Teens receiving the usual treatment showed improvement, but a month after treatment had fallen back to previous levels.  Teens who took yoga classes showed slow improvement but a month after treatment, they were doing much better than at the start of the program.

The yoga had no effect on their weight. Instead, researchers suspect that yoga may reduce the obsessive concern teens have with their weight because they are focusing on the yoga poses. In other words, they are being present to their bodies, not to the disorder of their minds.

Integrated Movement Therapy (IMT) is a new yoga-based treatment created by Molly Kenny, a speech-language pathologist and Ashtanga Yoga Instructor. She discovered that “when she combined touch or movement with verbal exercises, her patients generally experienced more spontaneous speech and improved mood.” She created IMT by combining speech-language exercises, self-esteem building, self-calming practices, and yoga postures. Through her work, the kids have dramatically improved their balance, sociability, emotional health, communication, and problem-solving skills.

Yoga for a Better Childhood

Yoga has benefits to be sought by all because it exercises the connection between the mind, body, and spirit – treating the whole. As you can see from the examples discussed above, as our children’s whole beings are considered in education and treatments, they make great leaps towards their greater potentials. Imagine how well centered, happy, and connected our children would be with yoga incorporated into these aspects of their life!

Stay Tuned!

Please check back next week. I’ll be back with ideas on how to bring yoga into your home. I’ll provide tips on how to facilitate the activities, what materials are useful, and how yoga can be incorporated into a natural parenting philosophy.

In the meantime, please visit Be Present Mama where I post a bi-weekly series called “Kids Yoga Activities.”

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Resources

“A Study of The Yoga Ed Program at The Accelerated School,” Simeon Slovacek, Ph.D., Susan Tucker, Ph.D., and Laura Pantoja, B.A. at California State University, LA, CA, http://www.yogaed.com/pdfs/researcharticle.pdf, 2003.

“Yoga in Schools: Does it Pass the Test?” Shannon Sexton, Yoga+ Magazine, Himalayan Institute, http://www.himalayaninstitute.org/yogaplus/Article.aspx?id=3057, Sept/Oct 2006.

“Fit Kids’ Yoga 101: the benefits of yoga for children,” Allison Curtis, Chicago Yoga Examiner, http://www.examiner.com/x-10039-Chicago-Yoga-Examiner~y2009m6d11-Fit-Kids-yoga-benefits-your-kids-too, 2009.

“Downward Dog Fights Eating Disorders,” Maia Szalavitz, TIME Magazine, http://wellness.blogs.time.com/2009/11/04/downward-dog-fights-eating-disorders/, November 4, 2009.

“Breaking Barriers,” Linda Knittel, Yoga Journal, http://www.yogajournal.com/lifestyle/780.

2 Responses to:
"Kids’ Yoga in Schools and Specialized Treatments"

  1. Melodie   bfmom

    So wonderful for me to read this. We are moving soon and I am looking into a school where all the children do yoga and meditation before they start their day. My daughter is a very anxious, nervous child and I am hoping this school will turn out to be a good place for her to help with the transition of moving and leaving her friends as well as helping her with her anxieties, and helping focus and relax her so she feels more comfortable socializing, which is also a very difficult thing for her in school. At home she has no problem but at school she doesn’t play with anyone. So I have igh hopes. We meet with the teachers to do a tour tomorrow.

  2. Fabulous post – very thorough and informative regarding the research that has been done thus far. Much more research is now being done and we are actually heading up a couple of studies as well! Our Yoga 4 Classrooms program might be of interest: http://www.yoga4classrooms.com.
    Great article – will highlight this on our facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/childlightyoga
    Thanks!
    Lisa Flynn

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