There’s a new trend in your kids’ classrooms nowadays. Instead of staring at the board in front, the kids are lying on the floor near their desks practicing yoga. According to fourth-grade teacher Elisabeth Beckwith, she wanted her students at Fernbank Elementary School in Decatur, Georgia, to pay attention to a lesson on Greek mythology. Linking the symbols of Greek gods to yoga poses, such as dog position and the stork pose, Beckwith has high hopes that the students will better retain the material and be re-energized in the middle of the day.
It’s a fun way for them to think about things,Beckwith said. You know, it’s healthy for them because they’re getting the breathing right and getting the stretching right.
It’s fun, said nine-year old Jack Besser. It gets out the cramps after you’ve been sitting for an hour.
Another pupil, Medha Prakash, said that the yoga drills help her to concentrate. It makes me feel calm, relaxed and it gets all the stress out of me.
Just like adults, even children can be under a lot of stress. The numerous school activities, peer-pressure, and homework can cause kids to feel some stress. Teaching Yoga to children can help them develop better body awareness, self-control, flexibility, and coordination. Such skills can even be carried beyond class and into their daily routines.
Two years ago, Beckwith started offering yoga in the classroom. with the help of other teachers at the suburban Atlanta public school. YogaKids International, an Indiana-based company, gives them instructions and distributes teaching materials to more than 50 schools around the country. These materials are large flash cards with kid-friendly poses that are easy for the students to imitate. Teachers hole them up to show the kids and read aloud the step-by-step instructions written on the back of the flashcards.
Aside from incorporating yoga into their lesson plans, physical education classes have incorporated the practice throughout the day to instill discipline. If you say you’re going to do yoga with the kids, they just immediately start focusing.said PE teacher Katie Bashor.
Deep breathing and basic yoga are taught to the students at their desks, from kindergarten through fifth grade, in order to cope with stress and anxiety that may occur before taking tests. School guidance counselor June Neal isn’t bothered about criticism that may be hurled at the school for taking away precious time from studying and learning to be spent on stretching and meditation. Neal believes that there’s more to elementary school that just reading, writing, and arithmetic. He has seen a measurable difference among the students, such as an improvement in test scores and test-taking skills due to a decrease in stress level after yoga routines. Neil added, You do need some down time… you do need some way to express yourself and to reduce anxiety that comes along with being in school.
According to Dr. Andrew Weil, anxiety and stress are some of the biggest reasons why young students get sick at the start of the fall semester. I think parents underestimate how stressful going back to school is, he said. I think it’s as stressful as a grown-up starting a new job.
Weil believes that stressed-out kids may complain of stomach pain or a headache instead of dealing with a stressful situation at school. He recommends training children to do simple deep-breathing techniques, just as adults do, to help with stress management.