- Some parents have protested schools' yoga programs
- Yoga can have benefits for any child, regardless of faith, instructor says
Most recently, the issue was raised by parents in Georgia whose children attend an elementary school that implemented yoga in the classroom. Although yoga is not a religion in and of itself, it is a philosophy, rooted in Hinduism, composed of a system of various practices designed to heighten spirituality.
However, what the concerned parents probably don't realize is that the popular Americanized version of yoga being taught in schools is a secular form of mind-body exercise focused on mental and physical benefits, not spirituality.
In 2013, a judge in Encinitas, California, ruled against a suit
initiated by parents seeking to end a yoga program at their children's school, stating that the school was not teaching religion through its yoga classes.
I agree with the judge. When children do yoga, they aren't practicing religion; they are training life-enhancing abilities that can positively impact every child, regardless of faith. According to a 2012 study published
in The Journal of Behavioral Health Services & Research, middle-school students taking yoga reported positive mood and attitude changes, increased energy and improved ability to relax, as well as improved posture.
As a mother who has done yoga with all three of my children, the youngest of whom is on the autism spectrum, I can attest to the myriad benefits, ranging from physical advantages like improved sport performance and posture to profoundly valuable mental skills like self-control and the ability to manage stress.
Below, I've outlined my top three reasons why and ways how yoga should be taught in schools. Although the exercises I've shared are most appropriate for preschool through preteen, yoga-based practices for better breathing, movement and mindfulness can and should be adapted for any age group.
Teaching breathing as fundamental to well-being
Everyone agrees that breathing is fundamental to life. No breathing, no living. However, how to breathe to the best of our ability is rarely, if ever, taught to any of us, despite the fact that, through exposure to illness or stress, most of us develop less-than-optimal breathing patterns that can adversely affect our overall well-being. How we breathe not only affects our movement and posture
, it is crucial to our ability to manage stress