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Yoga and Meditation in Schools: Will it Work?

Yoga and Meditation in Schools: Will it Work?

I learned nothing from dodgeball. I am speaking about the semi-savage sport routinely played in public high schools, not about the 2004 film of the same name (I didn’t see the film, so had no opportunity to learn much from the film either). Maybe the only thing I learned was the fact that so-called “friends” will relish the chance to humiliate and pummel one another if given the opportunity. But this, to my mind, is not really the type of activity conducive to higher learning, enhanced concentration, or community building. If anything, I remember dodgeball as an activity that, while it did promote a fair amount of fear-based aerobic activity, was destabilizing and disquieting at best.

How about Yoga?

What is now a seven billion dollar industry in America, yoga wasn’t always the sweetheart of the urbane set. According to Robert Love, the author of The Great Oom: The Improbable Birth of Yoga in America, less than a century ago “yoga was labeled a criminal fraud and an abomination against the purity of American women. It was associated with sexual promiscuity and kicked to the fringes of American society.” While yoga is not quite on the level of baseball or gymnastics, it is safe to say that acceptance has flourished for yoga over the past few decades, and it is even starting to crop up in schools.

A new organization, cleverly named Bent on Learning, is attempting to provide free yoga classes that include meditation (quiet time) for school children in New York City. Think of it as an appropriate counteraction to all the aural din, stress, and distraction that comes hand in hand with being a school age child in New York City. Or as hip hop impresario Russell Simmons (a fervent supporter of yoga and meditation in schools) contends, “Joining the two together, yoga and children, is an obvious synergy, because yoga is a great physical workout that teaches kids, in fact teaches everyone, how to use what they already have — their body, breath and mind — to feel better about themselves, to release stress, calm their emotions, and increase focus.”

I could hear the eyebrows arching and the skeptics guffawing in the distance, but really, with obesity rates as they are (approximately half of New York City public school children struggle with obesity) and academic performance on the decline in many sectors, why not opt to push a few desks aside and set up an impromptu yoga studio (43 percent of the schools in New York City don’t have any sort of gymnasium or gym teacher). Both yoga and meditation have been proven to help increase focus, balance blood pressure, as well as improve brain function, all of which would be a boon for schools, not just in New York City, but everywhere.

The question is will school age children go for it? While it doesn’t have the ferocity of dodgeball, or the competitiveness of softball, I believe that there is something intrinsically appealing to children about tuning in (or tuning out), and considering all of the stimuli and distractions competing for their attention, this may be exactly what they want and need. If it worked for no hope prisoners in India, then why wouldn’t it work for desk-bound students?

Is yoga suitable and ideal for public schools, or is it just too crunchy for the public school reality? Have you personally seen the benefits of yoga (I am not talking about killer abs and a tighter rear) and see its advancement into the school curriculum a positive step? How about meditation? Is that asking way too much of school age children?

Read more: Family, Fitness, Health, Healthy Schools, Mental Wellness, Parenting at the Crossroads, Yoga, , , , , , , ,

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Eric Steinman

Eric Steinman is a freelance writer based in Rhinebeck, NY. He regularly writes about food, music, art, architecture, and culture and is a regular contributor to Bon Appétit among other publications.


+ add your own
5:45PM PDT on Jul 28, 2013

Interesting, ty

5:44PM PDT on Jul 28, 2013

Interesting, ty

5:43PM PDT on Jul 28, 2013

Interesting, ty

5:42PM PDT on Jul 28, 2013

Interesting, ty

3:28AM PDT on May 3, 2013

Hope every mother understand for the best of their child what yoga is??? Becouse if motherif denies their Child from God by the foolishness like yoga???? and child later have a consequence when grow up she makes a huge heated .

god protect you all -

3:20AM PDT on May 3, 2013

Dear all, I belive in real GOD , only one god, everything else is a lie - I have 55 years and great experience, and I am writing today, when the Lord raised me from the bottom of yoga, from the bottom of evil, hell, the one that brought yoga and again returned to my roots and my God heritage back I hope you find in time the truth without big consequence ! ask your self in what you believe? Don*t forget the eyes of God the heavenly father,, a single omniscient and omnipotent are watcing you, the word of Bible can save you in side you will find every think about this,,,, if you folow yoga and their false saint you will you will reap the fruits of that which you believe and not God. Joga is many, come from something you don*t now , so inform first about ,,it will save your life
read more :
Yoga in philosophy and practice is incompatible with Christianity

James Manjackal MSFS

As a Christian and a Catholic, was born in the Indian state of Kerala in a traditional Catholic family, but in the Hindu environment, and now as a Catholic priest and charismatic preacher in sixty countries on all continents, I'd say something about the bad effects of yoga on the Christian life and spirituality. I know that the whole world is growing interest in yoga, even among Christians, and that this interest spread to other esoteric and New Age practices such as reiki, reincarnation, acupressure, acupuncture, Prana healing, reflexology, etc. which are all methods against which Vatican

7:18PM PDT on Oct 13, 2011

Mary I, "My religion doesn't worship Shiva (The Destroyer) So I don't want my children worshiping this particular Deity. If you are an Atheist, this doesn't pose a problem, we are not and so this is a direct violation of our religion. All religions should be respected." I hear you. Yet, I also know that you don't have to believe in anything other than a cleansing, peaceful breath. If the religious or spiritual aspects of yoga were taught in a public school, I would be very upset. But, even if they were, I know from personal experience that you can drown them out by thinking of a completely different thing. For example, I am a Jew. I had no problem with the Christmas plays in my public school, because I merely thought of what I know as the 1 true G-d. I focused on G-d and did just fine. If this is an elective opportunity, you just don't participate if you feel so strongly. If it is required, then teach your children to focus on what you know as the one true G-d or if that doesn't work, the chant "Owa Tagu Siam" works wonders. I was raised around all sorts of religions, and hearing their names or even going to their services never turned me away from my relationship with the L-rd.

Read more:

7:12PM PDT on Oct 13, 2011

Yoga is a tool. It can be used for peace or for war, for good or bad. There are mantras that do NOT ever have to be used to get the benefit. The motion and the breathing are the important elements in its effectiveness and clearly it is improving people's health and reducing their hostility level. I have a daughter from my first marriage who had a lot of stress as that was a marriage created in the pits of Hell. She often acted out and hit people. But, she learned yoga. She was an Atheist so the mantras were offensive to her. One day a friend in class taught her a chant that she has used ever since even though it is ridiculous. It helps her so much because it is completely non religious and it is so funny. When she does her yoga and meditation, my daughter chants (instead of OM) "Owa Tagu Siam"

6:28PM PDT on Mar 22, 2011

Thank you Immanuel for that link. I always felt a bit uneasy about the thought of yoga and now I know why. Norman, TM is a scam. Everyone has the same mantra which is why they tell you not to tell yours to anyone. They don't want you to know what a fake the whole thing is. That guru made millions off suckers in the 70s. Apparently he's still cleaning up.

2:31AM PDT on Aug 3, 2010

I have introduced 10-12 year old pupils to yoga. They were fascinated.

Phys.ed. should introduce children to a broad range of activities. The problem is of course to get able instructors. Schools are usually hard pressed for money. If they do not have qualified instructors in the staff, they probably will not have the resources to hire one.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
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