Yoga has Gone Mainstream in Schools

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.


“once children are in a more calm state, they can remember or be more mindful of actions, thoughts, and words from the heart — a more helpful behavior as opposed to self-centeredness.” – Kelly Wood


Yoga practice has been shown to have a large number of beneficial effects on the psychological, emotional, and physical health of the individual and is helpful in the treatment of mental and physical illness. As a result, it has been adopted widely in western society. As I quipped to my spouse, “you know yoga has gone mainstream, when yoga pants have become a fashion statement!” The acceptance of yoga practice has spread from the home and yoga studios to its application with children in schools.


Studies of these school programs have found that yoga practice produces a wide variety of positive psychosocial and physical benefits. These include improved mood state, self-control, aggression and social problems, self-regulation, emotion regulation, feelings of happiness and relaxation, self-esteem, social and physical well-being, self-concept, tolerance, nonviolence, truthfulness, overall, general, and social self-esteem, positive health, self-adjustment, and working-memory capacity, ability to focus, control behavior under stress, greater kinesthetic awareness, stress reduction and management, and social cohesion, focus, perseverance, and positive relationships. They have also shown that the yoga practice produces lower levels of anxiety, depression, general distress, physical arousal, and hostility, rumination, and intrusive thoughts, and alcohol use.


Teachers also note improvements in their students following yoga practice. These include improved classroom behavior and social–emotional skills, concentration, mood, ability to function under pressure, social skills, and attention and lower levels of. Hyperactivity and performance impairment. In addition, school records, academic tests, and physiological measures have shown that yoga practice produces improvements in student grades and academic performance, cortisol concentrations, micronutrient absorption, flexibility, grip strength, abdominal strength, respiratory muscle strength, heart rate variability, and stress reactivity.


These findings are remarkable and have resulted in the spread of yoga programs to schools throughout the country. In today’s Research News article “School-based Yoga Programs in the United States: A Survey” See:

or below or view the full text of the study at:

Butzer and her colleagues attempted to assess just how widespread has been the adoption of yoga programs in schools and what are the characteristics of these programs. They performed a web search to identify organizations who provide school based yoga programs and identified 36 such organizations. They then surveyed these programs to determine the number of schools served and the characteristics of the programs.


They found widespread adoption of yoga programs and could identify 940 schools across the U.S. offering such programs. There were 5400 trained instructors, although the training varied tremendously. The programs were generally new, having come into existence only 5 to 10 years ago. The majority of the programs spanned pre-school to the 12th grade while some focused on grammar school. Where the yoga practice occurred varied with some programs performing yoga in small pieces throughout the day in the classrooms while others offered formal yoga practice intensively in a gym during defined periods. The programs typically “incorporated the 4 basic elements of yoga practice into their curriculums, including physical postures, breathing exercises, relaxation techniques, and mindfulness and meditation practices” and “elements, such as ethics, philosophy, or psychology lessons.” All of the programs stressed that the programs were secular and nonreligious and taught universal values, which they referred to as life skills.


These results corroborate the impression that adoption of yoga in schools is recent, widespread, and varied. The variations in the programs may actually be an advantage as comparisons between the effectiveness of these different programs may yield important information as to what is the most effective way to construct yoga programs in schools. Some standardization may be warranted sometime in the future, but for now, the variations in programs may be very useful.


It is encouraging that yoga has gone mainstream in schools as research indicates that it has very beneficial effects on the children.


“Two years before the end of my 36-year career as an educator, I started practicing yoga and sharing it with my fourth-grade class. In those two years, I saw the profound effects of yoga on my students’ learning, the emotional climate of my classroom, my interactions with students, my satisfaction with teaching, and my own health and well-being.” – Jane Rosen

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies


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Study Summary

Butzer, B., Ebert, M., Telles, S., & Khalsa, S. B. S. (2015). School-based Yoga Programs in the United States: A Survey. Advances in Mind-Body Medicine,29(4), 18–26.



Context: Substantial interest has begun to emerge around the implementation of yoga interventions in schools. Researchers have found that yoga practices may enhance skills such as self-regulation and prosocial behavior, and lead to improvements in students’ performance. These researchers, therefore, have proposed that contemplative practices have the potential to play a crucial role in enhancing the quality of US public education.

Objective: The purpose of the present study was to provide a summary and comparison of school-based yoga programs in the United States.

Design: Online, listserv, and database searches were conducted to identify programs, and information was collected regarding each program’s scope of work, curriculum characteristics, teacher-certification and training requirements, implementation models, modes of operation, and geographical regions.

Setting: The online, listserv, and database searches took place in Boston, MA, USA, and New Haven, CT, USA.

Results: Thirty-six programs were identified that offer yoga in more than 940 schools across the United States, and more than 5400 instructors have been trained by these programs to offer yoga in educational settings. Despite some variability in the exact mode of implementation, training requirements, locations served, and grades covered, the majority of the programs share a common goal of teaching 4 basic elements of yoga: (1) physical postures, (2) breathing exercises, (3) relaxation techniques, and (4) mindfulness and meditation practices. The programs also teach a variety of additional educational, social-emotional, and didactic techniques to enhance students’ mental and physical health and behavior.

Conclusions: The fact that the present study was able to find a relatively large number of formal, school-based yoga programs currently being implemented in the United States suggests that the programs may be acceptable and feasible to implement. The results also suggest that the popularity of school-based yoga programs may continue to grow.

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