“When you give [kids] yoga poses, use visualization, and allow them to move their bodies, their whole learning ability goes up several notches . . . When you teach kids, it’s not about telling them—it’s about creating experiences for them where they connect the dots, and create new dots.” – Marsha Wenig
Mindfulness training has been shown to have a wide range of benefits for the psychological and physical health of adults. If it is this useful for adults then it only stands to reason that mindfulness training in children might establish a permanent trait of mindfulness that could produce lifelong benefits.
On the short-term, mindfulness training has been shown to benefit elementary school children producing improvement in a wide array of academic, social, emotional, cognitive, and physical measures. (see http://contemplative-studies.org/wp/index.php/2015/08/08/building-a-better-adult-with-elementary-school-mindfulness-training/). So it is clear that contemplative practice can be beneficial for children.
Yoga is not only a contemplative practice but also a physical practice that strengthens the body while stretching tendons and muscles. Its physicality might be particularly attractive to school children because of their high energy levels that lack an outlet in the school environment. Indeed, yoga has been found to be beneficial for children. So, yoga may be an excellent contemplative practice for implementation with school children.
In today’s Research News article “Yoga May Mitigate Decreases in High School Grades”
Butzer and colleagues had high school students either participate in a physical education class as usual or a class employing yoga and investigate school performance as measured by the students’ GPAs. They found that over the school year, GPA tended to decline in both groups. But the yoga group had a significantly smaller decline than the PE as usual group while the yoga was being taught. After the end of yoga instruction, the students’ GPAs declined so that by the end of the school year the yoga group’s GPAs were comparable to those of the PE as usual group.
These results suggest that yoga practice has immediate short-term benefits for the academic performance of high school students. But, the benefits do not last after yoga is terminated. This suggests that the exercise aspect of yoga was the critical component. But, the PE class was also focused on physical exercise, so it is unlikely that this accounts for the differences in the GPA declines.
A key difference between yoga and physical education is that yoga is known to improve self-regulatory processes, including emotional, cognitive, and behavioral self-regulation. This may result in a reduction in perceived stress and improve attention in the classroom which could improve academic performance. The results are intriguing and should be followed up with further research.
So, practice yoga and keep school grades up.
“Scientific evidence is mounting daily for what many have long sensed: that practices like mindfulness, meditation, and yoga can help us address certain intractable individual and societal problems . . . And, perhaps more importantly for our global health, for kids dealing with extreme stressors, traumas and abuse, putting these practices into schools could be the difference between failure and success.” – Alice G. Watson
CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies