Yoga isn’t becoming part of the national elementary school curriculum any time soon. But it is showing up in physical education programs, recess and break-period activities, and even classrooms, integrated into topics including mathematics, art, and science.
Three organizations—YogaKids, of Long Beach, Indiana; Yoga Ed., of Los Angeles; and Yoga’d Up, of London—have launched training programs that educate yoga teachers and school teachers in the U.S. and the U.K. on how to adapt their teaching to appeal to the short attention spans and special needs of young children. These programs also help yoga teachers get established in school systems, get funding for their programs, and, in some cases, go on to become educators who train the teachers who will ultimately integrate yoga into the classroom.
Yoga as a Learning Tool
All three programs use movement as an integrative method for learning. “When you give [kids] yoga poses, use visualization, and allow them to move their bodies, their whole learning ability goes up several notches,” says Marsha Wenig, founder of YogaKids. Yoga Ed.’s Kalish agrees that children learn best by doing. “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.”
“The YogaKids program helps children learn how to control their energy so that they can focus and concentrate better,” adds Amy Haysman, coordinator of the program. “It teaches breathing techniques and poses that help them think more clearly.” For example, bunny breath, short inhalations through the nose and a long exhale through the mouth, can energize kids who need to get focused in order to take a test. Haysman has been hired by schools in Georgia to incorporate yoga into academic classes and physical education programs. In one program, called “Reading Comes Alive with Yoga,” teachers take a book, picture, or story and practice yoga poses associated with animals or objects in the story. “It helps the kids feel like they’re not passively listening. It’s interactive,” Haysman says.