By Bhavan Kumar
The benefits of yoga are well known for adults, but many of these benefits also carry over to young students. Research has shown that regular practice of yoga techniques can help students fare better in their academic and emotional lives in various ways.
According to the CDC, childhood obesity rates have doubled over the past 30 years. About 1 out of every 3 children is obese. Improving the physical fitness of children is not only important for their bodies, but it also helps the mind. Studies have shown that practicing yoga not only improves physical fitness in children, but it also promotes better academic performance and emotional stability. The benefits of children's yoga come from a calmer heart rate that allows the brain to activate responses from the parasympathetic nervous system. Systems of the body such as immunity, circulation, digestion and glandular balance are enhanced as well.
Attention and Concentration
Yoga provides an avenue for the mind and body to relax from fast paced learning environments. This can help students apply themselves in a more effective way when learning and studying in the classroom. In a 2013 study, students reported better concentration and more restful sleep after practicing yoga for only one month. A study from the Department of Psychology at Stanford with 4th to 7th graders showed that eight weeks of practicing meditation for just one hour resulted in decreased anxiety and increased ability to focus their attention. The breathing techniques associated with yoga can increase concentration in ways that also enhance academic performance.
Behavior and Conflict
Yoga can also help students get along better with their peers which allows for a more effective learning environment. A school in Wisconsin began a yoga program for kindergarten to 8th grade students that consisted of two classes a week. These lessons emphasized breathing and movement yoga practices alongside teaching respectful behavior. After a year of using this method, the school saw a decrease of disruptive behaviors by more than half. It was found that behavior improved outside of the classroom as well. These results show that yoga may teach students how to manage their reactions and respect others in improved ways.
Many adults practice yoga to improve their moods and reduce stress. Just like adults, students are susceptible to the detrimental effects of stress. They are often pressured and stressed by their peers, social lives, family burdens and academic worries. A study published in 2009 analyzed the effects of yoga on adolescents with higher stress levels. The study showed that after seven weeks of regular yoga practice, breathing exercises and meditation, their stress levels were reduced and their academic performance improved as a result. A 2014 study showed that ten weeks of yoga practice reduced stress in a group of low-SES students.
Self-consciousness is often contingent upon academic performance, and excessive worry about it can lead to decreased performance or mental health concerns. Studies have shown that yoga can result in improvement of self-esteem to enhance mental health and improve academic performance. Students also deal with poor body image and feelings of awkwardness. A study in 2013 found that high school students that substituted yoga for standard physical education reported better respect for their bodies and improved spatial awareness. In other studies, students reported that regular yoga practice could provide incentive to refuse peer pressure to engage in destructive activities.
Practicing yoga offers a number of physical and mental benefits to students that allow them to better handle everyday stressors. This allows them to put more focus on their academic concerns with less of a toll on their health away from the classroom.
J Educ Health Promot. 2013; 2: 55.Published online 2013 Sep 30. doi: 10.4103/2277-9531.119043
Adolescent and School Health