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Yoga for Schools


By Sannyasi Bhakti Ratna (Kate Woodworth) - Kate is a senior yoga teacher and yoga therapist from Yoga Vidya Gurukul (www.yogapoint.com), she is teaching and practicing yoga for the last 10 years. She is also Resident Officer at Yoga Vidya Gurukul. She is initiated into Karma Sannayasa by her Guru Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati.

Yoga for Schools

I first learned about yoga when I was 13 or 14, in the 9th grade at school in Australia. An Indian man in saffron robes came to our school to teach Yoga. It was a choice for the weekly Sports afternoon and all the non-athletic arty types who were not into team sports chose to come to the class. No one knew much about yoga. We filled up a huge room and there were kids from 12 to 17. It was a little crazy but I think we all got a glimpse of what yoga was about.

The purpose of education is not only to impart knowledge, but more importantly to tap the hidden talents and potentialities of the students by helping them develop physically, intellectually, morally and spiritually. Yoga can help in this task of providing holistic education and keeping the body and mind healthy and free from disease, either physically or mentally.

Yoga helps in creating a healthy interaction and balance in the various aspects of the human personality. Schools are the most appropriate place where systematic education in yoga can begin. Yoga aims at bringing about an equilibrium of not only all systems of the body but also between body and mind. It trains the body and mind to cope with new situations and circumstances and helps cultivate the powers of adaptation and adjustment. Yoga lays great emphasis on the observance of certain rules of self discipline and self-training which collectively help in raising social and spiritual values in an individual and imparting a positive attitude towards given life situations. It teaches you that you are the master of your own destiny and that you hold the key to a life of contentment and peace.

Regular yoga practice enhances the ability of students to concentrate, to deal with impulsive behaviour and to think more clearly. It offers an excellent means of physical education and exercise, as well as offering students a safe and balanced way to explore their bodies, minds and feelings. It also helps to give self-confidence and self-discipline, allowing students to become aware of themselves from the inside out. From this awareness, changes and growth in new and positive directions can blossom which allows their creativity to flow, their fears, anger and sadness to release and their trust in their inner self to shine.

Yoga helps to develop better awareness, self-control, flexibility and coordination. It has been shown to help the hyperactive and attention-deficit child. These children crave movement and sensory/motor stimulus. Yoga helps to channel these impulses in a positive way. It has also been found to help children with special needs, such as Prader-Willi syndrome.

Yoga teaches students to develop a mind-body connection. This will help them to live their lives from a place of inner wholeness and balance, relying on themselves for strength, guidance and support throughout their lives. To be able to stand on their own two feet, without any support.

Students, particularly in their last year in year 12 are becoming increasing under pressure to achieve. This is having an effect on both their physical and mental health. In Australia there is an increased incidence of depression, mental illness and youth suicide. Suicide is now the leading cause of death, after road accidents, in the 15-24 years age group.

Therefore there is an increased need to equip young people with stress management and coping mechanisms. As well as finding ways to increase their self worth and self esteem and to allow them to increase their ability to adapt through changing situations. Yoga can play a huge role in these causes.

Yoga is beneficial for children of all ages, as it is of adults. From the age of 8 they can start yoga classes with particular yoga practices and from puberty they can begin to practice a much wider variety of yogic techniques. Ideally all school teachers should be trained in yoga so that they could inspire yogic discipline in the students and teach yogic philosophy throughout their classes. However we are still a long way away from this happening. But it can be started with small amounts of yoga in schools, at least as an option in the Sports class. From there it can be increased and ideally it would be a practice that started the school day off. From just ten minutes at the start of a class upwards.

Yoga is such an important science to help evolve and transform the personality. It is so beneficial for people to start as early as possible. By incorporating yoga into schools not only will we be helping children to become better and more balanced individuals but the whole world will benefit. As we hear from so many people - Children are the future...

By Sannyasi Bhakti Ratna (Kate Woodworth)