Why Yoga in the Classroom?
Yoga, as it exists in Ontario elementary schools consists of physical postures (asanas), breathing with awareness, developing self-concept, and a focus on relaxation. It moves beyond typical fitness concepts and helps students to make connections between their body and their mind. Yoga is referenced in the revised Ontario Elementary Curriculum document a total of 14 times. A significant change that took place in 2010 in order to promote a variety of physical activities to children and youth which will encourage physical activity across the lifespan.
The goals of classroom yoga are to increase strength, flexibility, and achieve balance for both the mind and the body. Beyond fitness and the development of fundamental movement skills such as balance and coordination, yoga can also be used for stretching, stress relief through breathing, as well as meditation to manage self-control, anger, depression, anxiety, and stress. Yoga can also been used in elementary schools to increase students focus and awareness, to make connections to moments of happiness, to improve self-confidence, and increase academic achievement.
Yoga in phys. ed. classes also promotes lifelong physical activity and wellness by engaging students who may not have an interest in typical games and activities. It can be used to diversify the program and provide students at different levels of physical fitness with an activity they can move through at their own pace while still participating actively in the program.
Sample Activities for Physical Education
Consider including some of these activities in your physical education or classroom practices:
• Breathing Exercises: Have students take a few minutes to find a relaxing space in the gym or classroom and focus on their breath. Encourage students to breathe slowly in through their nose and out through their nose.Use the breath to calm or energize the body and to connect to the central nervous system.
• Games: Integrate yoga postures into some favourite classroom games. When playing tag, have students who are tagged hold their favourite posture until they are freed. During classroom reading, have students create postures based on character traits of some lead characters.
• Yoga Poses: Have students move through teacher lead, peer lead, or individual yoga sequences. Have students create sequences based on those learned throughout the class. Consider displaying potential postures on chart paper or index cards and have students write their sequences done. Students can trade sequences to perform individually or lead small groups through their sequences.
• Meditation & Reflection: In a relaxing position in the classroom or gymnasium, have students take a few minutes to think and reflect on experiences throughout the day, what makes them happy, what it takes to be a good friend, or a variety of topics or scenarios related to personal, interpersonal, and critical and creative thinking skills.
More Ideas to Connect the Mind to the Body
For more ideas on integrating yoga in the classroom, check out this video of highlights from my yoga workshop at the Ophea Conference 2011.