Parents, guardians, and teachers alike are always looking for healthily ways to stimulate growth and expression in children at home and in the classroom. Finding and implementing these methods of growth isn’t usually controversial, considering that the goal is the same—the wellbeing of their children.
In the last few years, several schools have tried yoga as the newest approach to child development. The American Osteopathic Association describes the benefits of yoga as physical and mental: it allows for a positive attitude and mentality, higher level of flexibility, reduction of stress, muscle development, respiratory improvement, among other benefits.
The origins of yoga stem from Hinduism, Buddhism, and connecting to a sense of spirituality, which is where the controversy kicks in for parents whose concerns are fixed in religion.
In 2013, NPR reported parents in San Diego, California sued the school district to get yoga out of the classrooms, claiming it was a means of religious teachings. Superior Court Judge, John S. Meyer, ruled in favor of the school district, citing that despite yoga’s religious origins, the school district was teaching a secular form of it.
Last year, The Washington Post reported that Christian parents of children at Bullard Elementary School in Kennesaw, Georgia didn’t have to go quite as far to make their point and force these methods out of the curriculum. They were concerned that the practices and beliefs associated with yoga were infringing on their religious beliefs. After a series of complaints to the school, they succeeded and in March of 2016, the school’s principal sent an apology email announcing that they would be removing yoga from the curriculum with no plans to implement any methods even resembling it.
There are a few organizations and programs that support yoga for children in schools, such as Yoga 4 Classrooms (Y4C), and the School Yoga Project
Y4C is a program for schools that aims to progressively teach children skills to hone self-awareness and physical ability through a curriculum of 67 different activities. It offers professional development and partnership with schools to supplement traditional educational curriculums. Over 150 schools work with this curriculum in the United States.
The School Yoga Project, which is based in New York, belongs to the Little Flower Yoga group and uses a 30-week curriculum based on 5 pillars that support children in schools from Pre-K through 12th grade.
In South Florida, there are several locations that children and parents/guardians can attend yoga classes if their own school curriculum doesn’t incorporate them. With a simple search, Groupon and Yelp yield results of many studios within reach that offer the same benefits.
The teachings of yoga to increase positive energy and connection to oneself bring controversy, but also bring much benefit over time and they do so without religious context if we take the time to learn what they’re about. The long-term benefits if we allow our children to experience these practices growing up can bring a huge positive impact as adults, as it teaches discipline, coping methods, and can ultimately allow for more well-rounded individuals.
By Aura Altamiranda