Children are experiencing extra-ordinary threats to their wellbeing and self-esteem to a degree that has never been faced. School-age children face stresses and traumas that exceed what they can handle as young people. Children are growing up in an environment where their families, teachers and those who are traditionally responsible for providing their security appear to have limited control.
Depression and anxiety are common among children and adolescents, and they can persist into adulthood, increasing risks for suicide, risk-taking behavior (e.g., substance abuse, sexual experimentation), teenage pregnancy, conduct disorder, delinquency, and poor academic outcomes. Among children aged 3-17 years, 3.2% have diagnosed depression and 7.1% have diagnosed anxiety.
Given the current state of global affairs, we perceive an urgent need for robust interventions to help children cope through our society's transition into the next era. We contend that well established techniques of slow, calm, physical and mental activities yield positive short and long-term impacts on overall wellbeing. Programming to redress childhood trauma and ameliorate health inequities provide a pathway to holistic wellness.
Develops mind-body awareness – By training students how to pay attention to the relationship between their mind and body, school-based yoga helps children notice the impact of stress on their well-being.
Improves self-regulation –At a very broad level, self-regulation refers to our ability to manage our stress, emotions, and behaviors. Yoga helps calm the fight or flight response and induces the relaxation response.
Cultivates physical fitness –The difference between yoga and mindfulness meditation is that yoga includes physical postures. In essence, yoga is a practice of “mindfulness in motion” that uses body to promote awareness.
Enhances student behavior, mental state, health, and performance – Yoga helps develop five core competencies: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making.
Supports teacher resilience and a positive classroom climate – Importantly, the benefits of school-based yoga also extends to classroom teachers. Providing teachers with skills and practices to enhance their own self-care is a crucial step toward improving classroom climate, teacher effectiveness and student outcomes.
The efficacy of yoga as an intervention technique prevails the ability to manage child’s outbursts of anger towards schoolmates, bullying of others, perception of being victimized, and improve child’s cognitive, physical, emotional, and social development. Interventions of school-based yoga programs show promise for enhancing students’ mind-body awareness and physical fitness, which may have downstream effects on improving positive behaviors, mental state, health and performance.
High prevalence of psychiatric and behavioral disturbances in children and adolescents, coupled with the reality that most schools do not prioritize social emotional learning, suggests that the implementation of mind-body interventions, such as yoga and meditation in schools would be of significant value.