Yoga at school: what, how, why …
Our current society is full of stimuli, saturated with information and a frenetic pace, which disperses the attention of children in different directions. All these practices help children to cope with this stress to which we are subjected and to improve in the teaching and learning process in the classroom.
Practicing yoga at school for a few minutes a day provides children with relaxation and tranquility in times of fatigue and excitement. According to experts, yoga improves memory, attention and learning, while making children aware of their own emotions.
Schools see yoga as a beneficial practice with no adverse effects, allowing children to stop and get to know their own body. This fact is especially key because children learn to detect changes in breathing and thoughts that can put them on alert, at the same time that it makes them aware of tools that can help them to redirect a stressful situation, such as changing the rhythm of your breathing. When children discover that they themselves can guide their own emotions, we are facing a great victory, because it gives them autonomy, a very important competence, and makes them feel capable and important.
Yoga develops in children the ability to connect with their own interiority. enabling and promoting knowledge of the inner world, while teaching stimulates and promotes knowledge of the outer world.
Yoga also allows younger students to stand up to feel, reflect and breathe a competence that is considered basic to find balance and face the challenges of life. Children who practice yoga are better able to manage their own emotions and to associate more consciously with themselves, with the other students in the class and their environment, as well as with the adversities that they may encounter throughout their lives.
Help children manage their emotions
Yoga is not just the practice of a series of postures, it is a discipline focused on improving the health of the person as a whole.
The asanas (postures) help to know the body, stabilize the body scheme, develop laterality and perfect fine and gross motor skills.
Pranayamas or breathing techniques help channel the emotions and strengthen the lungs. We use these practices to work on emotional education from a young age.
Meditation or mindfulness is “being present” or “being aware” when performing an activity. Mindfulness helps us to be more patient and frees us from the urge to react.
In general, all these practices help to harmonize the two cerebral hemispheres. According to Daniel Goleman, who revolutionized the landscape of psychology, pedagogy and the business world with the publication of his bestseller Emotional Intelligence, the correct use of both hemispheres activates emotional intelligence.
“A child who ends his school day in a relaxed way can better understand all that she has learned during the day”
How to do a yoga class in the classroom
It is important to dedicate enough time to know the likes and concerns of the group. We must also explain what yoga is and what kind of values we are going to work on: encouraging companionship, knowing how to listen, not raising our voice if the activity does not require it, and order and respect for others.
After removing the shoes, placing the mats in a circle and knowing the mood of each one (small round), we begin with the first asanas: positions that are always related to animals or elements of nature, such as the following:
The tree: with the sole of the right foot on the left knee and the hands together on the chest, the aim is for the students to maintain their balance on a single support.
The cat: with four supports on the floor and the wrists just below the shoulders, the students inhale deeply while arching their back, and exhale by lowering their head and tucking their abdomen in.
The butterfly: supporting the soles of the feet one against the other, they hold each other with their hands moving their knees up and down, copying the flapping of a butterfly.
These postures help them improve their sense of orientation, stability, agility, joint flexibility, motor muscle development and dexterity, as well as creating good habits for spinal health.
On the other hand, we promote important aspects in the development of children such as self-esteem, greater stress reduction and better harmony in personality and character.
Class in three phases
In yoga classes three fundamental aspects of this discipline are promoted: energy, concentration and relaxation.
In the first part of the class we perform different postures (asanas) so that the students can release all the accumulated energy; in the second we pay attention to concentration and in the last part we practice relaxation through breathing.
The game is present throughout the session. The asanas with which the class begins can be done through different games, such as a card game in which the postures are shown or with cards created by the teacher himself, group dynamics such as ‘1 2 3 yoga‘ or the game of statues.
In the second part of the class and to promote concentration, games similar to ‘Memory’ can be used, which helps to develop memory by remembering the asanas and with which emotions are also worked. This is the moment when special attention is paid to how students feel with the different postures, indicating guidelines to manage them.
Finally, we proceed to relax and end the class with an individual or group meditation in which they work on breathing, using different methods such as the balloon or the bee breathing. At this time, the room is set up with candles, sounds of nature and the performance of some mantras. The final moment is preceded by the singing of OM, so that the students connect with the present moment and the environment that surrounds them and we say goodbye, thanking them for the practice, with the classic ‘Namasté’.
A reference case in France
The RYE (Recherche sur le Yoga dans l’Éducation) is an association founded by educators in France. It was created in 1978 by Dr. Micheline Flak, from the Higher Institute of Pedagogy in Paris, and since then it has not stopped growing and expanding in different countries.
It was born from the cross between ancient yoga and the educational system and its existence responds to a collective lawsuit. “I believe that, along with government literacy programs, we need an ‘inner’ literacy curriculum to teach children to read their body, heart and mind book,” stated Dr Flak, who He advocated an education that helps to approach learning and life in a holistic way. “Rejection and demotivation is not inevitable at school.”
The members of the RYE rebuke those who distrust or believe that these techniques are time stolen from discipline or memory, for example. They are convinced that the joy of learning and yoga, together, can harmonize those who were previously lost, offer new motivation to students who are bored, give a dose of energy to those who are tired and calm the most nervous.