Monday, July 30, 2012

At-risk and All Youth Benefit from Yoga in School

I'm in the process of becoming a Certified YogaKids Teacher (CYKT).  This program fits nicely into my philosophy of education.  It's a child-centered, holistic approach, incorporating Howard Gardner's eight multiple intelligences through 14 YogaKid Elements.  I'm working with a Mentor Teacher, Judy Brennan, and this description of the program comes from her website:

"The YogaKids methodology is based on Howard Gardner's multiple intelligences theory which describes eight intelligences all people exhibit; verbal/linguistic, logical/mathematical, visual/spatial, musical/rhythmic, body/kinesthetic, interpersonal, intrapersonal, and naturalist/ecology. The approach of utilizing the eight intelligences, helps us learn more easily and offers a better chance of retention. It enables children to understand information through many avenues. Gardner's theory, used with yoga as the medium of learning, led to the concept of the "14 Elements" of the Yogakids methodology. Classes are theme-based and the 14 Elements (asana/poses, breath work, reading, math, music, anatomy, games, language, nature, art, body benefits, brain balance, affirmations, deep relaxation, etc.) are integrated, to create a well-rounded lesson for all kids."

A current abstract that comes out of the local Niroga Institute shows how beneficial yoga is for at-risk youth.  The abstract is short so I'm including all of it below:

"Effects of Daily 15-minute Yoga Protocol on Academic and Psychosocial Measures in Inner City Classrooms
Rebecca Matthew MPH (1) and Bidyut K. Bose PhD (2)
1 School of Social Welfare, University of California, Berkeley
2 Niroga Institute

Keywords: Yoga, Education, Academic Potential, Stress, Self-Control

Objective: One in 10 US schools are considered by researchers to be dropout factories (Balfanz et al, Johns Hopkins University, 2006). Each high-school dropout over his/her lifetime costs the nation $260,000 (Rouse, Princeton University, 2005). We hypothesized that a 15-minute yoga protocol administered regularly in inner city classrooms would help students to: 1) reduce stress and 2) increase self-control or resiliency, preparing them to learn with focus, attention and engagement.

Methods:  We are bringing a 15-minute Transformative Life Skills (TLS) protocol, a multi-modality intervention including yoga, breathing techniques and meditation, into 15 classrooms at El Cerrito High School for this Fall semester of 18 weeks, with frequency varying from once to five times/week. Two psychometric tools: PSS10 (10-point Perceived Stress Scale) and TBSCS13 (13-point Tangney Brief Self-Control Scale), are being administered at the beginning and end of the semester, and a mid-semester snapshot consisting of PSS10 and a qualitative survey for students and teachers in all 15 classrooms (n=600), as well as 3 classrooms which are not getting yoga (control). Individual changes in each psychometric measure, as well as means per classroom (high-performing classrooms and low-performing classrooms) with varying frequency are being compared with those who never received the yoga using ANOVA. Additionally, four academic metrics are also being correlated: tardiness, absenteeism, suspensions and GPA.

Results: Our TLS programs with incarcerated youth have shown statistically significant decline in stress and increase in self-control and self-awareness (Kubo & Bose, SYTAR 2008; Bose & Philipp, SYTAR 2007). Analysis of data comparing the pre-semester and post-semester information indicates favorable changes in both stress and self-control, and compellingly positive qualitative feedback from students and teachers during the mid-semester span-shot.

  • The intervention group significantly increased in their reported self-control as compared to the control group.
  • The data demonstrate a statistically significant (p < .05) downward trend in the mean perceived stress scores within the intervention group from 29.9 at pretest, to 28.95 at mid-test, and to 28.57 at post-test.
  • Females demonstrated a consistent decline in stress levels throughout the intervention.
  • We determined greater reductions in stress scores for those receiving 5 classes as compared to 3, 2, or 1 class(es) per week.

Conclusions and follow-up: This program approach is unique, the sample size is significant, the methodology is robust and the social impact of this research is substantial. Results of the data analysis indicate that this 15-minute yoga protocol in the classroom reduced stress and increased self-control. We intend to correlate this data to academic metrics including attendance (tardiness and absences), discipline (referrals and suspensions) and grades (GPA)."

I propose that this 15-minute, three times a week program would work wonders for all children, at risk or not, if incorporated into the school day.  I'd love to help bring a program like this into our school district.  Yoga is healthy for the mind, body and spirit - what more could we want for ourselves and our children?

As part of my training, I'm currently offering free yoga classes to children in grades K-12.  Contact me if you are interested.


  1. Yoga strongly reinforced that life is a never-ending journey of improvement. You may plateau, but there’s always somewhere better to go.
    It has also taught me that we always surprise ourselves. It has made me push myself physically and mentally in a way few other things have. My ability to focus has improved so much, I’m still amazed, and hungry to get better.

  2. Yes, I have seen the amazing transformation yoga makes on children and adults of all kinds. It is my mission and passion, to share yoga with many children and adults through our school system in order to bring more peace to their journey. The Niroga Institute is doing amazing work and I am looking forward to joining their program. Kerry, thank you for sharing this study and more proof of the benefits of yoga.

    Judy Brennan /

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