A Counselor’s Thoughts: Yoga and Academic Success


As a former school counselor, LFY teacher Jess Belanger has a unique perspective to share with us. She will be contributing a monthly article to our conversation, offering information to help parents and teacher support their kids. Click Here to learn more about Jess and all of our LFY teachers.

Jessica BelangerIt's Monday night.  You check in with your child about their day, discussing any homework that they may need help with as you pass the broccoli.  You inquire about the pop quiz in Mrs. Smith's Science class while you fill their glass; your child eager to vent all about the difficult questions and you thirsty to hear how they handled the challenge.  As you continue recapping the day's events, your child casually mentions the new yoga program that is being offered after school, expressing an interest in joining with friends Charlie and Avery.  Hearing this, your mind begins to wander… yoga?  At school?  I thought yoga was only for adults at private studios.  What about math club, drama, or soccer? 

With all of these questions swirling in your mind, you decide that it is worth looking into and reach out to the director of your child's school yoga program.  Surely the school must be onto something if they are bringing yoga classes to our children.  So, the following day, you contact the school and are put in touch with the yoga teacher.  From here, you learn exactly why yoga is becoming extremely prevalent in educational settings and how your child can benefit from a regular practice…

Often incorporated into gym classes, recess, or afterschool activities, school-based yoga programs are becoming increasingly popular among the under eighteen crowd.  Broken into thirty to sixty minute sessions, each class is designed to tap into the minds and bodies of today's youth, hoping to create lasting physical and mental changes over time. 

From an obvious standpoint, yoga offers a wonderful means of exercise for children.  Each class involves some form of movement, encouraging kids to wake up their bodies and begin exploring ways to challenge their balance, coordination, posture, and alignment.  When yoga is consistently practiced, core strength and flexibility begin to develop, as well as a greater awareness of one's body.  Digestion and circulation may regulate, helping to fortify the immune system and fight childhood obesity, a rising issue among today's youth.  Further, with these physical strengths come a reduced propensity for injury and improved sleep habits; two integral components that lead to an engaged and successful academic school day.

While children are engaged in their yoga classes, countless other skills and abilities are forming, all of which lend themselves to the development of a well-rounded, successful student.  Through breathing and meditation practices, yoga has shown to significantly reduce stress and tension within children.  In doing so, a child's ability to focus, remember, concentrate, and self-regulate in class improves, as well as their propensity to be more mindful of their thoughts, words, and actions.  Group activities inspire team-building skills and promote social interaction, while also supporting a universal sense of connectedness and compassion.  When they are comfortable and secure in their environment, kids become more confident and are willing to explore their individuality and creativity.  Thus, whether moving or still, the social, mental, and emotional impacts of yoga are integral parts of finding success within the learning community.

Today's children face a tremendous amount of stress and responsibility each and every day.  Through school-based yoga, children are able to develop valuable tools within a safe, comfortable environment in which they can grow, thrive, and have fun.  In taking the time to engage their minds and bodies through a thoughtful yoga practice on a regular basis, the mental, emotional, and physical rewards and their effect on academic success are truly unparalleled.

Teachable Tip:
For both parents and yoga teachers, perhaps one of the most important things we can do to help our children reap these benefits is to encourage continuity.  Continue to carve out time for your kids to make their yoga classes into a regular practice and support them in applying what they learn in class to their lives off the mat.  As teachers, take the time to recognize each student's efforts and accomplishments in class as this will surely encourage them to not only keep at it, but also to be open to trying new things.

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