The many benefits of yoga have been well established over the years. Practicing mindfulness and relaxation through yoga can calm and clear the mind; relieve tension, anxiety, and stress; improve concentration and attention span; expand imagination and creativity, and even stimulate auditory processing and responsiveness. It’s no wonder that yoga is a favorite among the Lower Elementary children at Villa di Maria!
Some of the benefits of doing yoga in school can be seen in the almost immediate change in the energy of a classroom; a bustling, busy, light-filled room quickly transforms into a quiet, peaceful place as tables and chairs are moved aside and non-participating children move to other rooms to work quietly. This is the perfect opportunity for children and adults to “reset” during the day.
In fact, the benefits are just as great for the Guide leading the yoga class as it is for the children participating in it! Recent research suggests that providing educators with training in yoga and mindfulness skills may have several beneficial effects for those educators, including increases in calmness, mindfulness, well-being, and positive mood, improvements in classroom management, emotional reactivity, physical symptoms, blood pressure, and cortisol awakening response, and decreases in mind and body stress (Harris et al., 2016; Jennings et al., 2013; Kemeny et al., 2012; Nosaka & Okamura, 2015; Schussler et al., 2016; Sharp & Jennings, 2016). Even short classes can have a big impact!
For some students, practicing yoga can help them become more self-aware, especially when it comes to managing their emotions and tuning in to their bodies’ stress signals. The practice of yoga can help children identify how their bodies feel as they become anxious or stressed, as well as teaching them how they can quiet and calm their bodies when these signals arise.
Villa currently offers Lower Elementary students two sessions of yoga back to back in order to offer enough spots for everyone who chooses to join. Session One clearly enjoyed the class thoroughly!
Mindfulness training from an early age can provide children with good tools for dealing with the stresses of a fast-paced world, as well as helping them slow down and notice the everyday beauty in that world. Hooray for yoga (and yoga teachers)!