The ancient practice of yoga offers a multitude of benefits to modern-day students at almost every grade level. Yoga's combination of breath and movement can help alleviate social and academic stress, clear the mind and soothe cramped bodies jammed into desks and hunched over computers. With more than 20 million practitioners as of 2013, as reported by the Huffington Post, yoga is making its way into schools with plenty of potentially positive outcomes.
One of yoga's primary benefits for adults is the alleviation of stress. Students may be young, but they aren't immune to stress. Family pressure, financial fears, academic performance standards and peer groups can all take a toll on a student's psyche and success in school. A study published in the "International Journal of Yoga" in 2009 examined the effect of yoga on academic performance on highly stressed adolescent students. The researchers -- from MGN College of Education in Jalandhar, India -- found that seven weeks of regularly doing poses, practicing yoga breathing and participating in mediation practice reduced students' stress levels, which translated into better academic performance. A later study performed by Harvard Medical School researchers and published in the January 2012 issue of the "Journal of Behavioral Health Services and Research" also found that high-school students who participated in yoga instead of traditional physical education offerings for a semester exhibited improvements in mood, anxiety, perceived stress and resilience.
Enhanced Body Image
Students often struggle with poor body image and awkwardness of movement. A study published in "Explore" in the summer of 2013 found that high-school students who practiced yoga instead of regular physical education for a semester, reported better kinesthetic awareness -- the sense of how your body moves through space -- and more respect for their own bodies. Students who participated in yoga also reported to the researchers from Osher Research Center at Harvard Medical School and the Department of Biomedicine at the New England School of Acupuncture that its regular practice could give them the incentive and strength to refuse peer pressure to use drugs and alcohol.
Yoga may also help students get along better with one another, which fosters a more positive learning environment. A school in Milwaukee instituted a yoga program consisting of two classes per week for students in kindergarten through 8th grade. The classes emphasized respectful behavior as well as yogic breathing and movement practices. After a year, the school's number of disruptive "incidents" decreased by more than half. Yoga may teach students to better manage their emotions and reactions as well as to respect the feelings and emotions of others.
Yoga offers time for the body and mind to relax from the rigors of learning. This may help students be better at applying themselves when studying or learning in a classroom. Medical students who practiced yoga for just one month reported better sleep and improved concentration during their studies as a result in a study published in a 2013 issue of the "Indian Journal of Community Medicine." Yoga, especially breathing techniques, can also increase concentration and academic performance in students struggling academically, concluded a 2012 study published by the International Society for Scientific Interdisciplinary Yoga Research.
- International Journal of Yoga: Effect of Yoga on Academic Performance in Relation to Stress
- Journal of Behavioral Health Services and Research: Evaluation of the Mental Health Benefits of Yoga in a Secondary School: A Preliminary Randomized Controlled Trial
- Explore: Qualitative Evaluation of a High School Yoga Program: Feasibility and Perceived Benefits
- Teaching Tolerance: Yoga in Public Schools
- International Society for Scientific Interdisciplinary Yoga Research: Effect of Bhramari Pranayama among the Poor Learning Students – a Pilot Study
- Huffington Post: How Yoga Became A $27 Billion Industry -- And Reinvented American Spirituality
- Indian Journal of Community Medicine: Impact of Short Term Yoga Intervention on Mental Well Being of Medical Students Posted in Community Medicine: A Pilot Study