The Case for Kids Yoga Programs
There is a vast body of evidence to support the benefits of yoga for adults (Raub 2002). At Hosh Yoga, we believe that health and wellness are rights of life. It is especially important that we extend these principles to children as well, so it has been our mission to diminish inequality and offer children programming that can improve their minds, bodies, and lives. Hosh Kids champions enrichment education as a right of life rather than a luxury. There is a staggering amount of research, including findings that yoga can reduce stress and help manage chronic health problems, and there are a number of findings that it can improve the overall quality of a child’s education. It is here where we will present some of these findings.
In 2003, a team of researchers at California State University, Los Angeles investigated yoga instruction and student outcome at a school in South Central Los Angeles. The population of this kindergarten through eighth grade charter school is 62% Hispanic and 36% Mexican-American. The study lasted for a year and examined 252 elementary school students who participated in a yoga curriculum for sixty minutes per week and an additional 153 middle school students who participated in yoga for 120 minutes per week. As a result, there was an observed improvement in the students’ positive feelings about themselves and observed decrease in bad behavior (as measured by numbers of school discipline referral issued). Students’ academic performance was also seen to improve. In terms of physical education, yoga improved fitness test scores on flexibility, upper body strength, and aerobic capacity (Slovacek et al. 2003).
In 2010, a study by researchers at the Ohio State University investigated students’ perceptions of an eight-week school-based yoga program designed as a preventative intervention to reduce stress and improve behavior in students at risk for learning programs. The participants were 24 third grade students in a low-income urban neighborhood. This program included yoga poses and exercises, meditation, and slow breathing. After eight weeks, it was observed through small group interviews that the program helped the students feel calm and focused, gave them strategies to control their behavior in stressful situations, and supported a positive-self esteem (Case-Smith et al. 2010). Similar results were seen in self-confidence, social confidence, communication, and contribution in class in another similar recent study (Powell et al. 2010).
Prestigious national magazines also support the case for kids yoga in schools. For example, yoga can help kids stay in school breaking the school to prison cycle as suggested by a recent article on Forbes magazine (Walton 2013). The Atlantic magazine also published an article giving insights as to the effect of mediation, yoga and mindfulness in schools (Machado 2014).
Hosh Kids is located in a Brooklyn area where approximately 55% of youths live in poverty, so our philosophy is simple: we will never turn down a school, parent, or child for a lack of ability to pay. Our Hosh Kids program reaches over 450 children every week in over 20 sites throughout New York City. In conjunction with our teaching model based on an understanding of praise, motivation, and self-esteem, we believe that our after-school and school-day yoga programs may serve as an essential part of creating an educational environmental that is conducive to high academic achievement and successful socio-emotional development.