Can Yoga Be the New P.E.?Some schools are going toward a new P.E. model that includes yoga. Could this be better?
By: Ben Golden , Sibley Scribe
Though some students complain about the two mandatory gym classes everyone must take to graduate high school, most people realize the benefits of exercise. However, more schools across the country are deciding to take a different approach towards exercise – yoga. Researchers have shown that yoga has many academic and physical benefits for students and paves way for a healthier lifestyle for the future.
Yoga is a practice that incorporates different stretches, breathing exercises and creative visualisation. It helps flexibility, balance, and focus, and it helps to relieve stress. It also helps fight disease and is a natural pain reliever. Students have had positive results from yoga classes that Physical Education classes alone cannot achieve. Yoga is especially beneficial to teenage students because it boosts self-esteem, reduces stress, leads to more positivity and optimism and confidence. One study by the Brigham and Women’s Hospital at Harvard Medical Center in Boston put some students at one school in regular P.E. classes and others in yoga class instead. The yoga students showed better results for controlling negative emotions, mood, and anxiety, than their regular P.E. counterparts. Some research has shown that students taking yoga are more physically fit than students taking regular P.E. It also offers a less competitive way of exercise, differing from P.E., where games and sports can often make students feel anxious. At this point, though, yoga is done in addition to regular P.E., not instead of it.
Yoga has often been beneficial outside of the classroom as well. Students have said that they have practiced specific breathing and visualisation exercises outside of school as a way to relieve stress. Andover High School in Massachusetts now offers four yoga classes each semester. According to Jackie Salvesen, who teaches all of the courses, “the research shows that yoga has a lot of positive effects in school settings,” but that it has “additional benefits in psycho-social health” that translate to children outside of the classroom (Andover Townsman, April 2011).
This new yoga movement in schools has not come without controversy however. Christian fundamentalists and other parents have fought against yoga being taught in schools because it is associated with Hinduism. As a result, schools have taken out the Hindu chants and used student-friendly English chants instead. Some schools don’t even use chants; they just focus on the stretches and poses.
Yoga has changed the approach of bringing in exercise to students lives and is hardly comparable to the old-school, textbook ways of Physical Education. It is now taught in over 100 schools in 26 states. The majority of students are passionate about yoga. Yoga promotes emotional well-being, academic success and physical health as well; these factors are hard to argue against when it comes to planning a P.E. curriculum.