Yoga in Schools: Controversy and Praise

Published on August 30, 2016

As yogis most of us probably agree that offering yoga in schools is a great idea. Unfortunately, not everyone shares that same level of enthusiasm. Recently, parents in California raised opposition to the high cost of a yoga program offered in the Encinitas Unified School District, suggesting that the twice weekly yoga classes should be provided for free, or not at all. For me, this controversy raised a number of questions, among them, what is a reasonable price for providing yoga in schools, and what are the benefits for youth?

Created in 2012, the Encinitas yoga program was one of the first of its kind in the country. Funded by a grant from the Sonima Foundation, it provided yoga classes for students, as well as paid for instructors and supplies. In 2013 parents filed a lawsuit against the school district, claiming that teaching yoga in school was a form of religious indoctrination and worship that was in opposition to their beliefs. The lawsuit was ultimately overturned, but it was a sign of more challenges to come. Note: while yoga has many religious roots it is also an inclusionary and welcoming practice, open and accessible to anyone, no matter their belief system. It is also quite easy for teachers to modify pose names and phrasing, as well as offer alternatives to various chants and mantras commonly utilized in classes.

When the grant funding the yoga classes was discontinued, school board officials proposed keeping the program, but with the hefty price tag of $800,000. Parents continued to fight against the program even after the school board proposed cutting the funding in half. Final outcome: School board officials voted 4:1 to keep the yoga program going for the 2016-17 school year, and in addition, set aside money to help cover the costs of other types of enrichment classes, such as foreign languages, gardening programs, technology classes and various games/sports.

Studies on yoga in schools

A study done in a Colorado elementary school in the early 2000s showed that regular yoga and meditation practice greatly decreased incidents of bullying and other aggressive behavior within the student population. The journal Front Psychiatry presents compelling research showing that children who engage in yoga are more likely to have better coping and stress management skills, are more in-tune with their bodies and emotions, and are healthier and more balanced, both physically and psychologically. A study undertaken by the University of San Diego that focused specifically on the Encinitas yoga program produced similar results; however, in this case, yoga classes did not appear to improve school attendance rates.

Yoga has also expanded into many other arenas, such as mental health facilities and hospitals. The Psychiatric Unit at the Children’s Hospital in Colorado has initiated a Yoga Therapy program that has had great results in helping children cope with various illnesses and disorders and is also used in conjunction with art and other creative treatment therapies to make a holistic, balanced treatment plan.

The overall takeaway is that kids who practice yoga are more likely to deal with conflict in healthier ways, will be able to understand and communicate their emotions more clearly, and will generally feel happier in their own skin. With all that in mind, I think it is commendable that the Encinitas School District was so adamant in providing yoga for their student population. At the end of the day I’m pretty sure that we all want the same things for the children in our communities: physical health and vitality, compassion and gentleness, and a strong sense of their own worth as stewards of this planet. If yoga is one tool to help them along, who are we to deny them?

Share with

Friends

Our Latest

Yoga Articles
  • Chakra Stones

    Chakra Stones & Crystals: Types, Meaning and Use

  • Mental Health Benefits of Yoga

    10 Tips for Harnessing the Mental Health Benefits of Yoga

  • Best Time to Meditate

    Finding the Best Time to Meditate: Tips and Advice on When to Sit

  • Purusharthas

    Purusharthas: The Four Goals of Life

  • Trimurti

    Trimurti: The Hindu Trinity of Brahma Vishnu Shiva

  • Brahman

    Brahman: Definition, Meaning, and Philosophy

  • Yoga Nidra

    Yoga Nidra: Meaning, Benefits, Videos and Tips

  • Living Like a Yogi

    17 Rules for Living Like a Yogi

Remove Ads with a

Premium Membership

Viewing ads supports YogaBasics, which allows us to continue bringing you quality yoga content. Sign up for a premium membership to remove all ads and enjoy uninterrupted access to the best yoga resources on the web.

Explore More

Yoga TipsAdviceArticlesPracticesBasicsTechniques

  • Best Yoga Straps

    The Best Yoga Straps for Newbies and Pros

  • best time to practice yoga

    When Is the Perfect Time to Practice Yoga?

  • Yoga for Your Body Shape

    Find the Best Yoga for Your Body Shape

  • Yoga for Self-Care

    How to Use Yoga as a Self-Care Tool

  • Yoga Pose For Empowerment

    4 Paths to Find Empowerment in Yoga

  • yoga meditation ego

    4 Ways Yoga Can Defeat Your Ego

  • Yoga Nidra

    Yoga Nidra: Meaning, Benefits, Videos and Tips

  • Common Yoga Mistakes and How to Fix Them

    24 Common Yoga Mistakes and How to Fix Them

  • yoga breathing pranayama

    Keep Calm and Breathe On: The Science of Pranayama

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Rose Keyes Avatar
About the author
Rose is a writer, editor, yoga teacher, and office manager extraordinaire living in the Asheville, NC area. She has a B.S.S. from Ohio University with concentrations in English Literature, Creative Writing, and Geography. She has been practicing yoga for over ten years and received her 200-hour teaching certification in 2013. Over the years yoga and writing have been important mainstays in her life. She is continually amazed and humbled at the deep healing, balance, and peace that comes from these practices, and she is grateful to be able to share those experiences with others.
Yoga Basics