Why Yoga Should Be Taught in Schools
The current educational system is still mostly based in absorbing information (memorising) rather than helping form good-charactered human beings, giving little or no importance to values such as truth, love, honesty, humility and compassion. It is focused in obtaining good marks in order to land in a good job, neglecting the integral development of the person (body, mind and spirit).This brings a strongly materialistic and individualist culture with decreasing values in our society. With working parents nowadays it becomes tougher for them to dedicate enough time for their children to learn from home, giving more responsibility to schools for their education.
We value so much freedom that everything is acceptable according to each one’s point of view. The effect is the simultaneous unawareness that we do not clearly know anymore our values. Nowadays very rare people understand what are their values and abide by them. Values are there to give us a direction of what matters most to us and help us take the right decision in the most toughest times of our life, and when learnt during our foundation years, they can help us throughout our lives.
Yet, there is still hope in my eyes, and the question arises: How can we see the renaissance of positive values? The field of education seems to have the root-cause, but at the same, if conducted with an alternative approach, it can also be the solution; this is known as, Value Education; the education which involves working on the total personality of the individual keeping into account personality development, the intellectual, social and emotional, will and character.
In ancient times, Indian culture was based in Gurukul system (Guru or spiritual guide and student), with spiritual and ethical values. Yoga has been part of this system and is firmly based on values system. When we say yoga, many people relate it to just exercise, but it is much more than that. It is a bridge between body, mind and spirit. The practices smoothly coordinate the functions of the bones, muscles, blood, brain etc., which help to improve health, and as they train human mind for modifying proper attitude, behaviour and values, it can establish mental peace. Yoga can be considered as an appropriate subject for value based education to establish peace and harmony in the human society.
So how does yoga help as a method of value education? In the form of Patanjali’s Ashtanga yoga (the father of Yoga) with two approaches:
1- The psychological side, based on values:
Yamas or behaviour towards the society and Niyamas or personal behaviour.
2- The physiological side:
Asanas or postures and Pranayama or breathing.
There are further practices that help establishing emotional balance, health and fitness by tackling the autonomic nervous system. Lets go through a few specific examples on why should yoga be taught in schools:
1. For everyone: Yoga is for people of all religions, races and nationalities because yoga is secular. Yoga is a lifestyle.
2. Reduce children obesity: The increasing number of obese children can be tackled by helping children develop body-mind awareness and might help them to make healthier choices throughout their lives.
3. Reduce exam stress: Managing stress will help them in every step of their lives, starting with school by helping them navigate the exam stress (in Indian context at times, even leads to suicides due to the harsh competition). Teaching children to handle this stress through movement and meditation will help them much after they graduate.
4. Prevention for back pain: Handle the mild back pain due to the heavy school bags, which later can develop into chronic pain.
5. Increased concentration: Learning to concentrate on poses can help students understand how to focus on their schoolwork, and improve it too. It takes a lot of intense concentration to learn to balance in Tree Pose.
6. Increased self-esteem: Yoga encourages people to love themselves and embrace the things that make them unique. In an era where media influences children and teenagers how they should look, making them sometimes even obsessed and leading to many not being fully comfortable under their skin, yoga helps the acceptance of oneself, increasing one’s self-esteem.
7. Improves self-control: Practicing Asanas and Pranayamas helps developing discipline and self-control in a calm environment.
8. Improves behaviour, less discipline issues: Yoga helps improves students' behavior, physical health and academic performance, as well as attitudes toward themselves.
9. Increased creativity: With increased physical and mental awareness, it provides opportunity for discovery and fun.
10. Improves motor development on both sides of the body.
Therefore, yoga has a holistic approach, it englobes all the perspectives of value education, that has as main objective to reform attitude and behaviour, to promote healthy lifestyle, to shape the high moral character and to develop refined personality of younger generation, who can prove themselves as the best citizen of our nation and world. If we would like that our youth adopt valuable lifestyles, Yoga education must become part of the schools curriculum.