'Yoga is calming the fluctuations of the mind' - Patanjali
The Benefits of Yoga
Psychiatrists have observed that children in today’s society have learned to internalise their stresses, and they are rather efficient at hiding distress and emotion since they do not want to worry their parents or caregivers. It has been found that mental health problems are more prevalent among children in Westernised countries today than ever before, and this is continually increasing. Since 2006, the use of anxiety and anti-depressant medicine in children, has increased by 80%. Yoga is a simple and mindful way of calming the mental fluctuations of our tamariki. M3 uses Mindfulness techniques, Movement and our Māori stories, to combat these mental challenges.
Yoga in the Hutt Valley
In 2017, Hutt City Council implemented a pilot project of Yoga in Schools. The council worked with Avalon Intermediate and yoga instructor Sara Warnock to pilot the programme. Two classes participated in a ten week programme, comprising two 45 minute yoga classes each week.
Hutt City Council along with Sara Warnock conducted pre and post-programme surveys, as well as some interviews. Questions were focused around mood and emotions, concentration and the classroom environment, and interactions and relationships. The students also had some pre and post-programme physical assessments conducted such as balance, flexibility and core strength. Finally, academic results were monitored during the programme, and compared to results at the start.
All pre and post-programme testing was also conducted with an additional class at Avalon Intermediate, whom did not participate in the yoga programme. Therefore all results were not only comparable for students’ self-reflection, but also in relation to their peers who did not have the opportunity to participate.
The results demonstrated many positive aspects of the Yoga in Schools pilot project including more students feeling calmer, improved self-awareness of emotions, some increased concentration levels, and more respectful interactions among peers. Students also had improved flexibility levels in their pre and post reach tests, increased strength in their core and improved balancing; in comparison with the class which did not participate in yoga, who showed decreased flexibility, decline in core strength and reduction in balance.
Teachers of the two piloted yoga classes noticed that students were more aware of their emotions and found different ways of dealing with them since taking part in yoga. “We had kids that would swear a storm out of class, but now they just sit there and close their eyes and breathe” (Classroom teacher). Sara Warnock, the yoga instructor also noticed a shift in the level of sharing from students about their emotions, and participants in yoga started to describe their different emotions and what they felt in their bodies.
Some comments were -
“Yoga is for us to relax, to feel better and to feel calm in sad and emotional moments”
“Yoga is something that can make us feel calmer and more relaxed in the days that we are mad or angry”
“It’s because when I’m afraid of something I say that: HAAAAAAA, (referring to the HAAAA breath). I do it because then I get braver”.