Yoga for schoolchildren: A bit of a stretch?
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Primary schools in the US and UK are increasingly incorporating yoga into the school day in a bid to help their students with their stress at home and in school.

The latest to join the trend is Pratt Community School in Minneapolis. All third to fifth-graders there and around the metro get yoga instruction from mindfulness consultants 1000 Petals, Star Tribune reported.

Pratt has seen an uptick in children dealing with stressful home situations, such as unstable housing, homelessness, family deaths and living in unsafe neighbourhoods, said school principal Nancy Vague.

“Just about understanding the positive impact on our kids, we’re excited about that,” Vague said.

She said she hoped the calming strategies could help students better manage their emotions and behaviours.

Students around the metro have been morphing into young yogis for years, but educators now have a better sense of how practising yoga can help kids manage stress from issues they face at home and at school, says 1000 Petals founder and president Kathy Flaminio.

“Our whole theme today was grounding — how to stay connected, what it means in your body, what to think about when kids are worrying about all these things,” Flaminio said after instructing a class at Pratt last week.

Pressure in schools are on the rise worlwide – students constantly need to up their game in reading, maths, etc.

This is putting mental strain on the students, some worry that it may even lead to mental health issues in future if coupled with pressures from the Internet and social media.

A UK think-tank report found three children in every class have a clinically diagnosable mental health condition, Quartz reported. Almost all principals surveyed report that mental health issues have been rising in the last five years.

In response, educators have turned towards yoga or mindfulness techniques as a cost-effective way to alleviate this problem.

But how effective is yoga for the stressed schoolchildren?

A 2012 study in The Journal of Behavioral Health Services & Research found middle-school students that took yoga reported positive mood and attitude changes. They also experienced more energy, improved posture and being able to relax better.

They showed “statistically significant differences over time” in terms of anger control and fatigue/inertia. Researchers say their preliminary results suggest that yoga in school is a feasible idea and “has the potential of playing a protective or preventive role in maintaining mental health”.

To UK-based psychotherapist Julie Lynn-Evans, kids must understand why they are practising mindfulness.

“The kids need to know why it’s important for them to be doing it, or its just another thing for them to do and another target for the teacher to reach,” she said.

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