Several fresh scientific publications address the implementation of yoga and mindfulness activities into the school system. Seeing empirical research and comprehensive reviews reporting on contemplative education practices helps the movement gain scientific validation and wide-spread acceptance by educators.
As the interest in the use of mindfulness-based activities with children and youth is growing, a new review article evaluates empirical evidence related to the use of mindfulness-based activities to facilitate enhanced student learning and to support students’ psychological, physiological, and social development. It also provides an overview of interventions that include mindfulness. “There is a need to provide children with a way to combat the stress and pressure of living in today’s highly charged world: mindfulness may be one helpful alternative”.
Authors of another rationale paper, published in October 2012 in Teaching and Learning, propose the framework for integrating mindfulness principles into the school physical activity programming.
“Practicing mindfulness in physical activities can help young people manage stress, maintain well-being, and develop patience, trust, and openness; to conclude, it exposes them to these and many other benefits that will enhance their quality of health and happiness”.
Among other ways of bringing mindfulness to physical activities in the school the article authors propose to teach mindful movement disciplines, “mindfulize” physical activities, avoid multi- tasking, nurture and develop appreciation of subjective experiences.
The article concludes that “integration of mindfulness in school physical activity programs is not an attempt to delegitimize present practice; rather, the intention is to further emphasize the need to re-examine our current practice, and re-orient our programs to ensure they are meaningful”.
Moving beyond general beneficial influences of mindfulness on physical activity as part of the whole child development, the paper to be published in December 2012 Journal of Exercise and Sport Psychology, poses a more direct and important outcome-related question: Does integrating physical activity in the elementary school classroom influence academic motivation?
The purpose of this research study was to examine the effect of physical activity integrated with academic lessons compared to traditional lessons on children's academic motivation. Students in 4th - 6th grades were participating in either a traditional academic subject lesson (Language, Arts, Math, Social Studies), or in a specifically designed lesson integrating a 10 minute physical activity in the classroom. The researchers assessed students' intrinsic motivation with regards to academic learning and compared the groups participating in the study. Students’ self-reported interest/enjoyment significantly decreased after the traditional lessons, however it increased significantly after just the second integrated lesson! Children also reported higher perceived competence and effort, whereas neither the perceived value of the lesson declined nor did children report feelings of pressure from this alternative teaching method. Overall, this research showed that physical activity integrated with the academic subjects can positively impact children's academic motivation.
The above rigorous scientific study, although not using the yoga specifically as an intervention, supports the core idea behind the Yoga 4 Classrooms in that integrating the physical activity, and even better – a mindful movement activity like yoga practice – benefits the learning readiness and academic achievement.
These studies are of course not surprising to practitioners and teachers who know about these outcomes firsthand from their experiences and students’ informal reports. Still, having this evidence is very encouraging when delivering the message to the schools and parents.
Chunlei Lu (2012). Integrating Mindfulness into School Physical Activity Programming. Teaching and Learning. Vol 7, No 1.
Vazou,S., Gavrilou, P., Mamalaki, E., Papanastasiou, A. & Sioumala. N. (2012).Does integrating physical activity in the elementary school classroom influence academic motivation? International Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology. Volume 10, Issue 4.251-263.
Rempel, Ki, (2012). Mindfulness for Children and Youth: A Review of the Literature with an Argument forSchool-Based Implementation. Canadian Journal of Counselling and Psychotherapy. Vol 46 (3).