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Yoga in the schools movement: defining success

Thursday, May 30, 2013

How do you define student success? Can it be positioned as “positive social, emotional, physical, ethical, civic, creative, and cognitive development"? The Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development's Commission on the Whole Child (ASCD, 2007) does think so, and frames education within the context of nurturing the whole child. The movement to include yoga and mindfulness in schools is an important piece of the new paradigm, and we are proud to be a part of it at Yoga 4 Classrooms.

We wanted to share that our program, along with our foundational program, ChildLight Yoga, have been mentioned in the recently published book chapter, “The Yoga in Schools Movement: Using Standards for Educating the Whole Child and Making Space for Teacher Self-Care”, written by Dr. Andrea Hyde of Western Illinois University.

In her chapter, Dr. Hyde offers specific examples of how yoga programs are impacting students, teachers, and communities in K-12 schools across the US, and shows how these programs can become important standards for a wider social transformation. She argues that contemplative education has the potential to improve students’ and educators’ individual well-being, as well as to “eradicate systemic barriers and forces causing oppression in schools and in the wider society”.

Her main point is that the yoga in schools movement should be taken seriously by social and educational advocates because “it has the potential to change the purpose and structure of the unjust institutions” from within. Incorporating yoga into public schools can change the nature of the education, especially because these programs are designed to meet the needs of teachers, counselors, administrators, and students alike, by offering yoga instruction for students, yoga curriculum instruction for both physical education teachers and classroom teachers, and yoga for self-care of school staff.

Dr. Hyde writes: 

ChildLight Yoga, in Dover, NH, will help schools write grants to pay for their modestly priced training for schools to implement the Yoga 4 Classrooms curriculum, which is aligned with the National Association for Sport and Physical Education (NASPE) standards and the CDC’s National Health Education Standards (NHES). This organization acknowledges the goals and purposes of No Child Left Behind: “to expand local control and flexibility of education, to do what works based on scientific research, to have accountability for results, and to have more options for parents”. The point to be taken is that ChildLight helps schools to accomplish these goals; it does not represent efforts in addition to these goals. This is a major rhetorical success for school yoga programs and the specific point at which academics can help the movement.”

Overall, the main argument is that yoga programming in the schools is consistent with the goals schools have in increasing teacher effectiveness and student outcomes. Moreover, yoga programs not only develop, but ‘empower’ teachers in their work. Other important points made are that yoga is not a religious education, but an evidence based practice for increasing strength, flexibility, and balance for the body and the mind.

Defining yoga as “a noncompetitive self-care practice of physical, emotional, and psychological wellness”, Dr. Hyde calls for the transformation of the educational system through the internal change process. Each child, each teacher, each school matter in this grassroots movement toward social change.


Hyde, A. M. (2012). The yoga in schools movement: Using standards for educating the whole child and making space for teacher self-care. In J.A. Gorlewski, B. Porfilio, & D.A. Gorlewski (Eds.), Using Standards and High-Stakes Testing for Students: Exploiting Power with Critical Pedagogy (pp.108-126). New York: Peter Lang Publishing, Inc.

To learn more about yoga in schools movement, visit our website here and here.  
For more on research supporting yoga and mindfulness in schools, visit this page, and learn about our own study conducted by the University of Massachusetts-Lowell – stay tuned for a detailed report of the study results coming out next month!

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