Final Project: Yoga in the Classroom – Meghan Heldt

Posted on May 17, 2013 by


Meghan Helot

May 16, 2013

Yoga is becoming more and more popular each year. People are starting to see yoga as a form of exercise and way of relaxing in our high stress culture. Originally it wasn’t practiced that way in the Hindu faith. There are four ways through yoga to reach the definitive goal of moksha, the liberation from the cycle. By abandoning all earthly positions and desires one can acquire moksha. Getting salvation from the cycle they will no longer have to endure suffering through the samara, the endless cycle of birth, death, and rebirth. The four types of yoga are Jnana yoga, Bhaki yoga, Karma yoga, and Raja yoga. These are spiritual approaches Hindus uses to understand the divine world and find moksha. In India people will practice yoga daily and monks will do it hours at end, trying to understand the earth and the world that they live in. By participating in yoga they become calmer and find their inner peace which will help them find moksha. These four traditional types of yoga differ from the yoga we use in the West which is called Hatha yoga and has no spiritual impact (Paul Flesher). Yoga’s meaning is influenced by the community and environment which it’s presented in. In the United States in recent years yoga has become more popular in Elementary Schools as an activity to reduce a child’s stress and relax them.

This picture collage below shows how yoga is practiced in religion and how people find their spiritual guidance. The images I choose is what Western would normally depicted of the mystical East.

These days schools are starting to use Yoga in the classroom. Teachers are finding that it relaxes students and they become more focused prepare themselves for classroom activities. It’s starting to seem like yoga is the next big thing in elementary classes. There have been news reports from Minneapolis, Minnesota to Kanas City, Kanas about the benefits teachers and classmates are seeing. In Minneapolis, Jefferson Elementary School is using Yoga Calm. This program uses the mind and deep breathing to center the children before the class day begins. Mrs. Sally allowed cameras to go into her classroom so the general public could witness Calm yoga. She is one of 400 teachers in the district that uses yoga in her classroom. She has noticed a difference in the children and the children have grown fond of yoga in the morning. Mrs. Sally’s goal is now to get yoga in all the classrooms because it has made an impact in her students (Jessica Miles). In Santa Fe Elementary, Kanas they are finding that yoga is preventing bullying in their students. The Principle Diana Swezy, states that they have had problems with bullying in the past but with yoga she has noticed a difference. Fewer students are coming into her office. They are using the Art of Living Foundation program which teaches yoga in 140 countries and is expanding to more school in Kanas this fall (Tess Koppelman). Another school in Chicago, Jefferson Elementary, started putting a 10 to 15 minute yoga session after lunch starting in 2007. The teachers have noticed a difference and they say it’s cost effective. The school doesn’t have a lot of money so it’s was hard to find a way for teachers help students concentrate. Teachers can see a difference and comment on how easy yoga is in transition between different activities. When students are upset or angry all the teachers have to say is “take a yoga breath” and it calms them down (Bahar Takhtehchian).

The link below is an example of Milwaukee School districting changing Yoga into a more of a modern and enjoyable activity for their elementary students. This is one example of the teachers changing yoga into something different than the originally context. When Mrs. Wenzel, a second grade teacher, does yoga she makes it fun by changing deep breathing into bunny breaths like a bunny twitches his noise. She still has pose like tree pose that you would see in regular yoga classes. Yet in this version of yoga she talks about reaching for the sun and spreading out there arms making it child appropriate. Once the class did eight minute yoga exercise the kids where calmer and they are ready to learn (Mrs. Wenzel).

Recently though in Ecke Central Elementary School in California some parents are arguing that yoga is going against the First Amendment of the Constitution, saying that it infringes upon the separation between Church and State. The spokeswoman for this group is Ms. Eady, mother of a first grader, who is opposed having yoga in the classroom. In an interview with the New York Times she states, “They’re not just teaching physical poses, they’re teaching children how to think and how to make decisions. They’re teaching children how to meditate and how to look within for peace and for comfort. They’re using this as a tool for many things beyond just stretching.” Ms. Eady and other parents see yoga as a religious path that is teaching their children spiritual exercises. It doesn’t help that the pilot project is supported by the Jois Foundation a non-profit, which was created in the memory of Krishna Pattabhi Jois who started Ashtanga yoga. The purpose of Ashtanga yoga is to help others find spiritual guidance through yoga. There have been both petitions to remove the course from the school district curriculum and to keep the program. One petition is found on a website called Force Change, which is a website that has different subjects that bring awareness to others about potential change in their community. Anna Allison, who wants to help keep the yoga program in Ecke Central Elementary School started it online and it has become widely known. Even with parents disagreeing with the district they have not changed their minds. Tim Baird is the school’s superintendent and has been defending the program that promotes a child’s mental well-being and physical activities. Ms. Eady and some other parents do not agree with Tim Baird’s choice. The main concern of parents is that children are being exposed to a mystical religion (Will Carless).

This video clip below shows both sides of the argument of the parents and the teachers in the district.

New sources depicted that they are for yoga in the classroom. New reporters keep showing yoga in a positive light and focus mainly on the benefits. Usually when they report about yoga in the classroom is only discusses about how calm the students are and the mental well-being of the children. They rarely focus on where yoga originated from and the purpose of yoga in Hinduism.

The media has portrayed yoga in different ways recently. Each school has made it into their own practice and belief. The biggest thing about Yoga is that it changes with everybody. Hindus see it as a way of reaching a spiritual advancement, some see it as a good work out, and others use it to relax from a stressful day.

Yoga in the classroom has made a positive impact in the children’s lives. These images come from different sources below and are all involving yoga in the classroom. I am biased in the fact that I do think yoga helps calm people down. I have been participating in yoga for about two years now and I have fallen in love with it. My school district offered it as a class and I did it for swim practice too. People need to see that yoga can be separated from Hinduism and can be changed by the environment it is placed in. I can see and understand why parents may be concerned about having it in their classrooms due to where it originated from. I think if parents talk to their children and understand what they think about the program it would help. Teachers are seeing the differences in their students in the classroom and in dealing with stress. If both parties could see the other perspective, in the Ecke Central Elementary School, I think that they wouldn’t have had to gone to court. It will be interesting in learning about the court case in time to come and the media will surely be following it. I hope that they will allow yoga in the classrooms because of the benefits to the students.


Anna Allison, “Support Elementary School Yoga Class” Force Change – Petition to Change Your World, January 2013

  • Source talks about a Petition to keep Yoga in the class room for the California Elementary School.

Bahar Takhtehchian “Kids Do Yoga in Class at Chicago School” CL TV News, April 2009,

  • This is a video new clip on YouTube that dicusses positives of having Yoga in the class room and how it’s economically benefit for school that do not have a lot of extra money to spend.

“Christians Against Yoga in School” January 4, 2013

  • News clip on YouTube that discusses both sides of the California Elementary School with interview from the people involved.

“Is Yoga a Religion?” January 2013,

  • A website I used their photos I used for my collages.

Jessica Miles, “Yoga Calm Students, More Productive Minneapolis Schools” Five Eyewitness News Minnesota, April 2008,

  • News clip that talks about how class room yoga impact elementary students for the better.

Mrs. Wenzel “Classroom Yoga (Classroom Physical Activity Breaks)” Milwaukee Public Schools Wellness and Prevention Office, December 2011,

  • This is a clip I found on YouTube that shows how children’s yoga is very different than what we would expect it to be.

“Om Preneur” The yoga entrepreneurship, January 2012,

  • Images I used for the Hinduism photo collage.

Paul Flesher, “Hinduism: The Living Religious” Religious Studies Program at University of Wyoming, January 2013,

  • A website that talks about the different types of yoga in Hinduism and how Western yoga doesn’t have any spiritual meaning in it.

Tess Koppelman, “School Program Calms Kids with Yoga” Fox 4 News, October 2009,

  • A news Clip that discuss about how yoga has helped prevented bullying in there school.

“The sikha and the Monk” January 2013,

  • Photos that I used for the Hinduism photo collage.

Will Carless “Yoga Class Draws a Religious Protest” New York Times, Devember 15, 2012,

  • A recent article that talks about how parents are against yoga in the class room due to it having spiritual and religious aspects to it. This article presents both sides of the argument. This source I also used photos for my collage.

 “Yoga in India – it’s not what you think” March 29, 2012,

  • Images I used in my photo collages.

“Yoga 4 Classrooms” January 2013,

  • Some images I used in my photo collages for the class room.
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