Check out the Yoga Seed Collective in midtown Sacramento where children learn yoga using familiar American word associations. What the kids are learning are 'poses' rather than an unfamiliar word to some such as 'yoga.' So the stretches don't seem like a far stretch for a kid's imagination. This week three yoga instructors are leading a yoga kids' camp at the Yoga Seed studio in Sacramento. The Yoga Seed Collective is a non-profit organization enriching the community through yoga located at 1400 E Street, Suite B Sacramento, CA 95814.
In Sacramento, The Yoga Seed is a nonprofit organization. Anyone can walk in without any funds and take a class. For 16 years, Masuhara was a teacher in Orange County, California. And she began teaching kindergarten students in 1998. Then by 2006 she attended a conference in the Bay Area, and a session on yoga for stressed-out teachers and kindergartners prompted her to try it out on her students, explains the Sacramento Bee article. The result was measurable. The kids loved yoga right away.
It's becoming less rare for a child to practice yoga with the exception of children brought up in cultures that practice yoga daily or tai chi and qi gong for that matter. But what yoga achieves as a goal for children is to relieve stress, keep them focused, and better able to concentrate at school. If you read the interview published in the August 16, 2013 issue of the Sacramento Bee newspaper by Kristopher Rivera, "No stretch to say yoga can help kids," you'll see how individual children react to and comment about their yoga instruction experience.
No one is turned away for lack of funds at the Yoga Seed Collective, according to its website's mission statement
The Yoga Seed's mission is to serve the community by providing financially accessible yoga-related services through yoga classes where no one is turned away for lack of funds, community outreach to underserved and/or vulnerable populations and community support activities for yoga students and teachers.
Back in 1952, when we kids stood up at show at tell time and talked about our parents yoga lessons, the class broke out in laughter. That's because in the 1950s, few kids in the suburbs of large cities took yoga lessons. We were familiar with ballet lessons or music lessons and the shoes and costumes, but yoga? The theme was unfamiliar enough to evoke laughter at novelty rather than curiosity and avid interest from most class members. Time has changed. Cut to the present. It's still a rare sight here in Sacramento, at least, to see kids practicing yoga as compared to dance and gymnastics. But it doesn't have to be that way.
Currently, the Yoga Seed Collective launched a yoga class for teens and kids at a Sierra School, and the Yoga Seed Collective is currently raising money to launch a yoga class taught all in Spanish “Yoga Para Todos”, which began in August. The Yoga Seed Collective has a great need to start a Yoga for Recovery at its studio and have already noticed demand for a 2nd All Bodies class. Check out the nonprofit organization's current Programs for more details.
As part of its mission, the Yoga Seed Collective partners with organizations to co- create yoga programs for their clients. For example, in May of 2012, the collective raised $1000 from a portion of the proceeds of an early morning yoga intensive to launch a yoga and wellness St. John’s Program for Women and Children. The nonprofit collective also will be helping to create a Yoga Program for the nearly 300 homeless families that St. John's Program serves each year.
Kids' bodies are flexible for yoga stretches
When children begin early with yoga, just like when kids take ballet lessons early in life, the stretching exercise helps them develop skills to manage stress, relax, and improve concentration and self-esteem. What kids have when it comes to yoga (like ballet) is that children have more flexibility doing the yoga poses or stretches. You can see the flexibility in kids when they learn dance moves early on. You see cheerleaders doing the splits after taking a few years of dancing lessons. With yoga, the flexibility in the muscles with practice and exercise is there in youth.
When kids start off with such flexibility of muscles, they can maintain what they have longer as they practice the yoga poses or stretches. It can help build strength and health practices as long as they know what their doing and why it works.
In the Sacramento Bee article the instructor, Masuhara advocates yoga for children with attention deficit issues or who are on the autism spectrum in order to develop a longer attention span. That's accomplished as yoga teachers show children breathing exercises that are relaxing and calming, for example belly breathing, where you breathe from the diaphragm. It's similar to exercises in tai chi for healing and qi gong.
Making yoga fun for children
To make it fun, instead of the kids learning words in other languages for the yoga poses, the yoga teacher has her students pretend they're trees blowing in the wind, or they squat like frogs or flap their arms like a butterfly. It's important for some parents who object to religious connotations in yoga words for poses to know that at the Yoga Seed Collective, the instruction doesn't include any religious training. What's important in yoga is the breathing exercises. For example, the instructor at Yoga Seed teaches her students to take deep breaths as a pause button before reacting to something. It is a problem-solving tool for children, helping them think clearly in a stressful situation, explains the Sacramento Bee article.
You can read numerous studies on occupational therapy about how behavior may be improved in autistic children after practicing yoga. Check out the October 12, 2012 NPR article by Eliza Barclay, "Classroom Yoga Helps Improve Behavior Of Kids With Autism."
Researchers have found that kids with autism spectrum disorder who did yoga at their elementary school behaved better than kids with autism who weren't doing yoga. The researchers surveyed teachers at a school in the Bronx who said a daily yoga program reduced the kids' aggressive behavior, social withdrawal and hyperactivity, the article explains. An assistant professor of occupational therapy at New York University who led the study, observed that yoga was effective because it seems to play to the strengths of kids with autism, while also reducing stress.
What is it about autism that benefits from the yoga stretches and poses? In the study, children ages seven to 12 at the largest school with kids with autism in the country were observed. If you check out which public schools are using yoga in the classroom, as far as the study explains, the yoga program currently is being used in more than 100 classrooms in New York City. Here in Sacramento, it's taking on fast and becoming popular, including among children with varying degrees of autism along the spectrum, which also applies to children who have problems when it comes to regulation. The flexibility that children naturally possess because of the natural energy youth and flexible muscles may be helped by the yoga exercises and the breathing exercises for relaxation, calmness, and de-stressing.
The goal is to make yoga as part of the curriculum for many parents, including those children with autism symptoms who could benefit by the exercises. The goal would be to learn how to better focus and concentrate, de-stress and relax. Yoga in the morning can motivate a child to get off on the right 'foot' to begin the rest of the morning classroom activities that kids normally take in school, such as focusing on their usual studies of reading, writing, and math. What yoga does for children is important because the kids are less hyperactive and less aggressive.
If they're not all revved up to fight or flee, they can be calmer and focused without being so relaxed they fall asleep in class. What yoga can do is create a feeling of calmness and focus at the same time and make kids happier about learning rather than to walk into class mad, sad, or bad.
When neutral terms such as poses or posing like trees in the wind are used instead of strange words the kids are yet to define, parents are less likely to associate yoga (or tai chi or qi gong) with Eastern religions and more likely to associate the poses and stretches with learning to focus and de-stress by practicing muscle flexibility and how to calm oneself by breathing exercises such as before a school exam.
California judge ruled recently that yoga is not religious by nature and may continue as part of the curriculum in Encinitas, California public schools
Last month a San Diego judge ruled that the Encinitas Union School District’s yoga program is not religious by nature and, therefore, may continue as part of the curriculum, according to the July 1, 2013 articles, "Yoga Buzz: The latest in yoga news. - Yoga Journal," and "California judge allows yoga in public schools - The Big Story."
In the recent trial, San Diego Superior Court Judge John Meyer heard testimony from religious scholars, school officials, and parents to find out whether the yoga program is appropriate for public school.
The plaintiffs in the case, parents with children in the school system, argued that the yoga program is religious in nature and violates the separation of church and state. Encinitas Union School District, a suburb of San Diego County, Superintendent Timothy Baird has maintained that the program is secular and that any religious references had been removed. On July 1, 2013, Superior Court Judge John Meyer ruled in favor of the school district.
The yoga program in public schools is funded by a $533,000 grant from the K.P. Jois Foundation, which promotes Ashtanga yoga. It brings yoga to children at all nine schools in the district as a part of physical education classes. Students who do not wish to participate are allowed to opt out. This ruling only applies to the Encinitas Union School District, not to any Sacramento schools. But, attorneys might be able to use this case history in court as a precedent for similar cases in the future. The plaintiffs are expected to appeal the decision.
Sacramento's attitude toward Yoga in public schools
In Sacramento you have radio talk shows where mothers of s specific faith call in to protest Yoga exercises in public and private schools who demand or request that the Yoga be replaced by Pilates. The mothers say that Yoga has religious connotations. But, some moms say, Pilates is strictly neutral and is about stretches for holistic health and not poses representing Hindu deity mantras or poses.
Of the many types of yoga, some public schools teach children in elementary school Ashtanga yoga, not Kirtan Kriva yoga, which is being researched and thought to help fight inflammation and stress by supporting the immune system. See,Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga. Ashtanga Yoga is a system of yoga popularized by K. Pattabhi Jois, and which is often promoted as a modern-day form of classical Indian yoga.
Kirtan Kriya Meditation is a new study of the holistic health uses of yoga to help reduce inflammation helps caregivers of people with dementia and anyone under the type of stress that can lead to inflammation. The study from the University of California - Los Angeles (UCLA) is published in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology.
Researchers now know why yoga improves health. Scientists studied various types of yoga that included Kirtan Kriya. Some of the participant's genes responded differently after Kirtan Kriya Meditation (KKM), resulting in reduced inflammation.
Yoga in schools as a state of mind that applies to people of all backgrounds usually tries to avoid religious controversy
Check out the December 16, 2012 Associated Press article by Julie Watson, "School yoga tries to avoid religious controversy." What's happening in this debate is that parents already have pulled children out of yoga classes in public schools, and other parents have even hired a lawyer. Protesting parents say yoga isn't secular enough for public school kids, yet numerous parents enroll their kids in martial arts classes such as karate.
Why the protest against peaceful, de-stressing yoga in public schools? And should a solution be to change the yoga terminology to more secular-sounding poses as in Pilates? Should "mindfulness" be taken out of public schools when teaching kids to relax? And is meditation in violation of separation of religion and public school (state) laws? Yoga teachers don't think so.
If you look at public elementary school physical education programs offering yoga to children but not Tai Chi or Qi Gong for relaxation and mediation, you have parents who insist the exercises or poses are not so much to increase balance and circulation along with relaxation and mediation to keep kids calmer and blood pressures even, but are more for religious overtones. Teachers of yoga disagree and say the exercises keep kids from fidgeting and squirming with anxiety. Calm, slow breathing is relaxation, not religion, say the Yoga fans.
Are parents mistaking the lotus pose in Yoga for the statue of an Eastern deity?
The lotus position can be mistaken for imitating a Hindu or Buddhist statue of a deity or prophet in the same position, or it could be an exercise in breathing and stretching with a goal of holistic health. A typical public school yoga class begins with deep breathing and stretches common to many yoga classes.
Kids don't chant Hindu mantras such as "om," in Sanskrit. And the children don't chant "moo-wah" in Chinese if Qi Gong or Tai Chi is introduced. If the exercises work to help seniors strengthen their balance to help eliminate constant falls and help them throw away their canes in some instances, surely the exercises can help kids. The problem numerous parents have is the use of foreign language terms.
Sacramento's Kaiser Hospital offers a course to patients in mindfulness
In Sacramento, when Kaiser Hospital offers a course to patients in "mindfulness" or clasping hands in the prayer position in order to teach quiet meditation, parents of school-age kids may protest that the exercise takes kids away from their parent's religious teachings and steers them into eastern religions that could possible enslave them so to speak to begging on the street for money to donate to various eastern religious cults as had been popular in the early 1970s.
That's a parent's biggest fear, having their kids runaway to a religious cult that sends teenagers or young adults out to beg for money to give to a guru. But the simple solution is to change the exercise terms to English as is done in Pilates, say some parents. Or you could just call it holistic health without the divination mantras and poses parents fear.
Parents don't want exercise classes for kids that indoctrinates them in Eastern religion
One example is the San Diego area's Encinitas Union School District, which is facing the threat of a lawsuit as it launches what is believed to be the country's most comprehensive yoga program for a public school system. The solution may be to separate yoga-like exercises from any religious or spiritual connections and keep the focus on stretching and relaxing to calming, ambient music without any chanting on the recording.
Public school debates are increasing with the rising popularity of the practice and the recent dispute over school prayer. Yoga is now taught at public schools nationally as a way to ease stress in today's pressure-packed world.
If parents knew how stressed-out kindergartners are with tension due to busy schedules of learning, sports, and music lessons, they'd learn more about holistic health practices that help kids relax and focus on calmness and peace. Many of the yoga or similar exercise classes are scheduled in after-school programs, or are offered only at a few schools or by some teachers in a district.
Parents don't complain about their kids being enrolled in martial arts schools to learn karate
Ironically, parents who want kids to learn how to protect themselves in a fight enroll their kids in karate lessons or other martial arts coming out of Eastern cultures, whether it's earning a black belt in martial arts or sports-related exercise programs to control and manage weight or to de-stress. But when it comes to the stretching exercises or holistic health-related programs, there's a big debate and protest by many parents.
Encinitas, near San Diego is believed to be the only public school system that will have yoga instructors teach full-time at its nine schools as part of an overall wellness curriculum that includes nutrition and a school garden program, among other things. And parents are protesting about having kids learn Eastern culture in exercise.
What the parents may not realize is that yoga by any other name or Tai Chi or Qi Gong is strength-building for flexibility as well as stress reducing. Kids learn to focus and calm down. Sports gets kids all revved up for aggression in certain martial arts programs parents prefer or sports such as baseball, soccer, and football for kids.
Who funds the yoga programs in public schools?
The Jois Foundation funds the program with a $533,000 grant. The foundation is a nonprofit whose board of directors includes the son of the late Indian instructor Krishna Pattabhi Jois, whose teachings are said to have popularized Ashtanga yoga in the Western world and were followed by Madonna and Sting. That's what bothers numerous parents.
Many would rather have a program funded by a health-related foundation teaching Pilates or other exercises not backed by Eastern practices followed by celebrities in the news. But what several public schools in Encinitas will teach is a 30-minute yoga lesson to roughly 5,000 students twice a week at the district's schools, which run kindergarten through sixth grade.
A national yoga model for public schools is being built
Parents who don't want their kids learning holistic or alternative health in school also realize that their children are stressed-out by their busy schedules of school and learning more skills after school, whether it's dance, music, sports, contests, or community service. Some kids also help out in family businesses after school. Other kids are sent to math or computer camps each summer. Kids these days are kept busy and tense most of the day, and sports injuries from playing ball games of various types are on the increase.
What some teachers would like to see is 10 to15 minutes daily where kids can sit and be reflective instead of constant competition with peers and to perform on standardized tests. The average student is up against the clock, students competing with them for what they perceive is scarcity, and chores to do at home.
Yoga or other calming exercises such as Pilates or Tai Chi walking and Qi Gong for holistic health is just one more way to de-stress and take a time out to relax. It's not taking kids away from their parent's religious training. But most parents don't believe that when they hear foreign words mentioned during a Yoga class.
Parents and researchers want to see actual health benefits measured from any holistic health class for kids
Researchers at the University of Virginia and University of San Diego will study the Yoga in public schools program, including analyzing data on students' resting heart rates. What parents may be looking for as well as researchers at universities are actual health benefits. Parents what to know whether the blood circulation of oxygen is increased, whether the kids blood pressure looks more normal, and whether they're really relaxed from the inside out when doing any of these holistic exercises.
Parents want to know if public schools can make kids healthier, relax them, de-stress them, help kids learn better, and provide better nutrition habits, all leading to healthier kids. Can Yoga do more than physical education classes that emphasize sports such as volley ball, track, or climbing ropes?
Meanwhile in Encinitas public schools, the program s will go district-wide in January after months of protests by a group of parents. Some parents are going as far as taking their children out of the classes. Others are talking about home schooling kids so they only are exposed to their parent's values and religious teachings.
What do parents most want taken out of public school yoga classes?
Parents don't want kindergartners doing sun salutations because it encroaches on the religious teachings of parents, some say. They don't want kids to be taught to look upwards to the sun (inside a room, not actually looking at the blinding sunlight). What parents want to see is not any type of connotation with worship practices of Eastern cultures.
The opening sequence of a yoga class should focus on exercise or stretching, not on saluting the sun, say some parents. The parents don't want any practice that goes against their own beliefs that only the Judeo-Christian scriptures should be taught to their children. News reports did not say what parents of other religious might report, for example Muslim parents or secular parents.
Parents fear most that yoga will change the way their kids think
The biggest complaints about exercise and "mindfulness" is that it may teach the spiritual which is not what they want taught in public schools. Parents have hired an attorney. Will the parents consider suing the program? Presently it's at the debate stage.
The issue is courts still have not defined whether exercise poses constitute any religion. You have legal cases on record, for example, the 1979 ruling by a federal court that blocked transcendental meditation classes from being taught in New Jersey public schools, deeming those particular lessons to be religious, according to the Associated Press article.
Meditation doesn't have to be religious
When kids listen to relaxing, ambient instrumental music, it doesn't have to have any religious overtones. And meditation by itself is not a religion, nor is stretching. It's the terms used in the exercises that parents are afraid will change their kids thinking patterns. Yoga doesn't have to be religious if the people doing the poses are being taught the poses are stretching as in a workout like any other exercise routine for de-stressing.
The issue is whether people can think of yoga as a slow dance or exercise rather than a pose with mantras as in a Hindu dance in front of sacred altars or statues. On the other hand, schools don't take risks with lawsuits by parents who are religious or totally secular and don't want kids put on a path to joining Eastern religious cults when they become teenagers. Parents want the cultural references removed from Eastern exercises for relaxation and "mindfulness" stretches or breathing or even listening to world music for relaxation.
The news article reported what's happening at Flora Vista Elementary School's yoga class for children
The kids do yoga poses on mats. The consequences of the yoga lessons tends to lessen acting out problems in numerous students. Students do yoga before a test to remain focused and calmer. It's a fun way to stretch for health, but it's up to the parents what they want for their schools. The parents want to make sure the teachers keep the poses and exercise talk secular in public schools. Meanwhile, yoga is taught to adults for beauty and health at many spas.
When the judge ruled that a public school can teach yoga
When the judge ruled Monday that a public school district (only applying to Encinitas Union Public Schools) can teach yoga, siding with administrators who argued the practice is a secular way to promote strength, flexibility and balance, does the majority of people in California feel that the judge rejected the pleas of parents?
After all, it's the parents who are 'accusing' the mindfulness of yoga of possibly being who inherently religious. And if Yoga is clandestinely 'religious,' does it or doesn't it violate the constitutional principle of separating church and state?
The same might be said of any physical exercise for balance or meditation such as Qi Gong or Tai Chi being used to spread Buddhism, Taoism, or Zen. But those who practice it link it more with practical psychology and secular physical exercise in slow motion focused on stretching, balance, and meditation for relaxation and health. It's a health exercise rather than a mode of worship.
If you check out the June 1, 2013 article, "California judge allows yoga in public schools - The Big Story," you can read about Yoga taught in different ways. Some people can teach yoga as a religious practice. But it's not taught as a religious practice in the public schools within the Encinitas Union School District at its nine campuses.
San Diego Superior Court Judge John S. Meyer told the court that what goes on in the classroom is that the Yoga exercise is stripped classes of all cultural references, including the Sanskrit language. The lotus position was renamed the "crisscross applesauce" pose.
The judge said parents who objected relied on personal opinions, some culled from Internet searches
You can read in the article, "California judge allows yoga in public schools - The Big Story," how the judge explained yoga's Indian roots and attitudes about yoga. The attorney for Encinitas parents, said he would likely appeal, according to the article, "California judge allows yoga in public schools - The Big Story."
This public school district may be is believed to be the first in the country to have full-time yoga teachers at every one of its schools. The lessons are funded by a $533,720, three-year grant from the K.P. Jois Foundation, a nonprofit group based in Encinitas that promotes Ashtanga yoga. Twice-weekly, 30-minute classes are offered to the district's 5,600 students north of San Diego, in addition to regular physical education.
No one is being forced to take yoga. About 30 families have opted out of the classes, which were introduced in 2011 at one campus and later expanded to others. If the classes were Tai Chi for balance and healing or Qi Gong for healing and mindfulness, or courses in meditation for relaxation before school exams, would there be as much opposition?
The issue is about separation of church and state, which means keeping schools secular
The physical education alternative classes are great for those who want slow, stretching exercises that are meant to calm and relax instead of firing up the nervous system with competitive sports that pit students against one another or where there's more of a danger of getting hurt by being hit by another student or a ball during sports.
The health benefits of yoga need to be emphasized rather than focusing on the occult or religious tones, moods, or textures. The physical education choice could just as easily been Pilates with similar results. If no foreign words are used for chanting, and nobody is reciting mantras repeating the same words over and over, parents can't accuse teachers of brainwashing when the intent is mindfulness or health via slow exercise that involves stretching or poses.
Some parents say yoga guides students toward Eastern religions
What parents are afraid of is any Jois Foundation's involvement in guiding kids toward Eastern religions and away from what religion their parents want them to carry on to the next generation. The foundation insists that the classes are not religious.
When the parents filed the lawsuit, no money was asked for to pay for anything, since parents aren't claiming damages that need compensation. The parents wanted the court to intervene and suspend the program.
The plantiffs argued that the program is religious because the roots of yoga spring from Hindu, Buddhist, Taoist and metaphysical beliefs and practices instead of from medical studies on specific exercises as having healing qualities.
Yoga is not new in public schools. Presently, it's taught in schools in West Virginia and in Brooklyn as a way de-stress. When yoga is taught in public schools elsewhere, usually it's part of after-school programs similar to dance classes. But there are some schools in the USA that do teach it as part of physical education programs.
Students also can take yoga classes at community colleges or privately at yoga studios. The idea of having it in public schools during the day is that kids don't have to pay for yoga classes in private sessions as they do for classes in dance or various sports programs older students take in community colleges.