Better breathing, less fighting

Yoga is helping low-income students cope with stress and control anger, say San Jose principals. From the San Jose Mercury News:

The six-week class teaches students to avoid conflict, “how to focus on school and how to study better,” said Overfelt freshman Rosavelia Valencia, 14.

Classmate Priscilla Orabuena, 15, said the skills are useful. “When you are going to get into a fight” — like when people are talking about you, she said — “you want to do something to them. But you breathe and feel calm and just walk away.”

. . . According to surveys, East Side students report the program has improved their sleep, focus, calmness and mood, and general feeling, said Irene Yamane, a program manager.

Yawning, another form of breathing, is great for the brain, writes Penn’s Andrew Newberg, a doctor.

Several recent brain-scan studies have shown that yawning evokes a unique neural activity in the areas of the brain that are directly involved in generating social awareness and creating feelings of empathy. One of those areas is the precuneus, a tiny structure hidden within the folds of the parietal lobe. According to researchers at the Institute of Neurology in London, the precuneus appears to play a central role in consciousness, self-reflection, and memory retrieval. The precuneus is also stimulated by yogic breathing, which helps explain why different forms of meditation contribute to an increased sense of self-awareness.

. . . yawning should be integrated into exercise and stress reduction programs, cognitive and memory enhancement training, psychotherapy, and contemplative spiritual practice.

Students who yawn in class can explain they’re working on their yogic breathing.

Update:  Yoga is catching on in Minnesota and elsewhere as a way to help kids cope with stress and focus their energies.

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  1. Quiet meditative breathing, repeated words, focusing thoughts?

    Sounds like Catholic school prayers from the “bad, old days”. So, how come yoga gets a pass on that church-state thing? Because it’s based on a non-Western religion?

  2. My wife is a yoga instructor. Yoga has nothing at all to do with religion.

  3. Margo/Mom says:

    I agree–yoga is not a religion, although some portions of it may be utiliized in the service of meditation. Similarly kneeling may be an attitude of prayer–but also serves other functions.

    I adored the yoga instructor who was willing to take on a group of kids with bipolar diagnoses while their parents met in a one hour support group. In fact it is a very important tool for gaining awareness of bodily indicators of stress and dissapating them. I have also heard of martial arts being used, successfully, to increase focus. More evidence of thoughtful employment of out of the box thinking about physical education being an integral part of the education process.

  4. Yoga is taught during phys ed in my school (by a fairly tough, older male teacher, at that!). The kids love it. They say it’s a great balance to kickball, basketball, etc. As a practitioner myself, I’m thrilled that we offer at my school. And no, it does not (necessarily) have a religious dimension.

  5. Cardinal Fang says:

    “Quiet meditative breathing, repeated words, focusing thoughts?
    Sounds like Catholic school prayers from the “bad, old days”.”

    Rather like prayers, but without the praying.


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