Why do people go to yoga class?

Why do people go to yoga class instead of watching an exercise video? asks Matt Yglesias on Slate.

The prospect of online education continues to attract a lot of interest and commentary in various circles, but I think the issue that people considering this need to ponder has nothing to do with convention and signaling and everything to do with yoga. Specifically, what is it that’s driving all these people to show up in person at yoga classes.

. . . When possible, people simply prefer to do this in person with a live human being standing in front of them.

At this point, online learning is like convenience food. It’s not as good as “slow” learning in a classroom, but it’s doable when other options take too much time, transportation and money.

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.