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Benefits and Challenges 1

This paper is made for graduate school’s

requirement though it has missed some
original thoughts lacking enough research.
Yet the writer has made an attempt to show
the issues of yoga education in educational Yoga Education: Its Benefits and Challenges
curriculum. For more information, you can
contact the author at
Kris.bista@gmail.com or

Krishna K. Bista

Dr. Davidson

PSE 6665, Curriculum Development for Adult Education

April 5, 2008
Benefits and Challenges 2

Yoga Education: Its Benefits and Challenges

The thought manifests as the word;

The word manifests as the deed;
The deed develops into habit;
And habit hardens into character.
So watch the thought and its ways with care
And let it spring from love
Born out of concern for all beings.
- The Buddha
(Eds. Amidon and Roberts, 1996, p. 13)

The word “yoga” means bringing together two things into a relationship. There are many

examples of union in yoga, like the union of body and mind, the union of yin and yang, the union

of the individual’s energy with the cosmic energy – and the union or relationship of the teacher

and student. Integrating yoga into elementary physical education classes offers more possibilities

for a wider group of students than traditional sports and fitness classes (Finger 2000). Children

need to experience joy while participating in physical activity in order to build a foundation for

lifelong skills. Since it has triangular relationship of Body, Mind and Spirit, “Yoga is a

sophisticated system for achieving radiant physical health, superb mental clarity and therefore

peace of mind” (Schiffmann, 1996). Most commonly yoga is regarded as a physical discipline,

one that teaches strength, flexibility, and balance of body.

A physical yoga practice consists of exercises called postures or asanas that strengthen,

stretch, and align the body (Finger, 2000). Each posture requires combining the mind, body, and

breathing practices. According to Bersma & Visscher (2003), children are natural yogis. Taking

a moment to breathe, relax, or stretch will leave students calm, alert, and ready to learn.

Therefore, yoga can be used as a warm-up or as the class itself. Short yoga exercises are also a
Benefits and Challenges 3

welcome break or pick-me-up in a classroom setting. Yoga makes a difference for kids when it

comes in the class. Interestingly, yoga practice has been a gift even in military classes. Many

solders are provided regular classes in their military camps (Nelson, 2006).

Adding yoga to a school's curriculum will help to provide a quality physical education.

Yet, yoga is an individual practice, not a game or competition. According to the National

Standards for Physical Education (NASPE, 2004), young children should engage in a variety of

physical activities that help promote physical fitness. Yoga creates opportunities for children to

explore movement with a variety of postures that can be fun and challenging. These postures are

an exploration of body movements, which enable more students to participate without the

pressure of winning or losing. And, the regular participation in physical activity enhances the

physical and psychological health of the body, social opportunities and relationships, and quality

of life (NASPE, 2004).

Benefits of Yoga Education

Physical Benefits

Yoga is a physical discipline. Doing the asanas will strengthen, stretch, and align the

body. After practicing the asanas with care and awareness, one can tone and condition the body

(Toscano, 2008). The benefits of this physical practice include the development of long lean

muscles, better posture, improved breathing, enhanced digestion, better circulation, a relaxed

nervous system, and a fortified immune system (Finger, 2000). A physical practice can be

adapted to whatever the student requires. Age, body type, flexibility, or skill aptitude need not

prevent anyone from enjoying the benefits of yoga. Practicing yoga at a young age shows

children how to emphasize proper body alignment, which increases their ability to use their

muscles and joints more efficiently. Additionally, yoga can be adapted for any age group.
Benefits and Challenges 4

Children love to role play. Moving from poses with music or in some game activity is a fun for

young children. Adult and old people get higher level of benefits as a physical exercise from

yoga classes.

Emotional and Mental Benefits

Today’s life is full of stress and pressure for children and adults. Pressure in school, busy

parents, competitive sports, and the demands of active participation are the contributing factors

of stress. Teaching yoga to children can help them learn to relax, teach self control, and instill a

sense of peace in their daily lives. Marsha Wenig (2003) believes yoga can counter the pressures

of this fast-paced society and help children quiet their minds. In addition, learning a breathing

practice can help children see that the mind and body are connected. Breath control is an

important aspect of yoga. Children who practice yoga learn to connect their breath to movement.

Yoga teaches them calmness and inward focus, which is a valuable skill in entire life.

Furthermore, yoga is a great mental discipline. Practicing the postures or asanas requires

an attention to detail that helps develop focus, concentration, and observation skills (Finger,

2000). It promotes self-discipline and develops inner strength, which improves an individual's

mental outlook. It also encourages children's creative imagination and self expression.

Challenges in Yoga Education

Practicing yoga is a wonderful complement to other activities in a physical education

program. Though yoga creates sport activities, it has several challenges in its curriculum,

teaching, and student-teacher relationship. According to Dolan (2007), we have following

challenges in yoga education.

Sequencing a Class
Benefits and Challenges 5

In a yoga class for children and adults the teacher not only instructs, but also guides and

helps them relax and enjoy themselves. The class format includes poses, movement with breath,

anatomy, breathing techniques, and music. However, lack of trained teachers and enough

teaching materials, even unequal and focused curriculum of yoga education, have creating a

serious challenges in sequencing the classes. Julie Ferry (2007) reports a number of real

challenges as this is 2007 rather than 1977 to capture a child’s imagination.

Students and Teacher relationship

The yoga teacher/student relationship is similar to the connection between therapist and

patient. The yoga teachers need to be sensitive and respectful of their student’s emotional

vulnerabilities and they need to be aware of the importance of this unique relationship to the

student’s yoga experience. Unfortunately, this relationship can also provide an opportunity for a

bad teacher to take advantage of a student’s trust. It has been emerging as a problem in yoga


Class Conflicts

It’s hard to predict the mishap that the teachers and students face in a classroom.

Teachers may not recognize that a student’s complaint about the heat, an unwillingness to use a

prop, or asana may create class conflicts against the rules of culture and social norms in various

transitional cultures. For instance, no yoga is practiced in any classes in Arabian schools as it’s

against the tradition.

Yoga is not considered as a basic part social life. Many people around the world still

consider it as unnecessary things as oriental stuff. Raphael Gunner (2005), a yoga teacher writes

that students often take yoga asana as stages of fear and danger in practicing phases. Gunner

makes a list some of challenges of yoga education as physical challenges that teachers often
Benefits and Challenges 6

come across. The most problematic challenge is the nerve damage in young learners as

sometimes they can not make a harmony of all asanas. It means some nerves get struck, and the

teachers need to explore the underlying feelings.


Yoga offers new learning possibilities to a wider group of students than traditional sports

or fitness curriculum, making it a valuable addition to any educational program. Additionally,

adding yoga to a school's curriculum will help provide a quality physical education program as a

modification of traditional physical education. It can be taught as either a warm-up, or as the

entire class. It offers children and adults an opportunity to experience success in physical

activity, which can help build a foundation of strong of life. However, curriculum specialists,

teachers, trainers and students should know and analyze seriously the real challenges of yoga

education in classroom settings and real life as well.

Benefits and Challenges 7


Amidon, E., & Roberts. E. (Eds.) (1996). Life prayers from around the world. NY:


Bersma, D. & Visscher, M. (2003). Yoga games for children: Fun and fitness with postures,

movements and breaths. California: Hunter House.

Dollan, M. (2007). The complete yoga: The lineage of integral education. International Forum of

Teaching and Studies. Marietta: Spring 2007. Vol. 3. Iss 1. pp. 31-38. Retrieved April 5,

2008 from


Ferry, J. (July, 2007). How yoga is changing the classroom. Independent. Retrieved April 4,

2008, from http:// www.indendent.co.uk/news/education/education-news/452974.htm/

Finger, A. (2000). Introduction to yoga: A beginner’s guide to health, fitness and relaxation.

New York, NY: Three River Press.

Gunner, R. (April, 2005). Idol teachings. The Santa Fe New Mexican. Santa Fe N.M. Retrieved

April 4, 2008, from


National Association for Sport and Physical Education, (2004). Moving into the future: National

Standards for Physical Education. 2nd edition. Reston, VA.

Nelson, M. (July 2006). Yoga a stretch for some soldiers. South Florida Sun-Sentinel. July 16.

Schiffmann, E., (1996). Yoga: The spirit and practice of moving into stillness. New York, NY:
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Simon and Schuster.

Toscano, L. (April, 2008). Yoga in physical education. Strategies,Vol. 21. Iss. 4, pp. 15-20.

Retrieved April 5, 2008 from

http://proquest.umi.com.libproxy.troy.edu/pqdlink?did=1453621051&fmt=7& client


Weing, M. (2003). Yoga kids: Educating the whole child through yoga. New York, NY: La

Martiere Group.

This paper is made for graduate school’s requirement though it has missed
some original thoughts lacking enough research. Yet the writer has made an attempt
to show the issues of yoga education in educational curriculum. For more information,
you can contact the author at
Kris.bista@gmail.com or kbista1@hotmail.com