Physical Fitness: More than Competetive Sports

For the first time, PE in the Middle School includes a yoga unit this year.  Several teachers are incorporating mindfulness into their classroom curriculum and yoga in PE is an excellent compliment to this new practice.  While most students are familiar with the physical education goals of speed, strength, and skill, many do not recognize the importance of flexibility, toning, and the mind-body connection.  By carefully moving through various poses while focusing on the breath, students become more aware of their bodies, providing a more comprehensive “physical literacy.” Yoga is not only good for the body; it has calming, stress-relieving effects and it improves focus.  By starting yoga at a young age, the Middle School aims to give our students a strong foundation in physical and mental well-being.

Yoga tip: To help you focus on your breath, place a small stuffed animal on your stomach while lying flat on your back with your arms at your sides.  Watch the stuffed animal rise and fall to center your attention on your breath and help you notice how your body moves as you breathe.  (This is also a great use of all those old Beanie Babies you might have stored away!)

If you would like to read more about the benefits of kids doing yoga, take a look at this article from the Journal of Behavioral Health Services and Research or this article from PBS.  The following excerpt is from the PBS article:

  • Yoga teaches us about our bodies.
    When we practice the physical postures or exercises (called asanas), we learn how to move more freely and with greater ease and awareness. These postures help our bodies become strong and flexible.
  • Yoga teaches us how to breathe better.
    When we breathe deeply and fully (called pranayama) and become more aware, we can bring peacefulness or energy to our bodies.
  • Yoga teaches us how to use our energy more effectively.
    When we practice yoga, we learn how to use the life force energy in our bodies (called prana) to feel more relaxed, focused, or motivated.
  • Yoga teaches us how to quiet the mind.
    When we practice yoga, we learn how to be still. This helps us to listen with attention and make good decisions.
  • Yoga teaches us about balance.
    When we practice yoga, we learn to be more aware about the need for balance in our lives. This could mean equal stretching on the left and right sides of our bodies or making sure we balance our very busy time with equal quiet time and relaxation.
  • Yoga teaches us to be the “boss” of our bodies.
    Yoga teaches us to listen to our bodies by modifying or changing poses that are too hard or cause pain. (We will talk about how to modify poses in a later section.)
  • Yoga teaches us about taking care of ourselves.
    Yoga is a great way to move our bodies and feel healthy. And teaching children how to take care of themselves is one way to show love. As with all forms of exercise, a good yoga practice can mean a good night’s sleep!