Yoga and its impact on learning

The Key
The Key
Last week, the BBC reported on a project taking yoga classes into schools, which has helped children with social and emotional challenges. The yoga classes mentioned were aimed at children with a range of special needs, including autism and ADHD. The Key’s Vikkey Chaffe used to teach yoga as part of PE lessons and gives insight into why the practice could help all pupils to focus.

The benefits of yoga

Vikkey says that “in primary schools, yoga is a great element of a P.E.  warm up to get children engaged and ready. Using yoga to start a gymnastic lesson calms pupils down and helps to reduce the excitement that bringing the equipment out usually generates. It sets out the precedence for the lesson and the expectations that you are setting. It is also an amazing way to improve children’s flexibility and balance -both skills needed for gymnastics.

Yoga is also hugely beneficial to children’s mental health. It helps them to focus their emotions and to give them the tools to help themselves when they feel overwhelmed. Learning to breathe properly can not only help to calm a racing heart but also give the body enough oxygen to help the brain rationalise certain situations. We all know that exercise is great for the release of endorphins but yoga is unique in balancing body and mind, and teaching children to focus.”

Yoga as part of a widened curriculum

We also spoke to Sam Ensor from Fiveways special school in Somerset who explained the role that yoga has to play in supporting the wellbeing of particular groups of pupils. She said that that the school works with many pupils for whom the age-related expectations set out in the National Curriculum are not appropriate.

Some of the school’s curriculum is not subject-specific and instead includes a range of activities, including yoga, to help its pupils develop and progress socially, emotionally and physically. She stressed that pupils’ communication and interaction needs are central to the way in which the school structures its curriculum.

The school regularly reviews and adapts its provision to ensure it is meeting its pupils’ needs. While the broad subject areas and themes remain broadly similar, specific curriculum objectives and activities will change depending on pupils’ areas for development.

If a year group contains a high proportion of pupils who need support developing core physical strength, for example, the school would place greater emphasis on activities such as yoga to help them to work on this area.

Members of The Key for School Leaders have access to a range of resources on curriculum planning and pupil wellbeing on thekeysupport.com/SL.

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