1. Meets Physical Education StandardsYoga Ed. is aligned with the National Standards for Physical Education (AAHPERD, 2014). As a non-competitive physical activity, yoga develops essential life skills while cultivating physical health and fitness.
2. Increases Bone StrengthExercise is critical for strong bones (Bieleman, Martinez-Mesa, & Gigante, 2013). Moderate amounts of weight-bearing activities, such as yoga, stimulate bone strength and development (Daly, 2007). Weight-bearing activities place mechanical strain and tension on growth plates, which causes the body to increase bone density to respond to the stress (MacGregor, 2008). Bone strength is important in preventing fractures and osteoporosis. Starting physical activity early in life can reduce the risk of chronic pain and skeletal health issues later in life (Kemper, 2000).
3. Increases Muscular StrengthResearchers at the Los Angeles Charter College of Education found that students who participated in Yoga Ed. classes experienced significant gains in upper body strength over one year when compared to school district means (Slovacek, Tucker, & Pantoja, 2003). Yoga builds muscular strength through weight-bearing postures that strengthen different muscular groups (Galantino, Galbavy, & Quinn, 2008). As children’s muscles become stronger, muscular endurance increases. It becomes easier to exercise for longer periods of time. Strong muscles also provide better support for bones and result in less injury.
4. Increases Muscular FlexibilityYoga is a great way to maintain and improve flexibility. The dynamic postures safely stretch different muscle groups, increase range of motion, and release lactic acid build-up. Significant improvements in flexibility were seen in students who participated in a Yoga Ed. program as compared to their peers (Slovacek, Tucker, & Pantoja, 2003).
5. Promotes Neural Development and Motor SkillsChildren explore body movements and build spatial awareness through yoga. Yoga develops motor skills by giving students ample opportunities to practice movement, balance, and hand-eye coordination.
6. Improves Heart HealthYoga is a physical activity that promotes heart health in children and adults (Woodyard, 2011; Birdee et al., 2009). While not all yoga is aerobic, yoga practices that do not increase heart rate can improve cardiovascular health. Research suggests that yoga can reduce blood pressure, lower cholesterol levels, mediate blood sugar, and/or increase heart rate variability (McCall, 2007). A regular yoga practice can have significant effects on the management of obesity, a strong risk factor for heart disease (Rioux & Ritenbaugh, 2013).
7. Supports Respiratory HealthYoga improves respiratory rate and capacity (Birdee et al., 2009). By improving the strength of respiratory muscles, compliance of the lungs, and the efficiency of oxygen intake, yoga also increases cardiorespiratory endurance (Sengupta, 2012). Significant gains in aerobic capacity were found in students who participated in a Yoga Ed. program over the course of a year (Slovacek, Tucker, & Pantoja, 2003). The effect of yoga on respiratory health may be explained by the increased control over respiration. During yoga, a practitioner consciously practices control over respiration by focusing on inhalation and exhalation.
8. Combats Childhood ObesityYoga contributes to weight control in a number of ways. As a physical activity, yoga expends calories. Yoga also increases self-awareness, making children more present to how their bodies feel throughout the day. Children turn the attention inward to observe what they are thinking, what they are doing, what they are eating, and how that makes them feel. This self-awareness leads to better food and lifestyle choices. Lastly, many children avoid physical activity due to lack of self-efficacy and feelings of incompetence (Guinhouya, 2012). Yoga class can directly address these psychosocial factors. During yoga, children learn to tune into their inner experience. By using yoga tools to shift them closer to who they want to be, children develop self-efficacy and competence. In a positive feedback loop, yoga cultivates self-efficacy and thereby increases frequency of physical activity.
9. Boosts Immunity
Yoga can improve the function of the immune system in two ways. First, yoga can decrease stress and its negative effects on the immune system. Second, yoga is a physical exercise. Moderate physical activity has a demonstrated positive effect on the immune system by increasing antibody production and lymphocyte circulation. Exercise also stimulates growth hormone levels. Together, these effects increase the function of the immune system (MacGregor, 2008).