Making a Difference - Yoga in School

Dylan is in year 6 and has had always had problems concentrating at school, he is really bright but feels anxious most of the time. He finds the lights and noise of the classroom distracting and he needs to move to feel better - so sitting in a chair is stressful but he doesn’t like PE as he isn’t strong or co-ordinated.

Dylan started doing yoga as the school was able to fund his sessions through pupil premium money allocated by the Government because of his autism diagnosis. 

When I pick Dylan up from his classroom he is often standing at the back looking agitated, unable to join in with the class. In yoga Dylan excels. He is excited to show me the sun salutations he has been practising every morning because he wakes up early - before anyone else in this family.

I can see how much his core strength has developed when he holds plank for three breaths and manages to sit up straight and breathe from his abdomen when we try meditation. We practice dragon breath for when he feels angry but most of all he likes to go upside down in shoulder stand and do relaxation - lying down with music at the end of the session. This is Dylan’s calming routine that he does every night and he tells me it is helping him get to sleep. 

Dylan like so many children is chronically tired - he is bed every night at 7pm but lies awake for hours feeling anxious. Some nights he is still awake at 11pm. The next day unsurprisingly he finds it hard to concentrate at school. Yoga is turning this around for him. But Dylan is one of the lucky ones. Without a diagnosis of a condition like autism or adhd or dyspraxia schools can’t access funds to provide interventions for children with anxiety, sensory processing or other difficulties with emotional self-regulation. Yoga and Mindfulness is an essential building block to child development. It gives children skills they need to cope with the pace and complexity of the world they are growing into.

It is wonderful to see so many schools this year marking World Mental Health Day with some really creative Mindfulness activities and assemblies. We ALL - parents, teachers, yoga teachers and more - need to campaign now to make yoga and mindfulness available to all children in all schools so that this generation can learn how to protect their own mental health as they grow into adult hood. World Mental Health Day is just the beginning…

Emma Charvet runs Mindfulness and Yoga projects in schools in London and Brighton