22 Nov 2017

Yoga a-go-go for Hutt schools

7:56 pm on 22 November 2017

A yoga pilot programme at an intermediate school in Lower Hutt has proved so successful the local council is now funding yoga classes for another 10 schools in the area.

Students from Room 1 at Avalon Intermediate school do yoga.

Students from Room 1 at Avalon Intermediate school do yoga Photo: RNZ / Emma Hatton

The Hutt City Council's Yoga in Schools programme offered yoga sessions to two classes each term at Avalon Intermediate and taught students basic poses and breathing techniques.

Avalon Intermediate school teacher Simon Flockton said he had seen positive results in his classroom.

"The kids are quite settled after, it's like a centre of peace for them because a lot of them don't get a lot of that."

He also said it had made a big difference to how students interacted with each other.

"It sort of reinvigorated the kids to want to acknowledge and listen to each other and understanding that you need to sit quietly and to respect other people's space."

Exercise New Zealand has recorded a 500 percent growth in yoga-related studios and teachers over the past 10 years.

Primary school spokesperson for the New Zealand Education Institute Liam Rutherford said he had seen an increase in yoga's popularity in the classroom over the last five years.

He said it could be a spin-off effect from more classrooms turning to flexible-learning methods.

"Schools are tending to shift away from quieter, individualised learning toward group work which tends to be a lot more conversational stuff and maybe this is just one of the things that they are using to re-centre kids."

Mr Rutherford said yoga fit within the health and the self-managing framework in the national curriculum but was wary of it becoming mandated.

"I think it should be up to individual schools to decide. Teachers tend to make a judgement around what's going to work for their kids either as a whole class, a small group or an individual level and I think that type of use of it should be encouraged."

Room 1 students from Avalon Intermediate demonstrate the Dragonball Z, their favourite yoga pose.

Room 1 students from Avalon Intermediate demonstrate the Dragonball Z, their favourite yoga pose. Photo: RNZ / Emma Hatton

Hutt City Council recreation programmer Rebecca Grigg said the council wanted all schools to be using yoga in the classrooms.

She said funding would come out of the sport and recreation budget to put together the packages.

"The packages include yoga lessons for the classes as well as lessons for the teachers so they can experience it for themselves. There's also resources in there for the teachers to encourage them to use yoga techniques as part of their general teaching."

The Mindfulness Education Group runs a similar programme based in Auckland.

The programme, called 'Pause, Breathe, Smile', also has the backing of the Mental Health Foundation.

Used in around 200 schools throughout the country, it teaches students to think about their environment and helps them become more self-aware and mindful.

Training and programmes director Grant Rix said mindfulness was an important tool for facilitating good mental health in young people.

He said more state funding should be put toward mindfulness activities, such as yoga.

"There's a huge need for this, we know that we've got an increased rate of anxiety among children and young people in our country. So, if we're talking about addressing mental health and well-being seriously then it's kind of a no-brainer for me."