Can yoga be used as a disciplinary tool?
- Denver’s Doull Elementary School is experimenting with a new approach to discipline, including replacing after-school detention with yoga sessions by using grant money from the school district’s “whole child innovation fund,” Chalkbeat reports.
- The school has hired an experienced yoga teacher to provide three yoga sessions a week, two for students in trouble and one that is open to anyone. The teacher also uses the time to help students feel safe and to teach self-calming strategies through yoga as a life-skill.
- In November 2016, Denver voters approved a $56.6 million tax increase which included $15 million dedicated for programs that help meet the social and emotional needs of students. So far, the school has also used its portion of the funds to keep its full-time psychologist and hire a part-time counseling intern to help students deal with stressors, such grief or divorce.
Traditional school discipline policies based on behaviorist principles are not well-supported by research, some educators say. And zero-tolerance policies are now viewed by most educators as more harmful than beneficial because of their association with the school-to-prison pipeline. New strategies, such as mindfulness and the practice of yoga, are gaining popularity in some areas as replacements for traditional discipline for minor infractions.
The approach is based on the hope that students will learn from these sessions and will incorporate ideas that will help them calm down and reflect on their actions before their behavior escalates out of control. Some school districts are also using mindfulness to reduce the need for harsh punishments and have seen improved test scores as a result.
Advocates of yoga in schools claim that the practice does more than provide a way to reduce stress and improve self-control. Yoga also improves the mind/body connection, encourages a healthy and fit lifestyle and improves emotional health as well. Contracting with yoga instructors to provide a few classes a week may be a relatively inexpensive way to deal with some behavior issues.