MERRYDALE Primary School’s Grade R learners practise meditation in class. Research has shown that practising yoga regularly leads to better mental, physical and intellectual health.
Research has shown that regular yoga practice leads to better mental, physical and intellectual health and, according to psychologist and Wellbeing in Schools and Education (Wise) programme co-founder, Carol Surya, the benefits are not only apparent in adults, but children too.

Surya reports that in many schools worldwide, it’s common knowledge that when children practise yoga, parents, caregivers and teachers see a variety of positive results which include better self-esteem, improved focus and concentration, and reduced fear and anxiety.

With Friday being International Day of Yoga, officially declared by the UN for the first time in 2014, wellness-based programme Wise has encouraged the youth to get involved in the relaxing activity.

Wise uses meditation tools such as dance, games and yoga with vulnerable children in underprivileged schools across the Western Cape. The Wise programme is active in Mitchells Plain, Hout Bay and Bonteheuwel.

“With our programme, we have seen a reduction in aggression and bullying among the children who are practising regular yoga and meditation,” Surya said.

“A lot of these children are just looking for love and care, and for a way to cope with their negative feelings. Practising meditation really gives them a space to express their feelings in a more positive way.

“Children also are more inclined to lash out when they are stressed or feeling anxious, and yoga activates the parasympathetic part (recovery) of their system, which releases feelings of relaxation and calm instead.”

Ideally, children should be practising mindfulness and yoga from as early as 5-years old.

“We work mostly with learners from Grade R to Grade 3. These young children really respond well to yoga and mindfulness games, and they are always eager to get involved,” she said.

The organisation has engaged the Department of Education, and is taking steps to have the department on board and work hand-in-hand with them.

“We were also recently invited by the SAPS to a structural meeting to give insight on using these tools to help reduce violence in schools.”

Some of the benefits included building self-esteem and confidence, improved memory, increased brain plasticity, better concentration and focus.

Some yoga poses cant help children fall asleep easier.

For more information visit its website: http://wise.training or Facebook page and YouTube: WISE (Wellbeing in Schools and Education).