Yoga in Public Schools

Too often, learning in Chelsea A. Jackson’s classroom was a struggle with cheerless chaos. Her 3rd graders at the Title I school in Atlanta struggled to pay attention, and bickering, fussing and general behavior problems frequently interrupted lessons. School-wide, it seemed classroom creativity was frowned upon, teachers felt defeated, and pressure to improve standardized test scores was squeezing the life out of students and teachers.

So Jackson took a chance. Personally, she had been turning to yoga to help manage stress, and had found that the practice improved her fitness, attitude and self-confidence. Why couldn’t her students benefit in similar ways? She covered her classroom window with construction paper to reduce distractions. She showed her students how to focus on their breathing. She demonstrated a few simple poses.

Jackson says the effects were better than she had hoped in the weeks that followed. Student attention spans increased. They were resolving their own conflicts. Lessons went more smoothly. She describes how, before standardized testing, her students would request a “few minutes for breath.” And it apparently paid off—though she did not teach to the test, she says her students’ scores were among the school’s highest.

Classroom management has always been a challenge for most teachers. But what if student concentration could be augmented with several calming breaths and a chance to stretch desk-cramped young bodies? That is the question a growing number of schools are exploring by introducing yoga classes and practices into their buildings. And a limited—but growing—body of research indicates yoga for kids may be an effective strategy for proactively managing classroom behavior and efficiently boosting student learning and performance.

An Ancient Practice
Yoga’s history stretches back thousands of years, and its practice has roots in Hindu, Jain and Buddhist religious practices in India and East Asia. It has been described as a discipline for focusing and connecting mind, body and spirit, and has found adoptees among other religions as well as the non-religious. A secularized form that emphasizes fitness and stress-reduction is now well established in Western countries, and one can find a proliferation of yoga studios in most American cities. Studies prove yoga as a regular practice can help lower blood pressure, reduce heart disease, improve strength and balance, and deal with depression and other maladies of mental health.

Jackson is now pursuing her doctorate in education at Emory University, studying yoga integration in the classroom. She and other advocates of yoga for kids point to learning-specific benefits, including:

  • fewer fights and arguments among students;
  • better student decision-making;
  • increased self-awareness and self-esteem;
  • improved concentration and retention; and
  • more efficient use of class time.

In other words, yoga offers a potential means to address a wide range of challenges in the classroom.

That has been the experience of Susan Solvang, executive director of K–12 Yoga in Milwaukee. Two years ago, the organization began a pilot program in Cass Street School, bringing in lead and assistant instructors to conduct two classes a week with more than 350 K–8 students. The instructors taught mindful breathing and basic poses, but also modeled calm, respectful behavior. “Students started to be mindful,” Solvang says. “They checked how loud they were speaking or if their tones were harsh in talking to another student. We saw students changing reactive behavior to creative solutions.”

After the first year, the results at Cass Street School were tabulated. Using the U.S. Department of Education’s Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports, the team calculated disruptive incidents. In the year before the yoga program was introduced, there had been 225 classroom disruptions, 320 disorderly conducts and 150 fights. During the pilot program in 2010–2011, these metrics were all cut by more than half: 110 classroom disruptions, 40 disorderly conducts and 52 fights.

While broad-based evidence of yoga’s potential benefits for students awaits research on a larger scale, limited studies and anecdotal evidence continue to convince educators to give it a chance. And the relatively low cost can often be covered through grants or professional development budgets.

Overcoming Objections
However, school-based yoga is still met by resistance from some parents who believe its roots in Eastern religions mean it should have no place in public schools. Some devout Christians fear it could lead young minds toward other religious beliefs or mysticism. A few districts have banned yoga, as well as visualization practices or meditation instruction.

In some instances, instructors can address concerns by a yoga demonstration sans yogic nomenclature. (One program has removed all yoga references from its “Power Moves Kids Program for Public Schools.”) But if families remain uncomfortable with the practice, they can have their kids sit out the program.

Still, people like Tara Guber, a yoga instructor with more than 25 years of experience, make it their mission to bring legitimacy to yoga in the classroom. In 2002, Guber set out to create a model in-school program, offering yoga three times a week at the Accelerated School in Los Angeles. According to Guber, teachers found that the best time to give an exam was immediately following yoga class, since sessions resulted in calm, relaxed—but focused—students.

Is yoga in the classroom worth the effort? Guber argues that a yoga practice—even once a week—helps students feel safe, show greater acceptance of others’ differences and demonstrate better conflict management among themselves. All that adds up to more time and energy for teaching and learning.

Illustrations by Jon Reinfurt

Download the PDF of this article here.


No way.

Submitted by Anonymous on 11 December 2014 - 12:58pm.

I would never let my child participate in this.

Yoga is Hindu

Submitted by Anonymous on 3 June 2014 - 7:49am.

The facts are that real Yoga is all about the Hindu religion. Denying what is Yoga and attempting to divorce any aspect of Yoga from Hinduism is simply dishonest--why do it?

Swami Param
Classical Yoga Hindu Academy

How can I get involved in

Submitted by Anonymous on 22 October 2013 - 8:55am.

How can I get involved in this??

Christie Bevis (SCSU student)

Submitted by Anonymous on 8 April 2013 - 12:31pm.

I believe that yoga should not be banned from schools just because some may see it as a religious act. Yoga practicers do not all associate yoga with religion. I feel that it is unfair to deem yoga a religious act because of its Hindu roots. I understand that some may use yoga as a religious practice but that is not everyone. Yoga had become very popular over recent years. Yoga can be incorporated in fitness classes, social events, and fundraisers. As a college student, I have had many opportunities over this year to participate in yoga events. Many use yoga as a way to get physical exercise in while enjoying their time. I believe yoga shouldn't be banned from schools because of its previous religious background.

There is a WONDERFUL app

Submitted by A Pats on 18 December 2012 - 7:59pm.

There is a WONDERFUL app called I AM LOVE: Kids' Yoga Journey. It includes both a story and instruction on poses and such. I highly recommend it. I use it with my children at home and I would love it if teachers used it in their classrooms.

Kids' Yoga Journey Apps

Submitted by Anonymous on 23 March 2013 - 7:33pm.

Hi there I stumbled upon this complimentary post and would like to see if you have gotten the latest one " I AM SUN I AM MOON? Please check it out

What happened to good old

Submitted by LGMarshall on 7 October 2012 - 6:26pm.

What happened to good old fashioned exercise? Why does everything have to be yoga now? Any Hindu in India will tell you that one cannot separate Yoga from Hinduism. (or Buddhism).
Yoga is a spiritual practice. Yoga requires a dutiful Master that hovers over his yoga students. Yoga practiced without a devoted spiritual Master, can be harmful to your health. It's unconscionable that Yoga is being pushed on western school children, with no regard to parents wishes. Yoga in public schools is an unproven experiment. Any Indian will tell, you, 'Yoga is a death practice for old people, on their death bed, as they prepare for their next Re-Incarnation." Eastern philosophy indoctrination has no place in American primary grades. And Yes, the yoga instructors, will be teaching eastern thought, overtly, and subtly both.

Any Indian. All 1.4 Billion of them.

Submitted by Anonymous on 9 July 2013 - 8:31am.

You obviously know everything there is to know about yoga. Case closed.

Oh wait. That's right. Doesn't the word Yoga simply mean to "yolk" or "bring together"? Aren't there eight branches of it too, each with their own purpose? Isn't every yoga teacher a hindu straight from the motherland?

No. I guess that isn't the case. Connecting mind and body together before testing to get better grades doesn't seem like a good idea. Neither does reducing classroom fights and disruptions. Oh wait, yes it does! Come on. If it works, go with it.

They are teaching just two limbs of yoga. Pranayama - Breathwork. This is used to still the mind and calm the body. Asana - this is what people typically call yoga. Asana is the physical exercise. Keeping the body strong and flexible. That's it.

I personally know a fantastic yoga teacher who is a fantastic Christian. She claims her practice helps her be a better Christian. They are also Jewish, Islamic, Taoist, and even Atheist teachers out there.

Don't know even know why i responded to this. You certainly won't take any of this to heart. Your mind is already made up. I just have one question for you. Have you tried it? Have you gone to a yoga class and actually tried it for yourself?

Death practice??

Submitted by Anonymous on 8 July 2013 - 5:05pm.

Where are you getting this info from? you sound like you have never been in or know anything about yoga. I have been practicing for 10 years and am an instructor. Nothing about your statement is factual, from any of my experiences. What is old fashioned exercise anyway? Next reincarnation? What the hell is that? I really thought you were being sarcastic.


Submitted by Anonymous on 3 July 2013 - 2:20pm.

It is unfair to generalize and state that "any" Indian would make the same claims. Yoga inadvertently has an element of "exercise" in it and many people who practice yoga are not Hindu, therefore Yoga can be separated. Perhaps many people become confused because they fail to recognize that the purpose of yoga is defined differently by all people who practice it, much like spirituality being a practice by choice, is extremely subjective, and can be practiced in many different ways. If one chooses to make their yoga practice more spiritual, they have the choice to combine their movements and thoughts (whatever those may be) to change the purpose and meaning of their practice. Being a spiritual person does not mean that you have to subscribe to anything specific; it is personal and inaccurate to say that it is confined to one particular philosophy. McDonald's created the Filet-O-Fish based on the religious Catholic idea of not eating meat on Fridays, does that mean if I eat this sandwich I am now being indoctrinated with Catholic theology? Can you separate the sandwich and the philosophy, now that you are aware? I bet you can because you interject your own meaning and purpose, in which we are all capable of doing.

Not true

Submitted by Anonymous on 3 January 2013 - 10:07pm.

I"ve been practicing yoga for just shy of a year and it's not Hinduism. It's simply exercise and breathing slowly and mindfully. There is no indoctrination in yoga. Teaching young people to breathe deeply relaxes them and lessens stress. Their is solid research to back up those practices. It may interest you to know that the Veterans Administration and the U.S. Army are using yoga and yoga techniques to help veterans returning from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The VA is also using yoga to help Vietnam veterans recover from post-traumatic stress.

One can only wonder what you

Submitted by Seer Clearly on 23 October 2012 - 10:29am.

One can only wonder what you are so afraid of. Here, look at it this way. Prayer is a critical component of Christianity. So is it of Hinduism. And of Islam. Yet, by praying, a Christian doesn't become a Hindu. Yoga is the same thing - a technique that deepens a spiritual practice. This is why Hindus think it's a Hindu practice. If you, a Christian, practice Yoga then you can make it a Christian practice. Or are you so afraid of losing your faith that trying something known to provide health and mental benefits may dissuade you from your faith? Only such fear could provoke such an unreasoning reaction.

I see no fear...

Submitted by Anonymous on 4 March 2013 - 4:11pm.

I don't see where anyone mentioned fear. You are making quite the assumption about fear being the only thing that "could provoke such an unreasoning reaction." I didn't see anything unreasoning about the statement. Is it unreasoning to question? That is your assumption. It seems that your reaction is unreasoning. Which makes me wonder what you are afraid of. I don't witness much tolerance here if one does not agree.

I just love that you

Submitted by Evonne Mandella on 6 October 2012 - 9:43am.

I just love that you mentioned the PowerMoves Kids program! Here you have all the stretching and relaxation teachers and families could want. It really seems like a win-win for anyone looking for a way to incorporate stretching and its many health benefits!

The PowerMoves Kids program

Submitted by Laurette Willis on 5 October 2012 - 12:28pm.

The PowerMoves Kids program is the first classroom program that combines Character Education and Fitness -- and since 2006 has become a popular alternative to yoga in the classroom. Many teachers have also found it very helpful for group discipline.

Thank you so much for mentioning PowerMoves Kids in your article! As the Founder of PowerMoves Kids curriculum for K-8th grades, I welcome your readers to visit us at .

Our slogan is, "Winning the War Against Childhood Obesity -- with CHARACTER!"

On our website they will find endorsements from the U.S. Dept. of Education, teachers, community leaders and the Great Expectations program. You will also find a downloadable example from the curriculum.

Feel free to contact us at our office and we'd be pleased to answer any questions.

Thank you again,
Laurette Willis, Founder

What I love about PowerMoves

Submitted by LGMarshall on 7 October 2012 - 6:03pm.

What I love about PowerMoves Kids, is in addition to healthy exercise, it also includes a mini 'Civics' lesson! America has the building blocks of Freedom, like no other country, through our Constitution & Bill of Rights. But sometimes our public schools neglect to emphasize this. Good Citizenship has to be taught. And PowerMoves Kids, supports that great American idea, of Good Citizenship.

I love the idea of PowerMoves

Submitted by Bobbi Mullins on 6 October 2012 - 10:44am.

I love the idea of PowerMoves Kids, especially for those who really don't want their kids to be taught yoga, even if it is secularized. Parents should have a choice and not be vilified for wanting to avoid yoga.

Christmas trees are no longer acceptable in many schools because of the association they have with the Christian religion, even though it is an entirely secular representation of the season. Sitting in certain postures and chanting or even ending a yoga class with namaste has much more of an association with Hinduism because it is part of the Hindu religious practice. I just don't think yoga should be pushed onto those who aren't comfortable with it.

Thanks, Laurette, for what looks like a very positive alternative to yoga in the schools that would help the students and not alienate parents!

Nice response!

Submitted by Anonymous on 12 July 2013 - 3:15am.

Nice response!

Ive been knowledgeable of

Submitted by Anonymous on 23 February 2014 - 8:33pm.

Ive been knowledgeable of Yoga (as taught in the West) for over 40 years. Ive been to thousands of different types of classes. Some classes could be considered Religiously 'neutral', while others are filled with references to Hindu deities, astral projection techniques , pranayama, trance inducing chanting, and mini-lectures on Self Realization.

What is odd about the Yoga craze, is that there seems to be no Standards of Consistency. What is needed is a Rating System. And data needs to be collected about the average Consumer. It would be good to find out, once & for all, just how many students are looking for eastern teachings with their exercise class? My guess is that far fewer Americans want that than the Yoga Teachers/Studios devotee would have us believe.

Maybe 3 categories would suffice? Level 1--Stretching & strength building, No Religious Content. 2--Stretching & strength building with occasional references to eastern philosophy. 3--Stretching & strength building with multiple references to eastern philosophy and spiritual techniques.

I think the Better Business Bureau and Chamber of Commerce could help us out here? The Consumer has a right to know (before they enter the class) if they are going to be asked to chant in Sanskrit, be guided into an altered state of consciousness, to meditate on Hindu holy scriptures. We deserve to make an educated choice.

It seems to me that since

Submitted by Charlie J. Ray on 21 September 2012 - 1:28pm.

It seems to me that since Yoga is a branch of the Hindu religion that it is a violation of separation of church and state to teach yoga techniques in the classroom.

Charlie, Your statement is

Submitted by Seer Clearly on 23 October 2012 - 10:26am.

Your statement is like asking "what color is Napoleon's white horse?" The way you phrase your comment keeps you from perceiving truth because it already contains your conclusion.

Yoga is not a branch of the Hindu religion. In fact, yoga predates the Hindu religion and is practiced by Hindus, Buddhists, Christians, and Muslims the world over. Since it teaches no belief system it does not "convert" anyone away from their religion, but it DOES offer techniques that can deepen and improve any spiritual practice. The fact that the poses and and techniques are described with words that derive from an ancient language - Sanskrit - doesn't make it a religion. In fact, Sanskrit itself predates Hinduism.

My suggestion is that you try Yoga - its health and concentration benefits are well documented - and add it to your spiritual practice. You will find that like many Christians, it will deepen your practice.

Thank you! Tolerance is

Submitted by Gloria Leeb on 5 October 2012 - 2:34pm.

Thank you! Tolerance is sought out in today's world except for Christian beliefs and practices. I practice a Christian based exercise and relaxation that would be wonderful for children. I have used it at church and it helps the children to memorize scripture. It would also help in school.

Totally agree...

Submitted by Anonymous on 4 March 2013 - 4:12pm.

Especially on this website.

Regarding Christian beliefs

Submitted by Karma Carpenter Shea on 16 October 2012 - 6:32pm.

Regarding Christian beliefs and yoga & mindfulness at school, please check out Holy Yoga Kids program

Also the writings and yoga instructional DVDs of Father Thomas Ryan, at the Ecumenical Office of Interfaith Relations

Join us Working in the Light~
Karma Carpenter Shea
Founder International Association for School Yoga & Mindfulness

Yoga - my favorite

Submitted by THI NGUYEN on 21 September 2012 - 12:34pm.

Yoga - my favorite exercise!
The first thing I would like to say after I read the research above is that Yoga is very interesting and helpful. I used to think that the benefits from yoga were not real. When I was about 14 years old, I read a piece of newspaper which attached an unimaginable picture in which a monk was sitting quietly in the air without a chair. That monk was practicing yoga and he succeeded in keep his body and spirit together.Then I was so curious about that although I still did not believe the reality of that picture. Therefore, I surfed many website to find more information about that. I still did not believe how people do yoga and its benefits. Until I practiced it by myself for 2 weeks later, I realized that what I felt from practicing it was very wonderful. I took a deep breath until I thought that my chest and abdominal could be no longer full of more air, and then exhaled slightly. I practiced this step repeatedly about 30 times.Also, I wore a comfortable clothes and sat in a quiet place such as my bed room so that I could focus on each of my breathes and no one could not interrupt my process. The days later, my soul went better because I could focus well on my lessons. Needless to say, yoga is very helpful for everyone, regardless of age, religion and society status. That is why when I read the information above, I absolutely agreed and supported for applying yoga to school program. Now, I still keep doing yoga for about 15 minutes every night, after I take a shower. Although I do not take a big advantage from it, but at least, I can decrease my stress which can skill me at any time. So, why don't you try yoga now, just 15 minutes a day to see what you gain from it?

I for once took yoga

Submitted by funjom nchamukong on 26 September 2012 - 1:21am.

I for once took yoga lesson because at that particular point in my life i was experiencing difficulties concentration in school. Fortunately enough the result was increditible, first of all yoga will to concentration to point where your focus is gear toward one direction unlike before where my mind was crowd different things, but with yoga i learn to concentrated on the task at hand. Yoga increase muscle strength and endurance. It contain different poses such as the plank downward dog and upward dog which increases upper body strength also standing poses for several long breaths increase strength with your quadriceps hamstring and abdominal muscle. Yoga directly influence all of your organs and body system and helps to create optimum blood supply to every area of your body. This allow for toxins to flushed out and provided nourishment to your body system. Yoga exercises help in weight management the thyroid glands plays a large role in body metabolism and there several yoga poses such as the fish pose that target the thyroid gland in so doing regular weight loss. I personally recommend that all student should take yoga lesson it will help them concentrate better in their school work and also help them cope with stresses of school life.

I am a health teacher in CT

Submitted by Robin Feinberg on 20 September 2012 - 6:53pm.

I am a health teacher in CT currently writing a research paper on the benefits and efficacy of yoga for children in school for my M.S. in School Health Education. I have also raised four children, and been practicing and teaching Ashtanga yoga for 12 years. From my research, I am working on a neurological model to explain scientifically why yoga and meditation show the broad range of benefits they do. For all those interested in how to bring yoga into your schools, here are some links (in alphabetical order) you may find helpful:,,,,,,,,,,, (Center for Mindfulness),,,,,,,, (Yoga Research and Education Center),,

We have many resources to

Submitted by Karma Carpenter Shea on 16 October 2012 - 6:34pm.

We have many resources to support your work.
Email me:
Karma Carpenter Shea
Founder, IASYM

I am a high school teacher

Submitted by Angelita Surage on 6 October 2012 - 11:34am.

I am a high school teacher who fought hard to bring to yoga classes into our curriculum. They are being taught by a certified yoga instructor who is not a certified public school teacher. This has lead to a lot of opposition about liability, credibility, etc. Do you know if there are any federal or state laws which allow certified yoga teachers into schools? Can they get an endorsement, etc?

I would love to see yoga at

Submitted by Sandra on 20 September 2012 - 5:55am.

I would love to see yoga at my children's school but I'm afraid it would never happen where we live. As it is the teachers yell and threaten punishments constantly so instead of improving their classrooms experience they just make it worse with their overwhelming intolerance of children's basic needs. Now the children are even punished with losing their recess if they use the bathroom during class. Serious rule infractions or an accumulation of small ones still leads to being smacked on the bottom with a large board by the principal for those children whose parents don't have enough sense to say "NO" to corporal punishment.

I myself meditate regularly and at home I will play calming music when things feel stressed. Just the music itself, playing softly in the hectic background of our lives makes such an obvious difference in the moods of our family that I notice the effects everytime.

Everyone could benefit from yoga especially children.

Hi, Sandra. Sounds like your

Submitted by Robin Feinberg on 20 September 2012 - 6:27pm.

Hi, Sandra. Sounds like your PTA has some serious work in front of it to bring about education reform at your district's schools. Children should never be hit as a means of discipline, and certainly NOT by the principal of a school! Teachers should not yell or threaten punishments. If you encounter resistance at the school level, go to the Board of Education and even consult with a lawyer. We are here to support you 100% on this!

Pittsburgh, PA area folks,

Submitted by Andrea Hyde on 19 September 2012 - 10:04am.

Pittsburgh, PA area folks, check out

I am a yogi academic in educational foundation (social theories, philosophy, teacher ed) at Western Illinois University. My scholarship involves yoga in k-12 and mindfulness in higher education. I would love to talk to you about your interests!

Hi! Your post caught my

Submitted by Kerrie on 24 September 2012 - 8:30pm.

Hi! Your post caught my attention because I'm from Pittsburgh. I'm also an academic studying yoga and activism and want to incorporate yoga in my university classrooms. I just got my 200 hr cert. any information you have would really help! Anything from research on bringing yoga into higher ed classrooms to practical advice!


Kerrie - just saw this!

Submitted by Anonymous on 28 December 2014 - 6:08pm.

I should have left some contact information or remembered to check the post again! if you want to reach me. I would love to hear what you've been doing.

I would also love to know

Submitted by Erin M on 18 September 2012 - 8:17pm.

I would also love to know more. I think all of my students, from 6th through 12th grades, would benefit from a little breathing and stretching. I can only imagine what a positive effect it would have on my anxious students, my hyperactive kids (who no longer have any sort of recess AT ALL), or the older students who are so busy that they hardly have the time to pause and breathe.

This sounds like a great idea that I hope to hear more about in the future!

Need more info! I would love

Submitted by kristen on 18 September 2012 - 6:38pm.

Need more info!

I would love nothing more than to incorporate yoga into my classes to help kids calm down, how do I do this!?

I have been trying to

Submitted by Smurray5 on 18 September 2012 - 6:14pm.

I have been trying to incorporate yoga for 3 years. I am a yoga novice and have found classes to be very expensive, as well as the "offerings for teachers to use a pre designed program or lessons" I have a video of kids doing yoga I used in class that went well and some focusing "mindful" activities that were well received . I really wish I had an opportunity to learn more. My students have come in early on state testing days so they could do a relaxing exercise with me before testing because they asked me to help them because it helped them feel better.

Sounds like a winner to me.

Submitted by Diane Killion on 18 September 2012 - 5:40pm.

Sounds like a winner to me. It also provides emotional support. Yoga for Kids
Works,too. They have a website and offer trainings. Keep up the good work!
The first time I ever tried yoga and meditation occurred many years ago. A teacher at our school offered a class to teachers.

Yes, yoga works on many

Submitted by Danielle Mastrogiovanni on 18 September 2012 - 12:06pm.

Yes, yoga works on many levels. As a matter of fact, there was an article "A Place to Call Om" in the 2012 Spring Issue of Yoga International about how I (Danielle Mastrogiovanni( built an entire yoga studio IN a failing public school in Newark, NJ. I am both a public school teacher and certified yoga instructor. In this city, yoga has been taught in the schools for years under the direction of the non-profit "Lotus In Action." Our non profit does great work and has seen great succcesses. Yoga in the schools is amazing, and though there is an occasional adversity due to the belief that it is a "religion" I think it is all about the way it is presented and who it is presented by. That said, yoga in the schools here is not "new" and I just wanted to say that there are MANY teachers who are certified and trained to work in the schools. Having your own practice and introducing it to your students is great, but let's not forget that yoga is a science and should be instructed by people who know what they are doing in order to get the best results. Namaste!

We have included yoga as one

Submitted by Lillian on 18 September 2012 - 7:28pm.

We have included yoga as one of the specials at my school. I teach second grade and they need it. I feel that I need it even more than the children, so ten of us do yoga once a week after school.

I would LOVE to know more

Submitted by Taryn Newman on 18 September 2012 - 11:53am.

I would LOVE to know more about these SIMPLE techniques. I have incorporated exercise and visualization. I would love to include breathing! PLEASE tell me HOW!

Hi Taryn: Here is some

Submitted by Robi on 19 September 2012 - 8:42am.

Hi Taryn:

Here is some information on Dr. Herbert Benson's "Relaxation Response." As a School Counselor (P-12)I've used this method very successfully with my students and staff to address issues of stress, anxiety, etc! The things I like MOST about the RR is that it is FREE, it WORKS, it is EASY, and it can TRAVEL with you wherever you go (school/classroom, during test time, planes, driving, etc!) I've included some history and some sources/links as well. Good luck! :)

~ Robi

"The ideal is to develop a routine, a time to bring forth the relaxation response that becomes as much a part of the day as brushing your teeth." [BHI Staff, The Wellness Book, 1992
Eliciting the Relaxation Response.]

Elicitation of the relaxation response is actually quite easy.

There are two essential steps:

1.Repetition of a word, sound, phrase, prayer, or muscular activity.

2.Passive disregard of everyday thoughts that inevitably come to mind and the return to your repetition.

The following is the generic technique taught at the Benson-Henry Institute:

1.Pick a focus word, short phrase, or prayer that is firmly rooted in your belief system, such as "one," "peace," "The Lord is my shepherd," "Hail Mary full of grace," or "shalom."

2.Sit quietly in a comfortable position.

3.Close your eyes.

4.Relax your muscles, progressing from your feet to your calves, thighs, abdomen, shoulders, head, and neck.

5.Breathe slowly and naturally, and as you do, say your focus word, sound, phrase, or prayer silently to yourself as you exhale.

6.Assume a passive attitude. Don't worry about how well you're doing. When other thoughts come to mind, simply say to yourself, "Oh well," and gently return to your repetition.

7.Continue for ten to 20 minutes.

8.Do not stand immediately. Continue sitting quietly for a minute or so, allowing other thoughts to return. Then open your eyes and sit for another minute before rising.

9.Practice the technique once or twice daily. Good times to do so are before breakfast and before dinner.

***Regular elicitation of the relaxation response has been scientifically proven to be an effective treatment for a wide range of stress-related disorders. In fact, to the extent that any disease is caused or made worse by stress, the relaxation response can help.

Other techniques for evoking the relaxation response are:

• Imagery
• Progressive muscle relaxation
• Mindfulness meditation
• Repetitive physical exercises
• Repetitive prayer
• Breath focus

How can we deal with our feelings of stress?...modify our behavior by regularly invoking the relaxation may have an important place in your life." Herbert Benson, MD, The Relaxation Response, 1975

The Relaxation Response

In the late 1960's, in the same room in which Harvard Medical School's Walter Cannon performed fight-or-flight experiments 50 years earlier, Herbert Benson, MD found that there was a counterbalancing mechanism to the stress response. Just as stimulating an area of the hypothalamus can cause the stress response, so activating other areas of the brain results in its reduction. He defined this opposite state the "relaxation response."

A recent interview of Dr. Benson by ABC News provides a very good introduction to the Relaxation Response. The video of the interview can be found here: Easy Ways to Take the Edge Off
The relaxation response is a physical state of deep rest that changes the physical and emotional responses to stress (e.g., decreases in heart rate, blood pressure, rate of breathing, and muscle tension.)

When eliciting the relaxation response:

• Your metabolism decreases
• Your heart beats slower and your muscles relax
• Your breathing becomes slower
• Your blood pressure decreases
• Your levels of nitric oxide are increased

* If practiced regularly, it can have lasting effects. Elicitation of the relaxation response is at the heart of the BHI's research and clinical mind/body programs.

Thank you for this very

Submitted by Jenn on 20 September 2012 - 1:40pm.

Thank you for this very informative response!