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03/03/2012

DISSERTATION CHAPTER 9 - TOWARD THE DEVELOPMENT OF A YOGA-BASED PROGRAM FOR PRESCHOOL CHILDREN TO FOSTER POSITIVE DEVELOPMENT


CHAPTER NINE

The Yoga-Based Model Program for Preschool Children

to Enhance Positive Development

 

Introduction and Overview

            The present study was conducted to answer the research question:

“What components of posive development found to be essential in both, the Flow model of optimal experience (Csikszentmihalyi, 1990, 1999) and the Yoga practice experience can be adapted for young children and included in a Yoga-based model program for preschool children with the goal of establishing a strong foundation for healthy onset of positive children’s development?”

            The results of the critical analysis of theory and current research suggest several elements to consider when developing a Yoga-based model program, i.e., to set specific developmentally appropriate program goals and strategies; as well as exercises and experiential activities to achieve the stated goals; and select appropriate follow up activities to maintain goal achievement.

Program Goals and Strategies

Program Goals

            According to the literature, the earlier children awaken and activate their inherent capacities, the better chances they have for successful development (Gopnik, Meltzoff, & Kuhl, 1999).  The central goal of the Yoga-based model program is to encourage and assist preschool children in establishing a mind-body-spirit unity as a platform for a positive development of a healthy life style.

            The research findings indicate that as young as three-year old children have more brain synapses than adults, which in turn make them faster thinkers, and faster learners.  “Children in the first three years of life are consumed by a desire to explore and experiment with objects. They are like scientists. The crib, the house, and the backyard are excellent laboratories” (Gopnik, Meltzoff, & Kuhl, 1999).  While the mind and the body are very flexible, preschool children are very receptive to learning.  The yoga-based program is intended to draw upon this natural phenomenon, to set off the positive development of healthy habits and prevent unhealthy habits from developing.  The core of this program lies in the synergy of Yoga essential principles, i.e., mind, body, spirit unity and the Flow model rudiments of positive aspects of human experience, i.e., joy, creativity, the process of total involvement in life activities, to activate each component of positive development.

            According to USYA (United States Yoga Association – www.usyoga.org.), as well as  (ABC Yoga; Yoga Ed.) and reports from several programs introduced in the inner-city schools, e.g., “Om Schooling,” yoga is well received by children from all communities and social backgrounds.  Yoga practice makes children physically stronger, mentally alert and instills a sense of confidence and self-discipline while they are enjoying it.  As focus and concentration sharpens they invariably do better in their studies (see New York Times, March  2002, “Latest Way to Cut Grade School Stress: Yoga;” Los Angeles Times, April, 2002, “Yoga at School Poses a Learning Opportunity”).

            The essential components of positive children’s development, i.e., self-knowledge, self-perception of competence in self-concept domains, motivational goal orientation and implicit theories of intelligence (Dweck 1988; Schiefele & Winteler, 1992; Harackiewicz & Eliot, 1993; Pintrich, 2000; Reinniger, 2000) combined are responsible for active and persistent engagement with relevant elements of the environment in order to accomplish desired outcomes or goals (Csikszentmihalyi, 1999).  The presented developmentally appropriate activities and exercises in the Yoga-based model program are designed to foster a healthy positive development   Children will be able to relax and find their own quite place within.  This program promotes an experience in components of positive development, while awakening the multiple intelligences involved in learning.

      While children are mostly kinesthetic learners, Yoga practice naturally awakens children’s multiple intelligences, separately and in their unity as outlined in table 7 below.

Table 7

Awakening Multiple Intelligences

Intelligence

Yoga practice will help children to:

Linguistic/Language:

To identify and develop clarity in expressing feelings, care on coherent and to the point group discussions, develop problem solving and decision making skills, story listening-creating-and telling, open-ended questioning, building a rich vocabulary A-B-C names and sounds.

Logical/Mathematical:

To develop understanding body mechanics of how asana works and why one benefits, make healthy food choice decisions, measure and calculate portions and calories, interpret nutritious values, follow and create recipes, develop numeric recognition and comprehension

Musical - Rhythmical:

To develop music appreciation, mind calming with soothing music, sing and create songs, using simple rhythmical instruments, develop ability expressing rhythm through clapping, tapping.

Spacial:

To develop a special awareness through mandala drawing and coloring, Yoga asanas, pantomime, pair or group drawings and coloring, pair or group asanas, develop understanding of inner and outer space

Bodily-Kinesthetic:

To fully experience bodily and sensory experience; i.e., touch, taste, smell, vision, and hearing. 

Interpersonal:

To develop awareness of others, express empathy, sympathy, express and share feelings, thoughts, and ideas, and engaging in constructive nonjudgmental discussions.

Intrapersonal:

To develop self-awareness, believing and trusting in oneself, knowing that with a little effort everything one imagines, or dreams can become possible

Naturalist:

To demonstrate expertise in the recognition and classification of the numerous species of flora, fauna and his/her environment.

Intelligence

Yoga practice will help children to:

Spiritual:

To develop the capacity to think about cosmic and existential issues - from our existence and role in the universe to the nature of life, death, bliss, and tragedy.  Spiritual capacity, spiritual feeling, or a gift for the transcendent, implies to questions, i.e., Who are we?  Where do we come from?  What does the future hold for us?  What is the meaning of life, love, tragic losses, or death?   What is the nature of our relation to the wider world and to beings who lie beyond our comprehension, like our gods, or our God?

Existential:

To develop the capacity to locate oneself with respect to existential   features of the human condition as the significance of life, understanding the meaning of death, the ultimate fate of the physical and the psychological worlds, and such profound experiences as love of another person or total immersion in a work of art.

Moral:

To develop the capacity to recognize and make judgments about the rules, behaviors, and attitudes that govern the sanctity of life, of human life and, and the sanctity of any other living creatures and the world they inhabit.

Emotional:

To develop a collection of capacities having to do with knowledge of emotions, control of emotions, and sensitivity to one’s own or others’ emotional states.

            A detailed Yoga-based model program outlined for preschool children spanning two years (age 3-5) has been formulated in Appendix B with respect to the physical capabilities and the mental attributes of the preschool children.  Modifications for older children have been also specified and included in Appendix A.  The primary aim is to guide children toward self-awareness of the body, mind, and spirit both separately and in its unity to find peace and serenity within themselves, to trust and follow their inner voice thus become strong in facing the constant environmental changes and pressures.  This Yoga-based program is designed to provide children with a playful but firm grounding in the philosophy and science of yoga enabling them to achieve good physical and mental health, emotional stability and clarity of thought before they enter school.  To make yoga practice an essential part of their life rather than an activity they do once a week.

Program Strategies

            Children love to move, to play, and have natural love for animals, nature, physical things that move, or stay still.  They love to imitate everything especially animal moves as well as their sounds.  Yogis devised asanas (postures) by observing the world around them, how animal stretch and contract muscles in various postures and how they relax instinctively.  Some Yoga asanas have animal names, such as the fish, cobra, pigeon, eagle, cat, dog; or reflect images from the world of nature, i.e., mountain, tree, star, flower, crooked branch, rainbow; or mirror geometrical shapes, such as circle, triangle square, rectangular; imitate things that move, i.e. windmill, gate, boat, wheel, plow, wheelbarrow; or things that stay still, i.e., steeple, arrow, bridge, candle, to name a few.  Yoga, for these reasons, is very natural and playful discipline to them.

            Yoga asana (Pose).   The excellent way of gentle stretching movements that promotes control of muscles, help balance the mind, and body and loosens the body to become more supple and relaxed.  Asana is a dynamic position, in which one is perfectly poised between activity and non-activity, between doing and “being done” by the posture.  The same way as mental balance exists between movement and stillness. Yoga teaches that each posture reflects a mental attitude, whether that attitude be one of surrender, as in a forward bend asana, or the strengthening of the will, through backward bending postures, or the creation of a physical prayer or meditation with the body, as in the practice of padmasana (lotus posture).

            Asanas rejuvenate the brain, specific organs and glands as well as the spine.  They increase the blood and prana supply to these areas and stimulate them with a gentle squeezing action.  While they were designed with economy of time and effort in mind they take very little time to do.  Most of them take only a minute or less and work on more than one aspect of the body at the same time.  For example, the twist asana benefits the spine, adrenal glands, liver, pancreas, and kidneys.  Yoga’s effect on the spine increases its flexibility and ensures a good nerve supply to all parts of the body, since the nerves from the spine go to all the organs and glands.

            Asanas are based on a sound knowledge of human anatomy and physiology. Yogis knew that placing the body in certain positions would stimulate specific nerves, organs, and glands.  The Hatha-Ratna-Avali, “String of Jewels” (3.8-19) names eighty-four asanas but describes only thirty-nine of them.  The Yoga-based model program for pre-school children, however, uses a modification of the fundamental, primary, and finishing asanas.

Five Basic Working Principles of Asanas

            The use of gravity.  The inverted postures take advantage of gravity to increase the flow of blood to the desired part of the body, i.e., in the headstand to the brain, in the shoulder stand to the thyroid gland.

            Organ massage.  The position of the asana causes a squeezing action on a specific organ or gland, resulting in the stimulation of that part of the body.

            Stretching muscles and ligaments.  Stretching is involved in all the asanas causes an increase in blood supply to the muscles and ligaments as well as relaxing them (Anderson & Sovik, 2000).  It also takes pressure off nerves in the area.  Thus stretching has very beneficial effect on the whole body (Alter, 1996).

            Deep breathing.  While holding the yoga posture breathing is slow and deep, moving the abdomen only (abdominal or low breathing).  This increases the oxygen and prana supply to the target organ or gland, thereby enhancing the effect of the asana.

            Concentration.  The focus of attention on the posture (Calais-Germain, 1988) slows and deepens breathing, brings the mind into play, which greatly increases the circulation and prana supply to the organ or gland (DeTroyer & Loring, 1997; DeTroye, 1997).

            Regular practice will increase general powers of concentration. This benefits every aspect of life (Iyengar, 1977).  Mind is less distracted and swayed by external events and children are therefore calmer and worry less. Children are able to solve day-to-day problems better and have more success in their activities.

Pranayama (Breathing)

            Pranayamas are specially developed breathing techniques that calm the mind and bring oxygen and energy to every cell.  They cleanse the body by burning up wasted products and eliminate the toxins. Yoga breathing produces a huge storage of energy in the solar plexus area.  While solar plexus is the seat of emotion, with a proper breathing practice, children can gain control of their solar plexus and thus their emotions to “feel good”(Pert, 1997).   Anger, resentment, resistance, blues, discouragement and fear become foreign to them.  With continuous practice children are able to establish a habit of “feeling good” which in turn translates in the habit of feeling free.  The body radiates vitality and, if any sickness is developing, the body can call upon some of the energy reserve to combat the disease.  Yoga breathing also improves brain function (intelligence and memory), as well as increasing the elimination of toxins from the system (Otis, 1986).

            The combined effect of yoga asanas and pranayama is to produce a state of high vitality and rejuvenation.  “Breathing may be considered the most important of all the functions of the body, for, indeed, all the other functions depend upon it.” ( Ramacharaka: Hindu-Yogi Science of Breath);  “Pranayama is what heart is to the human body.”(Iyengar: Light on the Yoga); “If we can control our breathing, we can control everything...” (Patanjali, Sutra II: 2). 

Meditation

            Meditation is beneficial for everyone, especially those with behavior problems, ADD, ADHD, ODD, and learning disabilities, or generally stressful lives.  Regular meditation produces a clear mind and a sense of great inner peace.  It calms the overactive mind and tunes it inward.  This tranquil state allows to accesses consciousness, revitalizes the bodily energy, increases physical stamina and spiritual potency, and sharpens focus and concentration.  Children learn how to control their thoughts instead of letting the thoughts control them.  While thoughts have a tendency to wander, applying simple techniques children are able to keep their thoughts in one place (Kabat-Zinn, Massion, Kristeller, Peterson, Fletcher, & Pbert, 1992; Schneider, Alexander, & Wallace, 1992).  Their thoughts become more orderly and creative, which in turn they become happier more fulfilled individuals (Rama, 1992).

             Mudra.   The hand gestures during meditation help eye-hand coordination, focus and concentration, and calms the thought patterns and mind (Iyengar, 1977; Feurstein, 2000).

            Mandala: Drawing and Coloring.   Mandala is a Sanskrit word for “sacred circle” or in Tibetan term kyil-kor “center and circumference.”  It conveys the notion that any center is tight to its circumference and any circumference is always determined by its center.  Together, they represent wholeness.  The vision of Mandala is the capacity of seeing from the center, i.e., the Self, no matter how much things may change.  To be able to turn inward, to the center and see and know the Whole.  It is used as a therapeutic tool in self-discovery.  It is a vehicle for concentrating the mind.  The center of each mandala symbolizes that which is beyond the linear concept of time and space.  The eternal now that is constant, yet always dynamic.  The mandala’s circumference, on the other hand, reflects its potential as well as boundaries.  Mandalas represent the totality of one’s being one’s Self.  The eminent Swiss psychoanalyst Carl G. Jung believed that they are our “eternal mind’s eternal recreation,” the path to our center, the voice of our consciousness, and the mirror of one’s becoming whole.  Drawing or coloring mandalas is a journey to the center of one’s being.  It is a form of meditation, which brings a message from the unconscious to awareness (Arguelles, 1995).  The shape of the circle is a safe boundary through which children can express themselves.  Children do not find it threatening because the area has been designed for their use.  Many emotions can be worked through regular mandala exercises (Mandali, 2000).  It is a very personal form of self-expression.  The colors, direction of lines, shapes, etc., all show the way child feels about him/herself and her/his environment.  Mandalas are very individualized.  Some, can be extremely complex, others can be simple.  All drawings are expressions of inner truth (Jung, 1959; Fincher, 2000; Dahlke and Dahlke & vonM., 1992).

When to Do Yoga

            The best time for Yoga practice is about one hour after getting up in the morning.  It is the optimal time to start the children’s school day with yoga.  It is not recommended to do any exercises immediately after eating, thus just right after lunch break before afternoon class sessions begin, yoga can create a nice transition between running freely on the playground and slowing down for the afternoon class sessions.  Some quite time or meditation will calm the children’s mind and thus bring focus and concentration, attention, and intention to learning.  Then before class is dismissed, little time with “goodbye” yoga postures will prepare children for the transition between school and home setting.

Where to Do Yoga and What to Wear

            Classroom should be well ventilated where children exercise.  A thick rug can be used or about an inch thick firm foam or individual yoga mats.  If weather permits, outdoor yoga practice is optional.  Children should wear loose clothing, since tight clothes will restrict the circulation to some areas of the body.  This would defeat one of the purposes of the asanas, to increase the circulation to various parts of the body.

How to do Yoga: The Basic Technique

             Yoga should be done slowly, with no strain.  Breathing is also slow and deep with the abdomen.  Concentration is on the main organ or gland (with eyes closed).  Children should not be compared.  They should be just encouraged to the best they can.  Each child will gradually work up to reach his/her potential.  Children shouldn’t be pushed into a yoga position, no matter how simple.  Each child varies in suppleness.  Teachers need to become aware of children’s different abilities and needs.  Being flexible and attuned to the mood of the group as well as having positive attitude is very important.  Teachers can help by being a facilitator and a co-learner participating, being involved in activities and being a part of the group, instead of being a teacher.  Speech should be simple, direct with a kind voice and expressive gestures.  Creating stories and rhymes to go along with the yoga postures makes the practice livelier.  Yoga practice has to be regular to fully benefit.

Selection of Participants

            As current research findings indicate, children as young as three years old have the highest brain function (Gopnik, Meltzoff, & Kuhl, 1999).  To set off the positive development at the age when learning proceeds at a high speed, the presented Yoga-based model program is targeted to preschool children.  However, its concept can be adapted also to older children.  Continuity and consistency in Yoga practice brings life-long lasting benefits to children of all ages, socioeconomic, and cultural backgrounds.

Appendix A contains age-specific guidelines for participant selection.

Assessment and Screening

            According to Yoga philosophy and practice it is understood, respecteded, and honored that an individual developmental mind-body-spirit path resideds in a process.  Thus, any comparison, improvement, or any testing is not advised thus not measured.  However, for school-setting purposes to assess Yoga practice effects on individual’s improvement in components of positive developmental the appropriate instruments are specified.

            Until new assessment techniques that will be able to assess subjective experience of Yoga practice and its benefits develop, the following are recommendations to assess competencies in self-concept domains, self-worth, motivational orientation, implicit theories of intelligence, as well as assessments of physical observable and measurable benefits. 

            Recommended assessment.  Because Harter’s (1985) assessing instrument format “Self-perception Profile” of perceived competence especially important to an individual, spans across all ages from Pre-K to adulthood, it is recommended to use this assessment instrument to establish a follow up consistency.   Further, in assessing individuals’ age specific self-perceived competence, at the same time the global individual’s self-worth can be inferred based on the premise by James (1892) as well as Cooley (1909), described in Harter (1985).  As for James, general self-esteem (or global self-worth) resulted from the relationship between one’s competence and one’s aspirations to be competent.  Thus, if one is successful in domains deemed important to the Self, high self-esteem will ensue.  In practicing this technique, it is important to maintain the mental attitude that the one doing the yoga are drawing divine qualifies such as mercy, love, forgiveness, peace and joy into yourself as you inhale, assimilating them as you retain, and expelling lust, anger, greed, imperfection, etc. while exhaling. If one is not successful in domains judged important, low self-esteem will result.  Cooley’s model of global self-judgments was different.  He viewed the Self as a social construct.  For Cooley, our sense of general worth depends on our belief that others hold toward the Self and how others and significant others appraise the Self.

1) “The Pictorial Scale of Perceived Competence and Acceptance for Young Children

     a) Preschool and Kindergarten; b) First and Second Grades, (Harter, 1981) to assess

     the enter level of perceived self-concept as well as a global self-worth.

2)      “Pictorial Self-Perception Profile for Pre-school Children,” Harter (1985) to assess the enter level of perceived self-concept and global self-worth.

3)      “A scale of Intrinsic Versus Extrinsic Orientation in the Classroom,” Harter (1980) to assess the child’s motivational orientation.

4)      “The Measure of Implicit Theories of Intelligence,” (Dweck, 1992) modified for preschool children to assess child’s belief in his/her intelligence that might interact with child’s confidence in its intelligence in determining achievement behavior.

5)      The Wechsler Preschool and Primary scale of Intelligence (WPPSI-R) to assess overall academic achievement.

6)      Assessments of physical observable and measurable benefits:  Flexibility, Strength, Balance, Coordination, Cardiovascular Fitness, Weight Control.   

             Information form.  Child’s medical history, family background, socioeconomic status of the family and parental attitude toward a Yoga-based model program is itemized in Appendix A, Table 14.

            The implementation process.  Teachers will get familiar with the Yoga-based model program through a professional development hands-on workshop.  Children will practice daily at school.  The Yoga-based model program is suggested to spread out equally throughout the school day.  In the morning, a regular school day stars with a 10-minute segment, followed by a regular daily activity.  In the afternoon, after lunch break, a next 10-minute calming yoga poses with short meditation or a story telling practice sets the tone for the afternoon daily activities.  At the end of each school day, a third 10-minute yoga practice before dismissal it is a nice transition between a school and home environment as outlined in Table 8.

 

Table 8

General Lesson Plan

Daily Routine without Specifications

 LESSON OBJECTIVE:

Foster positive development

Weekly Lesson Plans

MATERIAL NEEDED:

 

Books, Tapes, Yoga Mats, Crayons, Re-printable material, Posters, Booklets

MINUTES

ACTIVITY

DESCRIPTION

BEGINNING OF THE

DAY YOGA SESSION

 

5

OPENING:

Circle of Friends:  Weekly Topic, Element, Affirmation

5

REVIEW:

- Brief Yoga Philosophy

- Wise Yoga Guides

- Food Pyramid

- Importance of Proper                                                  Breathing

- Yoga Asana of the Week

AFTERNOON

YOGA SESSION

 

5

OPENING:

Guided Meditation and Relaxation & or Story Time: shared or read by the teacher

5

ACTIVITY:

Drawing, Coloring

END OF DAY

YOGA SESSION

 

3

REVIEW:

Weekly Assigned Asanas 

3

GAMES:

See Attached Weekly Lesson Plan

4

CLOSING:

1) Q/A         2) Assignment   3) Clean up & Dismissal

            For better benefit it is recommended for children to practice at home.  Although parental support is ideal, children will be encouraged to practice with or without parental engagement.  A pictorial homework practice check list is suggested to sent with each child home to help children to engage in a home practice by themselves and to encourage their parents to get involved.

A Ten-Segment Yoga-Based Model Program to Foster Positive Children’s Development

            From the current theory and research of a flow model of optimal experience (Csikszentmihalyi, 1997), the vital components necessary to experience flow were identified as a foundation for healthy and positive children development.  According to the flow model, it is the construct of the true sense of Self, self-knowledge, and the balance between self-perception of one’s competence and the challenge or difficulty of the activity that foster intrinsic interest and motivation toward full involvement in an activity.  Studies by Harter, postulated, that intrinsic motivation stems from genuine self-knowledge about one’s interests, talents, skills, ability, and perceived competence in self-concept domains, especially deemed important (Harter, 1985).  Research in areas of self-efficacy, goal orientation, personal attribution, helplessness, and self-worth provide abundant support that self-perception of competence plays a significant part of overall perceived self-worth (Bandura, 1993; Covington, 1992; Dweck&Leggett, 1988; Graham & Weiner, 1996; Nicholls, 1984; Printrich & Schunk, 1996).  Children inherently deal effectively with the environment, are intrinsically motivated, and engage in mastery attempts, the gratification produces inherent pleasure (White, 1959).

            In addition to the development of constructs, such as awareness of the Self and others, the ability to recognize the basic needs of Self, Greenwald (Eds.) and others (Coopersmith, 1967; Epstein, 1983; Campbell & Tesser, 1985), to recognize continuous change and growth of all living things (Mortimer, Finch, & Kumka, 1982), appreciate the interdependence of all living things, act as helpful person, awareness of the feeling nature of all humans, coping with feelings, awareness of the need for friends and other helpful people, development of caring, nurturing and sharing behaviors (Verschueren, Buyck, & Marcoen, 2001) is also essential for positive children development.

            According to Pantanjali Sutra (I: 2), the goal of Yoga lies in achieving the restraint of mental modifications through one’s experience.  Without experience nothing can be achieved (Satchidananda, 1999).  Through daily yoga experience one develops self-knowledge, self-control, full involvement and enjoyment in a process, while understanding one’s connection to others.  Current theory and research suggests that Yoga practice cultivates the essential components of the Flow model of optimal experience (Csikszentmihalyi, 1997), thus the key components of positive children development as summarized in Table 9 below.

Table 9

Components of Positive Development

________________________________________________________________________

 

Component

 

Description

Bonding

 

the emotional attachment and commitment a child makes to social relationships in the family, peer group, school, community, or culture.

Competencies

 

Behavioral

refers to effective action.  The degree to which children like the way they behave, do the right thing, act the way they are supposed to, avoid getting into trouble, and do the things they are supposed to do.

 

Cognitive

includes two overlapping but distinct sub-constructs.  The first is the ability to develop and apply the cognitive skills of self-talk, the reading and interpretation of social cues, using steps for problem-solving and decision-making, understanding the perspective of others, understanding behavioral norms, a positive attitude toward life, and self awareness.  The second is related to academic and intellectual achievement. The emphasis here is on the development of core capacities including the ability to use logic, analytic thinking, and abstract reasoning.

 

Emotional

the ability to identify and respond to feelings and emotional reactions in oneself and others.

 

Moral

the children’s ability to assess and respond to the ethical, affective, or social justice dimensions of a situation.  Moral development is a multi-stage process through which children acquire society’s standards of right and wrong, focusing on choices made in facing moral dilemmas.

 

Social

the range of interpersonal skills that help children integrate feelings, thinking, and actions in order to achieve specific social and interpersonal goals.

 

Social Acceptance

the degree to which the child is accepted by peers or feels popular.

 

 

the state of being concentrated at something of an interest; directing attention and intention to a single object.    

Interest

 

a feeling that accompanies or causes special attention to an object or class of objects or involvement in special activities.

Intrinsic Motivation

 

stems from genuine self-knowledge about one’s interests, talents, skills, ability, and perceived competence in self-concept domains, especially deemed important.    

Multiple Intelligences

 

Linguistic/Language; Logical/Mathematical; Musical/Rhythmical; Spatial; Bodily/Kinesthetic; Interpersonal; Intrapersonal; Naturalistic; Spiritual; Existential; Moral; Emotional.

Resilience

 

the individual’s capacity for adapting to change stressful events in healthy and flexible ways.

Self-

Awareness

self-perception of child’s competencies across various self-concept domains. 

 

Concept

(1) - Scholastic Competence; (2) - Social Competence and Acceptance; (3) - Athletic Competence (4) – Physical Appearance; (5) - Behavior Conduct; (6) - Global Self- Worth

 

Determination

the ability to think for oneself, and to take action consistent with that thought.  It’s the ability to chart one’s own course.

 

Efficacy

the perception that one can achieve desired goals through one’s own action.

Spirituality

 

relating to, consisting of, or having the nature of spirit; concerned with or affecting the soul; of, from, or relating to God; of or belonging to a church or religion (Webster’s New College Dictionary, 1995).

Yoga Practice and Implication

            Yoga philosophy is said to be best understood through personal experience.  Personal, subjective experience is an ideal instrument toward fostering the fundamental components of positive children development.  To fully benefit, daily practice needs to be established.  The Yoga-based program is structured to ensure a whole child development by applying the basic universal principles of the mind, body, and spirit unity.

Mind

             Generosity - teaches sharing material things one possesses without expecting anything in return.  Children become less selfish and more generous.

            Self-Discipline - doing what has to be done with pleasure while keeping good thoughts and positive attitude.  Anger managing skills.  Ability to communicate disagreements.

            Karma - encourages positive actions.  Children learn that every action, positive or negative, has its effect.  What goes out comes back.  If smile goes out, smile comes back.  If fight goes out, fight comes back.  “Do onto others as you want others to do onto you.”

            Self-Study - the awareness of the Self.  The self-awareness of “Who I am” fosters the belief and trust in what one feels is real and right.  Children learn to stick by their beliefs and not to be swayed by peers and other adverse sources until their beliefs, values, and standards change.  To feel confident in the knowledge that one’s beliefs, values, and standards are as good and as valuable as other person’s beliefs, values, and standards.

            Sharing - sharing ideas, experiences, and goods with friends.  Feeling each other’s energy through expressing and experiencing giving and receiving.

Body  

            Asanas (Postures) - feeling good in mind and body, a variety of asanas with controlled breathing awakens the inner energy and vitalizes both the mind as well as the body.  Intention, attention, focus, concentration, and awareness calm the mind and loosen the body making it supple and healthy.

            Pranayama (Breathing technique) - unlocks energy and vitality and increases the physical and mental health.  Teaches how to breathe into the abdomen, giving 400 times more energy than thoracic breath.  Equalizes the inhale and exhale to create a balanced feeling of activity and rest, receiving and offering, and promotes a sense of being even-minded and even-tempered.

            Proper Relaxation - the release of tension through relaxation is vital to keep the body healthy.  It allows the released energy to flow freely.

            Proper Diet - is simple and wholesome predominantly vegetarian, natural foods that are easily digested.  It keeps the body vital and healthy, the mind calm and free from restless thoughts, and eliminates cravings that distract concentration.

Spirit

            Positive Thinking - believing in Self.  One believes what one hears repeated.  Especially what one repeats to oneself.  One needs to learn to use positive affirmations.  The brain not distinguishing the difference between fantasy and reality creates positive behaviors.  One needs to be specific, clear, positive, and supportive.

             Intrinsic Interest and Motivation - young children are active learners.  They have inherent   tendency to question everything.  They are eager to search for knowledge and   understanding the world around them.  It continually pushes them toward genetically   determined talent and potential.

            Meditation - meditation is a state of consciousness.  It calms the mind and focuses the mental energy inward.  It helps to relieve stress and replenishes energy.  Daily practice enables children to think more clearly and positively, and be at peace with oneself.

            Focus & Concentration - focusing on a certain spot in mediation, or doing asanas that demand focus and concentration, as well as mandala drawing and coloring are some of the means to practice and enhance concentration.  

Benefits for Positive Development

            Although preschool children are very flexible in their bodies, they lack staying the power.  Moreover, the physical power that emanates from the exercise of yoga can also be extended on the mental and spiritual flexibility of the children. With regular daily yoga practice their staying power and mental control will improve greatly (Pantanjali Sutra (I:2); Satchidananda, 1999; Iyengar, 2000; Baptisete, 2002).  Engaging in a mindful, active “yoga-play” develops creativity, increases self-awareness, and self-confidence.  It also helps in the development of contentment and patience of the children. With the full development of formal-operational reasoning, the individual will have a high propensity to reflect on the validity of knowledge, and examine various arguments for and against certain conclusions. This process is almost automatic, a spontaneous mental process in the formal-operational mind. However, before development of meta-systematical reasoning, the individual has no instruments with which to critically examine the validity of the basic concepts used for reasoning, nor to examine the validity of the rules the discourse specifies for arriving at valid knowledge. One is therefore embedded in a perspective without being able to review the nature of the perspective.

Moreover, Yoga asanas (postures) help to strengthen the body and physical coordination to become more physically fit.  Focused mind in asana (posture) enhances concentration, self-control, self-power, and self-discipline.  Breathing techniques help to calm the emotions and bring clarity and neutrality in reaction.  The daily Yoga practice opens the realm of self-discovery, develops a true sense of Self, helps to define one’s true interests, enhances intrinsic motivation, builds strong self-concept and self-esteem.  Being able to find one’s center, “one’s azimuth,” one finds inner happiness and becomes at peace with oneself.  Knowing “who one is; what one wants; and how one intents to get it,” only then one can unconditionally spread happiness, love, light, and peace (Pantanjali Sutra (I: 2); Satchidananda, 1999; Iyengar, 2000; Baptiste, 2002).  The table 10 below itemizes the Yoga benefiting properties and contributing factors that foster and promote components toward children positive development.

Table 10

Yoga Benefits for Positive Development

Benefiting Properties

Contributing Factors

Self-Regulating Approach to Stress:

- Hormones

- Nerves

- Respiratory

- Endocrine

- Cardiovascular

- Digestive

Opens the Field of Inner Experience:

 

 

 

 

- Self-Awareness

- Self-Knowledge

- Intrinsic Interest & Motivation

- Self-Confidence

Benefiting Properties

Contributing Factors

Opens the Field of Inner Experience:

- Understanding Others

- Holistic Understanding

Mental Benefits:

- Better Circulation to the Brain

- Improved Concentration & Focus

- Enhanced Memory

- Rejuvenates & Refreshes

- Relaxes

Physical Benefits:

- Flexibility

- Strength

- Balance

- Coordination

- Cardiovascular & Circulatory System

Social Benefits:

- Stress-Management

- Self-Control

- Inter & Intra Relationships

Empowerment:

- Meditation

- Yoga Asana Practice

- Healthy & Conscious Eating Habits

- Mindful Work

            The program follows the theoretical principles of child development and learning based on the work of Piaget, Vygotsky, Erikson, and others (Bredekamp, Knuth, Kunesh, & Shulman, 1992) that are critical in developmentally appropriate practice (DAP), see table 11, while engages the whole child enhancing alertness, mindfulness, concentration, focus, creative expression, coordination, self‑esteem, confidence, imagination, and physical and spiritual health.

Table 11

Theoretical Principles of Child Development and Learning

ADVANCE \d 4Principle

ADVANCE \d 4Practice

ADVANCE \d 4Children learn best when their physical needs are met and they feel psychologically safe and secure.

ADVANCE \d 4DAP respects children’s biological needs. For example, children are not made to sit and attend to paperwork or listen to adult lectures for long periods of time. DAP calls for active play and periods of quiet, restful, activity. The environment is safe and secure where everyone is accepted.

ADVANCE \d 4Children construct knowledge.

ADVANCE \d 4Knowledge is constructed as a result of dynamic interactions between the individual and the physical and social environments. In a sense the child discovers knowledge through active experimentation. Central to experimentation is making “constructive errors” that are necessary to mental development. Children need to form their own hypotheses and keep trying them out through mental actions and physical manipulations - observing what happens, comparing their findings, asking questions, and discovering answers - and adjust the model or alter the mental structures to account for the new information.

ADVANCE \d 4Children learn through social interaction with other adults and other children.

ADVANCE \d 4A prime example is the parent-child relationship. The teacher encourages and fosters this relationship as well as relationships with peers and other adults by supporting the child in his or her efforts and later allowing the child to function independently. The teacher’s role is one of supporting, guiding, and facilitating development and learning.

ADVANCE \d 4Children learn through play.

ADVANCE \d 4Play provides opportunities for exploration, experimentation, and manipulation that are essential for constructing knowledge and contributes to the development of representational thought. During play, children examine and refine their learning in light of the feedback they receive from the environment and other people. It is through play that children develop their imaginations and creativity. During the primary grades, children's play becomes more rule-oriented and promotes the development of autonomy and cooperation that contributes to social, emotional, and intellectual development.

ADVANCE \d 4Children’s interests and “need to know” motivate learning.

ADVANCE \d 4Children have a need to make sense of their experiences. In a developmentally appropriate classroom, teachers identify what intrigues their children and then allow the students to solve problems together. Activities that are based on children's interests provide motivation for learning. This fosters a love of learning, curiosity, attention, and self-direction.

ADVANCE \d 4Human development and learning and are characterized by individual variation.

ADVANCE \d 4A wide range of individual variation is normal and to be expected. Each human being has an individual pattern and timing of growth development as well as individual styles of learning. Personal family experiences and cultural backgrounds also vary.

Positive Development Objectives

            Theory and research in the area of child development, learning, and positive youth development suggest the need for a comprehensive curriculum for preschool children.  Self- discovery and self-evaluation stimulate intrinsic motivation, empower positive and change promoting decision-making, and are of prime importance in the learning process.                       The purpose of this Yoga-based program for pre-school children is to apply these components to onset positive children’s development separately and in their unity.  The Yoga-based program is designed with respect of the whole child.  Yoga in Sanskrit language means to “yoke” or “unite” the body, mind, and spirit.  The mind-body-spirit unity sets off children’s positive development in a non‑competitive and fun environment.

            The Yoga-based program is divided in ten-week specific yet continues segments.  Each week segment tights the concept of Hatha Yoga adapted for preschool children to a specific component of positive development.  Each segment of the program includes Yoga asanas (postures), breathing (prana) exercises, meditation, singing, and self-expression through drawing, coloring, and performing.  These activities are divided in approximately three 10-minute daily Yoga sessions practiced daily throughout each school week. Yoga asanas (postures) included in this program are gentle yet challenging to the body and mind.  Daily Yoga practice allows children to experience the flow of the inner energy that vitalizes their mind and body.  This acquired self-awareness makes them feel secure and at peace with themselves.

            Teachers are encouraged to apply their own creativity, make-up stories, games, dances, rhymes, and other arts to integrate the weekly Yoga themes into their daily lesson plan.     The content of each segment is outlined in Table 12 below, the general lesson plan without specifications as mentioned previously and outlined in Table 8, and the whole Yoga-based model program for preschool children is included in Appendix B.

 

Table 12 

Ten-Segment Yoga-Based Model Program

Course Outline

 

Week

Weekly Topic

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

1

Introduction

 to Yoga

Unity

I and Me

I and Others

I and the World

I and the Universe

2

Individuality

Stability

Structure

Security

Patience

Manifestation

3

Motion and Emotion

Well-Being

Deservedness

Pleasure

Abundance

Manifestatio n

4

Self- Study &    Self-  Knowledge

Self-Worth

Self-Esteem

Confidence

Personal Power

Freedom of Choice

5

Love & Compassion

Love

Peace

Brotherhood & Sisterhood

Unity

Joy

6

Effective                               Communication

Communication

Integrity

Truth

Willpower

Creativity

7

Vision & Perspective

Wisdom

Discernment

Knowledge

Imagination

Intuition

8

8 Universe

Spirituality

Beauty

Bliss

Happiness

Cosmic Energy

9

9 Rules, Rights, Responsibility

Rules

Rights

Responsibility

Respect

Freedom

10

10 Play Yoga     Self-Expression In Yoga stories

Animal

Mountain

Water

Nature

Toys

 

Summary

            Children as well as adults formulate attitudes and behaviors based on their view of the Self.  A healthy self-concept provides a child with a motivation to grow, learn, and achieve self-confidence, self-trust, and self-understanding.  Self-concept often provides the child with a healing power when under attack, to cope with a lack of success, and dealing with fears and phobias.  Self-concept is a life-long source of information.  There is always room for growth and improvement.

            Teachers, in addition to parents, peers, and others, play a vital role in the determination of a child’s self-concept.  Feeling confident about one’s capabilities and worth is determining force in the actualization of an effective person, and later even, an effective parent.

            In 1983, it was estimated that 1% to 2% of all American children were on Ritalin or some other amphetamine as treatment for hyperactivity during the school year (Safer & Krager, 1983).  The use of Ritalin increased 390% between the years 1990 - 1995 (Wallis, 1994).  There is evidence to suggest that the diagnosis of ADHD influences the practices of school psychologists and teachers in special education (McDermott, 1996).  Perhaps the availability of a “quick and easy” drug therapy makes the diagnosis of ADHD desirable and therefore overused.  There are three very essential prerequisites for vitality and rejuvenation: a healthy central nervous system, healthy glands, and healthy internal organs.  Regular Yoga practice plays a multidimensional effect on children’s welfare and positive whole child development, e.g. emotional balance, healthy CNS (central nervous system), endocrine glands, internal organs, digestive system, joints, and healthy skin.  For itemized health beneficial propertie of yoga practice see Appendix H.

            The Yoga-based model program is to assist children, parents, and educators to instill healthy habits in young children as a strong foundation for a positive children’s development.  The next generation will be the result of our influence and work.  To make this work enjoyable, to help our classrooms and our kids, this Yoga-based model program as a wholistic approach to yoga provides a way of day to day life rather than a once a week activity.

            The presented Yoga-based model program uses an effective and playful min-body-spirit method to enhance the teaching and learning process for preschool children.  The program’s approach is to provide young children with a full mind-body workout and to foster and balance the components of positive development.  The Yoga-based model program embodies all the three components of yoga practice.  The series of flowing movements “vinyasa” generate heat allowing the body to stretch deeply to increase flexibility.  The “prana,” or “life force” breathing throughout the workout focuses the mind, increases awareness, and reduces stress.  The result is a vigorous, cardiovascular fitness experience that simultaneously strengthens the body, mind, and spirit.  The relaxing and meditative practice allows for calm and focused mind.

            The combination of yoga asanas and meditation technique outlined in the program is an excellent method to help children to relax and to enable them to find their quiet place within.  With daily practice, children can develop strength, flexibility, focus and concentration in harmony with their own natural physique and set a life-long foundation for their well-being.

            The Yoga-based model program outline, general lesson plan, and recommended activities makes it easy to join together with child’s daily schedule in school as well as at home.  As per Pantanjali, Yoga is not limited to any particular religion or philosophy, or in any other way.  It is a universal approach that denies no one, converts no one, yet recommends techniques of understanding that can expend anyone’s experience of one’s philosophy, religion, and most importantly daily life.

            Children are the future of our community, nation, and the whole world.  Setting a healthy life style will prevent the rapidly spreading epidemic in obesity, Type II diabetes, the variety of behavior problems, and resist to negative peer pressure.  It is in our hands to help children to become the fine human beings of tomorrow, which they are so capable of.


 
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