Yoga on the program

How can we encourage an education that considers the child and teenager as a whole, with cognitive as well as physical and emotional learning? Why not through yoga? A popular activity during confinement, which could find its place in school.

Sporting activity, spiritual awakening, art of living, yoga has become a booming "world-activity". " During the period of confinement, the word 'yoga' was one of the most popular in search engines," explains Sylvain Wagnon. And there's no doubt about its benefits. " It improves attention, concentration, stress management and emotions, notably by reducing levels of cortisol, the stress hormone", explains the researcher from the Laboratoire interdisciplinaire de recherche en didactique, éducation et formation (Lirdef*). Qualities that could open the door to school.

"The practice of yoga is already integrated into schools in some northern European countries, but France is lagging far behind," laments Sylvain Wagnon. The reason? "A school system that has always left aside the question of the body and emotions to focus on cognitive knowledge: reading, writing and counting. Physical education and sports? "Certainly present, but often considered less important, as if there were a hierarchy between cognitive and physical activities. In the end, a whole dimension is left out of the equation, which is detrimental to harmonious development.

A virtuous circle

In countries where yoga is integrated into schools, its positive effects on learning are widely recognized, "as are its contributions to the well-being of students and teachers alike", stresses Sylvain Wagnon. Students learn to be tactile, to breathe, to relax, to be calm. "These practices create a different climate for children and teachers alike, one that is more serene and conducive to conflict management. And therefore more conducive to learning. "A real virtuous circle.

While some schoolchildren in France have already entered this circle, having had the opportunity to adopt the upside-down dog position at school, for the moment it remains difficult to quantify the place of yoga in kindergarten, primary and secondary school teaching. "The first initiatives to introduce yoga into schools were led by teachers who practised it themselves, but how many are there? We're currently undertaking a study to quantify this still little-known boom in France", stresses the researcher, who is accompanied in this work by Sihame Chkair, a doctoral student in educational science who is devoting her thesis to the question of integrating alternative practices - including yoga - into public education.

Concrete proposals

The doctoral student is studying the introduction of yoga to students at the Lycée Jules Ferry in Montpellier. With very positive feedback, including from the educational teams," reports Sylvain Wagnon. Today, more and more teachers are stressing the value of yoga for coordinated work on breathing and body awareness." But how can these practices be transposed and generalized? And how can yoga be fully integrated into teaching? "That's precisely our aim: to make concrete proposals to the Ministry of Education to find a real place for yoga in schools. So that all children and teenagers can benefit from this virtuous circle. Namaste.

*Lirdef: Equipe d'accueil 3749 (UM - Université Paul-Valéry Montpellier 3)