As I look around me at a classroom of over 20 eager and curious 6th graders sitting on pillows in a carpeted room with colorful paintings, famous quotes, and a picture of social change leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr, I can't help but think how far we have come.
At this West Oakland School, every youth is taught mindfulness meditation, yoga, and mindful listening. This under-funded inner city school is taking a radical step towards preventing further violence in it's community by teaching students to seek more peaceful and harmonious ways to live. Growing Up Mindful, is a program designed to teach students mindfulness, open and honest communication, yoga, and other consciousness raising activities. Knowing that this class is now integrated into the school curriculum with the approval and encouragement of the staff and principal is a dream come true.
This program is no singularity, similar programs are sprouting in many elementary, middle, and high schools all over the country. Yoga and Mindfulness are also being taken into jails, juvenile halls, and hospitals. With so much research to back up the claims that Mindfulness meditation and yoga improve concentration, memory, attention, reduce stress, and improve overall health, its no wonder that these ancient practices are finally making their way to public schools.
In addition to the benefits already mentioned, in a school setting students experience a radical boost to their self esteem and improved self image and confidence. By practicing yoga students are able to gain confidence in their own abilities to overcome physically and mentally challenging poses with a peaceful mind. The curriculum also focuses on establish mutual respect, kindness, and understanding- crucial to students facing inner city violence and oppression in their own communities.