Yoga, meditation program helps city youths cope with stress


By Kelly Brewington, The Baltimore Sun

Once the domain of New Agers and suburban moms, yoga has become firmly planted in Baltimore’s inner city, and now researchers believe the ancient practice may help elementary school students cope with the stress of growing up in impoverished, violent neighborhoods.

Researchers and lay people alike think yoga may help adults reduce stress. The popularity of the practice has surged, and it’s used as therapy for cancer patients and battered women, and as a treatment for back pain and depression.

But even as schools get in on the trend, the effect of the practice on children has not been subject to rigorous study, say researchers at the Johns Hopkins University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health. Even less understood is whether yoga can help youths struggling with the stress of urban life.

“Living in an inner-city environment with high crime and high violence, there are just so many kids here who have chronic stress,” said Tamar Mendelson, an assistant professor in the department of mental health at Bloomberg and the study’s lead researcher. “We wanted to really study this and see if this can be helpful for kids exposed to chronic stress and if we can give them some tools for coping.”

They found a 12-week yoga program targeting 97 fourth- and fifth-graders in two Baltimore elementary schools made a difference in students’ overall behavior and their ability to concentrate. They found students who did yoga were less likely to ruminate, the kind of brooding thoughts associated with depression and anxiety that can be a reaction to stress. The findings, which focused on a pilot program that took place in 2008, were published recently in the Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology. One program is still active, and researchers are now applying for federal funding to expand the effort into schools across the city.

Researchers identified four schools, offered four 45-minute yoga classes each week to students at two of them, and used the other two schools as the control group. They gave students questionnaires before and after the study period and followed up with interviews with students and teachers. Schools included in the study were Westside, Samuel F.B. Morse, Alexander Hamilton and North Bend elementaries.

While the study was small and the findings self-reported, researchers believe the findings hold promise.

Click here to read the complete article from The Baltimore Sun.

"Phone-Crack" Inhibits Learning

October 17, 2010 No Comments » Blog

It’s so easy.  It’s accessible.  It’s keeps them quiet.

The iPhone, iPad or any other of many similar communication devices.

For parents the interactivity of the object seems educational, so it’s easy to rationalize that it’s good or at least doing no harm.

For the generation rasied on TV, the Internet and now mobile devices — live TV anywhere–it’s the go-to pacifier.  Who isn’t dazzeled by all the button and the instant gratification of the latest generation of electronic magic.

I’m reading more and more that says it’s not all the great and can be even be harmful.  An article in the New York Times today, titled Toddlers’ Favorite Toy: The iPhone  just affirms that we are stiffling our kids creativity and possibly messing with the natural wiring of their brains. 

Kids don’t learn like a adults, they learn by slowly by building on the foundation of basic concepts and human interactivity.  Central is learning through language–human language. With a real person.

One quote from the article is really telling: “[kids are] learning to read by understanding language, by listening. Here’s the parent busily doing something and the kid is playing with the electronic device. Where is the language? There is none.” 

Why is this on a site about yoga?  Yoga is about being present. If the kid is playing with Mom’s phone, neither is being present. 

With adults it’s hard enough to stop playing with the phone or turn off the remote. With kids, it might calm them down while they are pressing buttons, but try and take it away or turn it off!   Do you really think that will be easy?   There’s hell to pay.  Now put the kids in front of a set of blocks or Legos.  They can’t compete.  Why would the kid be interested compared to the amazing universe of the iPhone?  But where’s the creativity that the child shows?  Where’s the social interaction behind the learning?

What do you think will better prepare her mind for a lifetime of learning:  Creating a dinosaur out of a bunch of blocks or  pressing  the buttons on a device for a game some adult created?