The movement of yoga from the studio to the classroom began in 2002 when Tara Gruber, an elementary school teacher in Aspen, Colo., introduced a stripped-down version of the exercise to her students.
In an effort to allay the fears that parents and area Christian groups had that her “Yoga Ed” program was blending state-sponsored education with Hindu teachings, Gruber converted the Sanskrit yogic panting to English, and called it “bunny breathing.” Meditation became “time in.”
“I stripped every piece of anything that anyone could vaguely construe as spiritual or religious out of the program,” said Grueber.
In a 2003 study conducted by California State University at Los Angeles showed that students who participated in Gruber’s yoga program exhibited better grades, behavior and physical fitness than their counterparts who attended schools that did not carry yoga as part of their curriculum.
Today, “Yoga Ed,” or one of many permutations thereof, is practiced in more than 100 schools in 26 states nationwide.
"I see a lot fewer discipline problems," said Ruth Reynolds, principal of Coleman Elementary School in San Rafael. She says the program helps kids learn to focus and not give in to a wandering mind.
"If you have children with ADD and focusing issues, often it's easy to go from that into a behavior problem," Reynolds said. "Anything you can do to help children focus will improve their behavior."