Relaxation for Schoolchildren

Dr Swami Shankardevananda Saraswati, MB, BS (Syd.)

Education is one of our first priorities when we think of ways of improving our society. But how to decide what is the best thing to teach and the best way to teach it? Up until now most education has been concentrating on imparting professional skills and developing the intellectual side of our nature. However, there remains a big deficiency in education directed at making us better human beings. This has been left up to the parents and religious institutions, but given the state of the world today, there is still room for improvement.

The introduction of yogic techniques would go a long way towards filling this vacuum in our present educational systems. Not only would it help to make us better people, but by helping us to relax and concentrate, we would be better able to learn our reading, writing and arithmetic. A research report by psychologist S. H. Harlem seems to substantiate this.*1

Harlem used an adapted version of the yogic relaxation technique which stands as the basis of today's biofeedback movement. Twenty nine school children (average age 7 years) were in the experimental group and were compared with 30 controls. The experiment consisted of training over 10 days with 10 minutes of daily relaxation. The controls were brought together informally for the same time period.

Two weeks later a series of psychological tests for cognitive aims and muscle tension was carried out. These showed that the experimental group had pronounced changes in all the measurements: improved awareness, concentration, memory and cognitive adaptation. The muscle tension readings, measured on an electromyelograph, showed that they were more relaxed physically, implying a concomitant mental relaxation, and had been able to maintain this relaxation over a period of time.

The value of increased concentration and memory from an early age is easily appreciated by all who have finished the long road of schooling and had to go through the tortures of annual examinations. If only we had known then...


*1. Harlem, S. H., 'The effects of psychophysiological relaxation upon selected tasks in urban elementary school children', Diss. Abstr. Int., 36(8-a), 1976.