Yoga at School

Jacques de Coulon, Switzerland

The idea of applying yogic techniques in our educative system has been revealed to the public at large, and numerous press articles have dealt with this subject, as well as several television features. The interest aroused shows that our traditional pedagogy is short of means, in view of the increased tensions of the modern world, which, in turn, have an impact on the children.

Meeting of east and west

The idea of introducing yogic exercises in class starts from a fundamental experiment that every teacher can do. Most pupils suffer from a lack of concentration. Most of the time they are scattered, moving from one sense impression to another, having lost contact with their centre.

Our aim is to help the child gain concentration, memory power and nervous balance, which allow him to develop fully all the resources of his intelligence. The aim is to awaken the potential faculties. Our pupils may be compared with wonderful musical instruments which have to be tuned so that they can produce their innate melody. Why not use yoga for this?

In the beginning, of course, some problems did arise. The way the exercises are introduced in the east is often too difficult for a western child of the 20th century. It was found necessary to make the exercises attractive and practicable for our pupils. The method we proposed is the result of the enthusiastic meeting of the western child with the ancient tradition. Over a period of many months, and from our experiences in numerous classes, we were able to formulate suitable exercises.

The mandala is the thread

Our aim was not to give formal yoga instruction during the scholastic lessons. We were working to integrate yoga into the different subjects of learning through many ways, e.g. respiration, concentration, mandala. We found that this way of learning was extremely effective and could be applied to language studies, mathematics or science. The exercises can be easily practised in the classroom, and supply the supportive methodology for that particular branch of study.

We have formulated a progressive training which is as complete as possible. Our conducive 'thread' is the mandala. The mandala is a geometrical pattern comprising a centre and symmetrical parts arranged around it. It is a symbol of harmony, overcoming chaos and anarchy. This structure is, moreover, met at each and every level of reality, e.g. electrons gathering around the nucleus, or planets around the sun; think also of a flower, or a butterfly. Man also is a mandala - physically, his parts are arranged around the vertebral column. Moreover, studies of great researchers such as C. G. Jung have shown that our psyche develops around a central nucleus called the 'Self'.

Education for the year 2000

Our aims can be summarised as follows:

  1. To balance the different layers of the personality, to 'round them off' in some way so that the tensions are lessened. This goal will be attained through four types of exercises:
    • Exercises to rectify the spinal column (which is the axle of the physical body) and make it supple.
    • Breathing exercises to oxygenate the entire body, especially the brain, and to act on the emotional nervous system.
    • Practices to pacify and calm the mind, such as concentration, visualisation and momentary withdrawal of the senses.
    • Relaxation.
  2. The underlying aim is to touch the centre of one's being. The deep 'I' is an energy power centre which we can become aware of and to which we can link. For the children, it should be first a symbolic approach, achieved through drawing and visualisation of coloured mandalas. The results of applying yoga at school have gone higher than we hoped, Swami Yogabhakti Saraswati (M. Flak) achieves impressive results in English at Condorcet College in Paris, and our classes in Switzerland have been regularly amongst the best during cantonal examinations. Now, numerous teachers have introduced these methods into their classrooms and the ancient yoga tradition is becoming the foremost method of education for the year 2000.