Personality Development in Early Adolescence

NKTM Jeyagopal (Sannyasi Shiva Rishi), Yogacharya and Founder of Satyananda Yoga Centre, Chennai & Satyananda Yoga Education Charitable Trust, Chennai, India

I would like to start this session in the typical way that I would start a session with children. I request all of you to stand up please. I will say a few words, you have to repeat them. Okay?

Che che kule
Che che kaupisa
Kaupisa lanka
Katasa lanka
Kumadi de!
Kumadi de!!
Kumadi de!!!

I hope you got the words. Now we have to include a small action, all right? When you say Che che kule – you touch your head, Che che kaupisa – you touch your shoulders, Kaupisa lanka – your hips, Katasa lanka – touch your knees, Kumadi de – you bend forward, touch the floor and then bounce up with a burst. Okay? Is it clear?

I am seeing many of you at the back, you are just standing! We will add a small action to this. Move the hips from side to side. Okay? Very good. Che che kule, Che che kaupisa, Kaupisa lanka, Katasa lanka, Kumadi de! Kumadi de!! Kumadi de!!! One more time, then we will sit down. Che che kule, Che che kaupisa, Kaupisa lanka, Katasa lanka, Kumadi de! Kumadi de!! Kumadi de!!! Now please sit down. That was an opportunity to officially move.

Satyananda Yoga Centre (SYC) and Satyananda Yoga Education Charitable Trust (SYECT) both are sincere attempts by the devotees of this tradition to take yoga forward to every stream of life possible. Satyananda Yoga Centre is a professional organization providing yoga training to schools, universities and sports teams. We had the opportunity to teach yoga to Indian cricketers when they came to Chennai, as well as to many boxing champions. SYECT is a group of all students who would like to participate actively in seva.

We just heard the beautiful presentation by the children of Bal Yoga Mitra Mandal, which in fat became my inspiration when I was at Ganga Darshan in 2003. After almost two and a half months of being here, one Sunday morning at about four-thirty, I went to make a round of the ashram and I saw there were about one thousand children standing in the courtyard and there was no noise. This was a great and grand event for me to witness: one thousand children silent and disciplined by themselves, not being minded. Discipline was pouring out of them. I felt that this has to be taken to Tamil Nadu. I spoke to Swami Niranjan. I requested his permission to do specific work for children and he was more than happy to say, "Yes, you should go ahead."

Apart from many other things that we do at the Satyananda Yoga Centre and the trust, its main activity is related to children, more and more children. My participation in this World Yoga Convention in the last three days has only further reinforced that each and every luminary, each and every person who has worked in the field of yoga vouches that it is the future that has to be taken care of. It is the children to whom we have to take this great wisdom.

We work with destitute children. You know about the tsunami that hit the entire east coast? We have started a teachers training course for children who lost their parents. This includes girls who might otherwise become lost, who might not have anything in this society, who might even be pushed to become sex workers. We took that group of about four hundred children and started a teachers training course for them. In two years' time they will be teachers. The government and education department in that district has agreed to collaborate with us to take yoga to each and every government school in the area.

We also work with other orphaned children. We had the opportunity of bringing at least two hundred and fifty children who do not have parents to the ashram. When they met Swami Satyananda and when they met Swami Niranjanananda, they felt that they had not lost anything in their lives. They felt that they were adored and cherished when they had darshan.

Of course we take yoga to corporates and to private and government schools. Another very important project that we are pursuing in the last ten years is work with exceptional children. We have a couple of teachers who have been dedicated to that cause through an organization called Madhuram Narayana Centre and I will have the privilege of presenting a paper on 21st November on the topic 'Yoga as a facilitator in the early intervention of exceptional children'. We have a large number of children attending yoga in private schools who, I would say, are the sponsors of all our other activities of the trust. They pay for the course, and all other activities are taken care by the revenue generated from it.

Research study into yoga with adolescents

We are reaching out to about ten thousand children at this point of time. The presentation that I am making today is with reference to a specific group of children. We saw in the previous presentation how yoga works on the creative aspect, the right-brain faculties. This presentation will probably complement that. We will all agree that as individuals we improve in our personality through yoga, but the purpose of the research is to bring it as documented evidence in front of people who can effect a big change in the way educators and policy decision-makers view it. Therefore this study was undertaken.

All of us have been practising yoga for quite a while and we have studied the books of this tradition, thus we know that we need to work upon both hemispheres of our brain and develop both sides to be a homogeneously-developed personality and not a lopsidedly-developed personality. In this study we wanted to look at how the practices of yoga impact on the rational, calculative understanding, the intelligence and the left-brain aspects of the personality.

I have to call your attention to the fact that this group of children whom we have taken up for this study are from the cream of Chennai children's society. They have very good financial backgrounds, they are studying in the best of schools, and they are competing to become the toppers of the education stream. I am giving this information because some of the results that will be seen later will show that the children who have lesser abilities and lesser intelligence are the ones who have shown tremendous and remarkable improvement when they have practised yoga. Those who were already very intelligent still improved, not that they did not, but you could see the shift clearly in the others. In fact, when I went to the DAV school where we did this research, where I also studied, I was one of the worst students.

I can say that I am the greatest testimony to the power of yoga. It can transform a person like that. When I went to my old school to teach yoga, I went to discuss the way in which they wanted to take yoga with the principal, and he said, "Please meet the HM also." Luckily, the same principal was not there as when I studied twenty years ago. I went to the HM's room; she was previously my maths teacher. I was not at all good at it and I would put my fingers into her eyes and make her cry in every class, literally. She was busy looking down at some work when I knocked on the door and went in. She lifted her head. Okay, now you should understand that if you meet your student after twenty years you would be so happy, whatever the person may be, no? She lifted her head and she said, "You!" The second comment was, "Why are you here?"

I said, "I am the yoga teacher whom your school has requested to come. I would be the best example of the kind of change it can bring about in a person." Now she was very happy. By seeing the change in me, that was proof enough for her in regard to the little ones who were causing all the trouble for her. She said to me, "Now, I am going to give you what you gave to me! In multiples!" She gave me fifty-five boys in one class, and she thought I would go back crying. Two or three days later when she came past the corridor, these children were all seated and they were doing beautiful visualizations and she was almost in tears. She said, "Wow! How is this possible? For thirty years we have not been able to make these children quiet." We had a great opportunity.

I would like to present to you this study and explain to you what things were taken up for it.

Research design

It was a progressive study with a control group and an experimental group. We had post-data and pre-data; we used the SPSS 17 software for bringing out the statistics in a scientifically-projectable format.

The period was for a year. We had 673 boys and girls in the experimental group, which was in the DAV group of schools. And 529 boys and girls from three other schools, which were all CBSE schools. We used the PGI scale for memory; Advanced Progressive Matrices (APM) by Ravens for intelligence; Agnihotri Self-Confidence for self-confidence (ASCI); and STAI test for the pre-examination anxiety.

We had two sessions per week. Later on I will also tell you what happened after this study to our work in this school.

We had the practices of simple asanas, because we did not want these children to become experts of yoga. We just wanted them to become people who enjoyed yoga. We felt that to take anything to a child it is important for us to make them feel that it is fun. If it is not taken in that way, if it is taken as a serious matter, we felt they would not love it. When we train our teachers, every class starts with something fun and every class ends with something like the Che che kule dance we did at the beginning.

Each class was for forty minutes. We technically had about thirty minutes for the practices, five minutes before and after for bringing them in and playing and enjoying – getting them into the class and preparing.

The practices that we introduced are outlined in the slide above. We also had mudras and Om chants focusing on the eyebrow centre, kaya sthairyam, and antar mouna. We had the review of the day in both yoga nidra as well as in a sitting posture. We had the opportunity to introduce Mahamrityunjaya mantra and Gayatri mantra also.

The age also has to be taken into consideration: children of tenth standard and children of 10+2, ranging from 14 to 16 years. The mean age is 15 years and 2 months in the yoga group and 15 years and 1 month in the control group. The class ratios are given here.

Results of the research: memory

This is what we got. The memory of children, particularly the ones who did not have attention, who would not be able to focus at all, who were always distracted, were the ones to benefit totally from this study. Though the significance shows that it is 0.046, looking at the number of 673 children, it is a big significance that has resulted. It also showed in the results, about which I will tell you later in the workshop.

You can see in this graph how the base level itself has shifted upwards, on the left side the yoga group and on the right side the control group. The yoga group has shifted upwards and you can see the top line that shows the children who were already good, the children who were entering into the IITs of India, even for them there was a big improvement. That is also shown there. Whereas in the control group you will also see that there is a mild improvement post-data, because of the intense desire that they have to perform well; however, that could not become effective because they were not advantaged with the practices of yoga.

They were attending school, yet their school did not have yoga during that period. We were teaching in seven schools of the DAV group of schools, whereas we had taken the control group from other schools from outside the DAV group where we were not teaching. They were attending their school regularly.

Results of the research: rational intelligence

For the rational intelligence, there was also a huge improvement in the yoga group, whereas in the control group it was almost the same level. The maximum score that somebody was able to get was 36. Again if you look at the numbers, the results show significance at .000; the difference that we were able to see in the pre- and the post-study for the yoga groups was 1.75.

Question from audience: Why not take a control group from within the same school? Were there not other variables impacting on the results such as the opportunities for those in the private schools (experimental group) compared with those in the public schools (control group)?

Answer: We were not able to support that. We have taken it into consideration that they are from different schools and definitely those variables are different. The reason why we could not have a control group within the same school was that no parent or the principal was ready to leave anybody without yoga. They said, "We want everyone to have yoga." They decided that by seeing me!

In the rational intelligence we practically see that there is no change at all in the yoga group and the control group. It is the same in the pre- and the post-data for the yoga group, but do you see what is happening in the control group? The level of anxiety and confidence that they were able to study well was present as a support for children who were taking yoga practices, whereas the other children without the yoga were very frightened; they were not sure that they would be able to do well.

Results of the research: self-confidence

The results of the self-confidence test show that self-confidence did not improve drastically, but we were able to see from here and also from the school authorities, that their children were able to face the exams with a more fearless, confident approach and this is the graphic representation of that.

You can see in the control group how there is a reduction, and a very mild reduction in the yoga group. The graph shows that the experimental group showed overall improvement in the raw score except the highest-ranking sections, but after the factor correction there was no change in the percentile score. The group as a whole took less time for the tests than before. That was one major change. The control group as a whole showed no change in the raw score, but a great deterioration in the percentile score except the highest-ranking section, which showed no change. The best of the students of the other schools were able to do well, but the rest of them deteriorated. If you see in the self-confidence section, it shows that there is not a big improvement.

After this test, we took it back to the school and said we would like to change the input mechanism from the subsequent years. Every day before every class we made them do a one-minute practice. We made small transcripts for a week, handed it over to the teachers of the school, oriented them on how they have to read it out to the children in the class. The children were to come and sit in a class and the teacher of the subject, English or maths, and so on, would read out from that transcript. One day it would be nadi shodhana, another day it would be something else, so we changed the input in the subsequent years. I will tell you what happened a little later.

Results of the research: pre-examination anxiety

We could not find any change in pre-examination anxiety. In fact, we found that children were continuing to be stressed out because this happens to be the most important part of their career. In India the +2 exams and the 10th exams decide what stream you can get into. If you do not do well here then you're gone. So that stress is there on all children and we found that it did not go away. That is why we changed the inputs in the subsequent years.

Overall impressions by the children

The children did not become fans of yoga; though they enjoyed it, because they had things like Che che kule. They had things like a 'bone and dog game' in the middle of a class. They would carry each other on their back and run from here to there during the class. Those aspects allowed them to enjoy, but they did not become fans. However, if you come and ask them now, most of them are propagators. I say this as they have sent their mothers and fathers to us. They have come and asked me, "Sir, you were always so happy, you were always so relaxed. You always seemed to have so much energy. What is it that my mother can do? She always seems to be tired."

They have not just become fans now; they have become propagators of yoga. They are our ambassadors in their house and they are ambassadors within their communities also. Ninety-nine percent of the children agreed that they had an experience of deep relaxation at least ten times in a year during a class. We had taken some more statistics, which we thought we would share with you. Ninety-eight percent of the children experienced complete relaxation during a yoga nidra session or after a yoga class.

Subsequently, we also sent audio files of a ten-minute yoga nidra to each child and we said, "You should do this every day as soon as you go back home from school." Maybe they are overburdened. In Chennai schools, there is tough competition on academic marks as that decides their future. It is too much pressure and expectation. What usually happens is that they go back home, change, and go for tuition and attend class again from five o'clock until eight, nine in the evening. It is stimulation of the intellect only. So we said, "Because you have to take that much during this year, as soon as you go back home, just play this audio file, lie down, do yoga nidra, and then go ahead with whatever you have to do in any way you have to do it." This was done in 2009.

How the parents responded

The CBSE topper of India, a girl by the name Swati Prushti, has written so much in praise of yoga. If you go to our website, you can read her experience. Many parents feel that in yoga they have a great patron, a great guide, and they feel that they should not only send their children to yoga but they should also be practising yoga themselves. They have learnt it from their children.

What the teachers experienced

Teachers are very happy. We do a lot of workshops for teachers. When we went to one class, one of the teachers asked us, "Sir, what do we do? We have a divide. Fifty percent of the children who are so active, so boisterous, make so much noise and such a ruckus, they keep moving; and the other fifty percent are dull and sleepy. So how do we manage? We have to tell one group 'Come on' and we have to tell the other group 'Come on.' It is very difficult. How to fix it?"

In answer to this question, we suggested they play a nose ball game. On the table they can draw a small goal, make a paper ball and keep it in the centre. They know who is hyper and who is dull. So they should say to the hyper students, "You have to play the nose ball game with your left nostril" and to the dull people, "You have to play with your right nostril." The time given is one minute. They will be blowing in and out of that nostril and in that one minute they are focused on how many times they hit the goal, but ultimately what happens is that they would have breathed through their left nostril or right nostril one hundred times. Through activities like this the whole environment becomes different. Suddenly these children are sitting transfixed. This is the feeling that teachers have.

We do a lot of workshops for teachers, and from yoga we make small games for them that they can use during the classes. Games can be awareness games like becoming aware of sounds, becoming aware of touch, of smell, heartbeat, pulse; so many other things can be done. All these games are done at the beginning of every class. The teachers are so happy that they are willing to come here to learn more.

Since many children became healthier, they were able to attend more classes and they were able to perform better academically. That is what teachers want, for their students to get more marks.

Conclusion

Satyananda Yoga was happily and well received by children. Memory improved. Between the control group and the experimental group memory growth was significant. After we started teaching in the DAV group of schools, the number of children scoring less than 80% in an exam became nil. The school was so happy in the board exam that they said, "Now you have to teach yoga to every child in our school. Only for the sake of the infrastructure, we are reaching out little by little." Otherwise, this school was willing to take it to everyone. That is the kind of improvement we have been able to see in the performance of children.

Rational intelligence, too, improved significantly, particularly with children who were less capable, who were at the bottom of the academic capabilities. A big deterioration was observed in the control group, where children did not have the input of yoga. Though this conclusion says that self-confidence did not improve, over a period of time when children are given the input of yoga again and again, their self-confidence improves, which we have seen in the previous presentation and as a living reality in this ashram in Munger and also in Rikhia.

The study also shows that pre-examination anxiety did not change, but with the change in the input where children now do a five-minute or seven-minute meditation or yoga practice just before the examination in all the schools, it has brought a very nice change in the level of stress they go through when they are going for exams. As I explained earlier, academic performance did improve, but when we were doing this study, the CBSE changed their marking system from marks to grades so we were not able to complete that portion of the study.

When we did this study, we had a total of 800 children attending yoga in the DAV group of schools, 673 is what we have quoted here, the rest are from the lower classes. Now we are teaching yoga to roughly 6,000 children in that school. And apart from the 6,000 children in DAV, with all our other projects we are reaching out to about 10,000 or 11,000 children. We dedicate all this work that we have done as a flower at the feet of our guru parampara and we are so fortunate to be connected with this parampara. We request each one of you present here to bless us so that this work grows and reaches to each and every child in Tamil Nadu. That is my personal dream so I want all of your blessings, thank you.

Q & A

How can we measure self-confidence?

There is a specific questionnaire available for that. A parameter has been designed, there is questionnaire called the Agnihotri Self Confidence Index, ASCI. You can probably see it on the internet, where you will get an inventory. Many such systems are available all over the world. This is one of the standardized question sets and you can use that to assess the self-confidence of a person. That is what we used.

How do I get a copy of your research?

We have not yet published this, because this will be published, if at all, by the Bihar School of Yoga. You can talk to Swami Nirmalananda about this and she can give you information, as she is the head of the Yoga Research Foundation. Whatever work we have done, we have not done it in an individual capacity. A decision to publish this or use it in whatever way has to be made by the ashram. It may be published by the YOGA magazine and you would get it then.

How does the fun element help?

One important thing is the fun element that we started this session with. Some of these activities are done in pairs. If we have some opportunity like that or if we have groups where we have children of different ages, we bring them together in the activity and they actually gel with each other and find that they have a good friend in the other person. It is just that they are blocked by themselves without any reason. Probably because of inhibition, which just opens up the moment there is a game or fun activity. The moment they connect with each other, they are all one. It is like any other brother, sister or friend.

Before today if I had walked in front of you, you would not have known me, so there is no specific attitude. The moment we know each other you look at me and I look at you in a different way. The same thing happens with children.

What is the appropriate yoga nidra for kids?

I would say that it would be just an extended shavasana and the preparation stage. Sometimes you can even finish with the preparation or you could do preparation and rotation of consciousness. It can begin with sankalpa and end with sankalpa. You could even tell them that they can make a sankalpa when they lie down, it need not be part of the instruction. It can just be a relaxation. It is essentially an extended shavasana, because typically in a cosmopolitan city there is too much pressure on them. First of all, what they need is to relax and unburden.

Is this research likely to influence policy decisions?

While this research is going to be presented after many more rounds of study, this would only go forward to emphatically communicate to the educators, the policy decision-makers, that they have to bring yoga into the life of a child in the school. This cannot happen in a year, it cannot happen in two years; it may take a few years or even a decade of concerted effort in scientific research. That would definitely push the policy decision-makers to bring yoga into the mainstream of schooling, then this problem will be solved.

—Workshop, 25 October 2013, Ganga Darshan, Munger