There’s no doubt bullying is a serious problem for kids these days. While culture can seem so violent, with the influence of movies and video games and whatnot, a counter effort is being forged by professional awesomists like Dee Marie, a yoga teacher who’s been bringing the principles of yoga therapy into clinical settings since 1986. Her program called Calming Kids is designed to encourage non-violent behavior and in turn discourage bullying. Cool.
Marie studied with Sri Swami Rama of the Himalayan Institute starting in 1990, earned a master’s degree from NYU in Exercise Therapy, Child and Motor Development in 1993, and has been studying with Mukunda Stiles in Structural Yoga Therapy and Ayurveda since 2003. She took that knowledge and founded Calming Kids in 2004 on the yogic principle ahimsa (non-violence), blending yoga with non-violent communication techniques “to develop an attitude of non-violence toward the self, toward peers, and toward the community.” And she says it’s working to decrease bullying. Oh, yoga, you little minx of positivity, you.
In an interview via the Huffington Post, Rob Schware (an awesomist in his own right as Executive Director of the Give Back Yoga Foundation and President of the Yoga Service Council) interviews Dee Marie about her work with Calming Kids and how it’s helped to dramatically affect the rate of violent behavior in the youngins.
Here’s an excerpt:
Rob Schware: What motivated you to start Calming Kids (CK): Creating a Non-Violent World? Where were you in your life at the time?
In 2004, I attended the annual meeting in Denver of the American Medical Association Alliance, which is a division of the American Medical Association that implements community-based health care programs addressing aspects of the nation’s well-being. The alarming rise of bullying in the schools was the focus of the meeting, which inspired me to address bullying with an educationally-based yoga program during the school-day curriculum to teach ahimsa — nonviolence to self and others. In 2004, yoga was not as mainstream in the schools as it is today.
Is there evidence that what you are teaching kids works?
Yes. I set up a pilot study to determine if yoga would result in a decrease in bullying. And it did. I spent four years gathering information while teaching 4th and 5th grade students during the school day. The students were surveyed before and after my instruction period. Statistical evaluation of the questionnaires addressed topics related to bullying as well as interpersonal relationships, stress management, and concentration abilities, and showed a dramatic decrease in violent behavior. I also interviewed the teachers and the principal to determine the effectiveness of the program. They enthusiastically endorsed the changes observed in the students.
The CK curriculum was created after the first year of research, because our pilot study [indicated] that children taught to relax, self-regulate, communicate, and have compassion for others could dramatically increase their abilities to manage their anger.
You can check out the four-year research study results here, which concluded that:
If children are exposed to yoga by a knowledgeable and experienced teacher a dramatic decrease in violence and aggression occurs. Only a 4 ½ hour exposure to yoga over a period of two weeks has been shown to result in up to a 93% decrease in aggressive behavior in 4th and 5th grade children along with the other side benefits itemized in the study on concentration and relaxation.
While we’d love to see these kinds of studies continue, 93% is nothing to sneeze at! We’ve recently commended the efforts of organizations like Street Yoga and smart girls advocate Amy Poehler for providing positive role models and helping kids deal with the stresses of their environments, whether in school, at home or hanging with friends. And even more studies like this one are finding that yoga is a helpful tool for improving the health and well-being of teens and kids of all ages.
Huzzah! Now if only “down dog ate my homework” were a believable excuse.