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Can Yoga Help Stop Bullying?

in YD News

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.



17 comments… add one
  • Chris

    Great initiative. This CK seems to be a great move ! The very best to them.

    It might be time to consider introducing Yoga in the school-curriculum, here in the US. Many schools in India already offer such Yoga-training to the kids, as part of the school-curriculum itself.

    Baba Ramdev, Guruji BKS Iyengar, and most other Yoga Institutes in India also offer special Yoga-classes, for kids.

    • Matt

      I don’t disagree that yoga would probably be beneficial to school children, but is the fact that anything is done in India really a selling point?

      • Chris


        If the school-Yoga program works in the World’s largest democracy, it just might work Stateside too !

  • Interesting, i hope the core ideas of yoga can help these kids. I wonder how, is this taught in a school setting or private?

    Is the real essence of yoga left out though? As to not to offend family members who may have different religous ties?


  • We can only hope that helping the children of today be more centered, the bullies of tomorrow will never materialize.

  • JeffreyD

    Maybe for girls. For boys, doing a girl’s exercise that makes you scrawny seems like a recipe for being teased.

    • Vision_Quest2

      Probably no more of an effect than the Social Graces (a.k.a. Ballroom Dancing) they used to teach public school children in your great-grandparents’ day … Dandy dancer-types are cycling back into fashion – maybe in the form of young yogis … lol

    • Amelia

      Men who do yoga are not scrawny! Yoga requires physical strength, you need it to do handstands, chattaranga, plank pose, or any arm balances – not to mention tons of challenging basics like standing and balancing postures.
      It doesn’t build up hulking muscle (which isn’t even attractive) it does build lean muscle, good posture, and open joints.

    • Amelia

      Yoga asana actually originated in india as an exercise for teenage boys and young men to help channel their energy. Also your comment only serves to promote a bullying attitude by saying that men and women should be treated differently, that some activities are not as good as others (so they should only be done by women).

      If all the boys in the class were required to participatethey couldnt pick on anyone.

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