Chairs? Who needs them? Especially not elementary kids who dance an ode to the fidget fairy in their seat all day at school. No problem, say teachers at Westtown-Thornbury Elementary School in Pennsylvania who found that students sitting on yoga balls instead of the traditional butt-numbing contraptions they call desk chairs were “better able to focus on lessons while improving their balance and core strength.”
Fifth grade teacher Robbi Giuliana made the trade 3 years ago and has seen improvement.
“I have more attentive children,” Giuliano said. “I’m able to get a lot done with them because they’re sitting on yoga balls.”
We’re not school teachers, but we’ve heard it’s a tough gig just getting the kids to sit still. As it so happens, maybe they don’t have to. “It takes away the taboo of wiggling, which most kids do anyway,” said Michelle Rowe, executive director of the Kinney Center for Autism at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia and a professor of health services who’s a fan of the seat switch.
The yoga balls (or exercise balls, stability balls, etc. honestly, we never really see these in yoga class, but we’ll go with it) started rolling into schools as aids for kids with autism and attention problems and now it’s snowballed to mainstream use. Yoga has been found as a helpful tool for autism, as well.
These rolly ball seats certainly don’t make it easy to balance your rump, trunk and appendages, but that’s kind of the point.
By making the sitter work to stay balanced, the balls force muscle engagement and increased blood flow, leading to more alertness.
The exercise gear is part a larger effort to modernize schools based on research linking physical activity with better learning, said John Kilbourne, a professor of movement science at Grand Valley State University in Allendale, Mich.
Physical activity linked to better learning, eh? We’ve heard something called yoga is helpful there.
While some could see this as a distraction, the benefits seem to outweigh the negatives. Besides, they’re not mandatory and kids can choose to sit on chairs if they want. Too bad they’re still not that cool with our favorite place to sit as a kid, the floor. Or you know, in the air hovering in a fake chair, is probably what we’re supposed to say.
Fifth grader Kevin Kent said the ball makes it easier for him to concentrate and keeps his back from getting stiff. Sitting in a chair is now “weird, because you’re all bent up.”
We hear you Kevin and we feel for your parents who now have to field your requests for yoga ball seats in the car and at the dinner table because regular chairs are too scrunchy.
Yoga balls are a good start and it’s great to see teachers and administrators at least try alternatives to the conventional classroom. Maybe some intermittent kids yoga will be next? Optional, of course.