Yoga should be a viable alternative to traditional high school gym class

tessa web
Image by: Jodie Grieve

High school relies too heavily on traditional models of exercise—but just because something is traditional doesn’t mean it’s beneficial to everyone. Yoga has proved itself to be a worthwhile skill to cultivate, as it promotes fitness alongside mindfulness. Because of this, we need to introduce it to high school curriculums.

Gym class is designed to teach the pillars of physical fitness. It’s supposed to expose students to a variety of ways to stay active and, hopefully, help them build a routine of activity which will benefit them well beyond the high school setting. But common gym activities like dodgeball and capture the flag aren’t for everyone. As a result, this one-size-fits-all approach to physical activity may be doing more harm than good.

Even though I appreciated being introduced to new sports in elementary school, by high school I’d accepted that I hated team sports and dropped gym class as soon as it was no longer an academic requirement.

I started practicing yoga when it was offered as an elective in my final year of high school. Where the idea of gym class filled me with anxiety, yoga class was an escape from my responsibilities and a chance to just focus on my body, breathing, and thoughts. It changed my entire outlook on what fitness could mean.

Yoga promotes self-acceptance, as it’s not about measuring yourself against others, but creating space for yourself. Where everything else we do in school is fast-paced and results driven, yoga provides a valuable escape from this mentality.

The teachings of yoga don’t just end on the mat. Yoga can be incorporated into other aspects of life and fitness. It can provide therapy alongside other modes of exercise and help athletes avoid injuries. It can also be a tool for individuals with anxiety, helping fight insomnia and promoting awareness of breathing.

Yoga was only offered as an elective in my last year of school. A more beneficial approach would be introducing it as a unit in elementary school, and then as an alternative to gym class in high school.

In doing so, schools would be removing many of the barriers associated with beginning to practice yoga—namely the hefty prices of equipment and classes.

Though yoga is a beneficial physical practice, schools should also make sure they don’t culturally appropriate the practice by erasing its rich cultural history. Western Society’s complex—and not always positive—relationship to yoga should be acknowledged instead of being swept under the rug.

There’s never been a better time to innovate our approach to physical education. Yoga fits the bill for online learning, as it can be done in isolation by following teachers on Zoom, or through online videos.

Amidst the pandemic our education system is undergoing an intense restructuring. We need to consider not only restructuring our academics, but our approach to wellness, too.

Tessa is a fourth-year English student andTheJournal’s Production Manager.



High School, Yoga

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