Fiji Schools to Include Yoga for Physical, Mental Health

(Photo: Pixabay, Creative Commons)

(Photo: Pixabay, Creative Commons)

The Fiji Ministry of Education has announced the inclusion of yoga classes in schools’ curriculum, and Rajan Zed, a Hindu statesman and a President of Universal Society of Hinduism, was one of the first to welcome the decision. Zed also urged all neighboring countries and territories in Oceania to follow Fiji’s example and incorporate yoga into the lives of their students.

The Fiji Ministry of Education decided to make yoga part of physical education classes to help students improve their academic performance, reduce stress and make them healthier, reports Merinews. Dr. Mahendra Reddy, Fiji’s Minister for Education, Heritage and Arts, commented:

“Yoga will stabilize students’ minds and help them concentrate.”

The small island of Fiji is the latest to implement yoga in schools. Several years ago, the Sonima Foundation allocated a grant of $4 million to California’s Encinitas Union School to support a health and wellness program which included yoga classes. The financial aid was discontinued earlier this year, which forced the district to look for alternatives to keep the wellness curriculum, including self-funding.

In June of this year, Encinitas agreed on a plan to spend $416,000 in the next academic year on a health and wellness program that should include at least a day of yoga instruction per week. Initially, the proposed spending on yoga classes was $800,000. However, more than 75 parents and children protested demanding the money could be better spent on science and lab facilities, physical education, and art classes. Another group of parents strongly supported the yoga program openly. One mother of a fourth grader said:

“I think it’s incredibly unique, courageous, to have a class like this. I believe it’s forward-thinking.”

The Encinitas district’s yoga program has been a subject of controversies on numerous occasions. In 2013, the program was challenged on religious grounds for allegedly indoctrinating children with Hinduism. The court rejected these allegations. This year, the program was accused of misuse of school funds, but the program continued to function normally and received support.

As the US National Institutes of Health pointed out, yoga makes people more flexible and relaxed. It helps overcome stress and improve posture and trains breath. The researchers also showed that yoga was strongly related to a positive self-image. It is therefore not surprising that more than 37 million Americans, including many celebrities, practice yoga regularly, a 2016 Yoga in America Study found. The same study has also identified that since 2012, the yearly yoga practitioners expenses grew from $10 billion to $16 billion.

In his speech, Zed came out in favor of including yoga in schools’ curriculum, emphasizing that although yoga was inspired by Hinduism, it is a part of world heritage  and offers mental and physical techniques to be used by anyone regardless of race, religion or geographical location. Its roots go back to 2,000 BCE to the Indus Valley civilization, stated Zed.