Never underestimate the importance of the so-called ‘soft skills’. There is now evidence in a recent quantitative research analysis of independent schools and state schools (AQR, Jan 2017) where independent schools add significant academic value through helping individuals to deal effectively with challenge, opposition, stressors and pressure. Mental toughness is strongly correlated with performance, wellbeing, positive behaviour and employability. Personal success, satisfaction, quality of life and all these are all part of an expansive education (Lucas) towards creating a more resilient (Duckworth) society with a positive mindset (Dweck).
Creating worldly young people is high on the agenda in all progressive schools. They go beyond academic perspective and are not obsessively focused on academic performance to the exclusion of life skills.
In delivering a holistic approach to student development, one avenue being explored is Hatha yoga. Carving out a calming, quiet environment during a school day for year 8, for example, in preparation for their Common Entrance mocks is quite some feat but worth it. In one school, there was the whirring of the fridge motor from the kitchen, the Reception phone ringing, not to mention the excited giggles and patter of the Nursery children. These distractions needed to be overcome, just as they do in life, so the young yogis could fully concentrate on their Panayana breathing techniques and their personal connection with their body and mind.
Quotes from Year 8 pupils: “Yoga eased my exam jitters”, “It made me feel calm”, “It was harder than I thought it would be, but I did it”.
Yoga had a positive impact on these pupils, emotionally, and gave them a chance to nurture their own emotional well-being in a rare and quiet time for reflection. It was a powerful, non-competitive exercise creating a calm and harmonious atmosphere. The myriad of benefits and the potential to transform the school environment are expansive. By carving out some quiet time for ourselves in our frenetic lives, we can walk taller and feel altogether stronger and more ready for each day of new learning.
Source: Lindsay Cunningham, Deputy head of Portsmouth High Junior School