Page last updated at 05:34 GMT, Thursday, 18 March 2010

Scottish children feel benefits of yoga

By Catrin Nye
BBC Asian Network

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Children in Glasgow give their views on yoga at school

"Maybe out in the playground someone annoyed you or made you feel cross. You felt that angry feeling inside; I want you to let all of that go."

Those are the calming whispers of Rachel Carr, teacher at Quarry Brae Primary and newly trained yoga instructor, who has a class of 10 and 11-year-olds huddled in front of her with their legs crossed, eyes closed and thumbs and index fingers forming the yoga Mudra.

The lights are dimmed, a lavender candle is burning nearby and, with a Glaswegian twang, the children chant "Ommmm".

It is not what you might expect from a classroom in Glasgow's east end.

Quarry Brae is in Parkhead, a stone's throw from Celtic football ground, and by the head teacher Sara Adam's own admission is a deprived area that is finally getting much-needed investment.

Yoga hits those hotspots because lots of children need movement and breaks in the day when they can get their self discipline back
Quarry Brae Primary head teacher Sara Adam

In October 2009 the area of Parkhead West and Barrowfield was identified by the Scottish government as the most deprived in Scotland.

Things are on the up though, and rusty swings and litter-strewn parks sit next to new housing developments.

For Quarry Brae Primary teacher Ms Carr and head teacher Mrs Adam, yoga is bringing a calming influence to the children and helping to get them in a mood to learn.

"Perhaps they haven't got that support for education at home," explained Mrs Adam.

"They may not be coming out to school ready and settled, which contributes to children learning.

"Yoga combats those issues because lots of children need movement and breaks in the day when they can get their self-discipline back."

Peace island

Yoga being incorporated into the classroom, with breathing exercises sitting between math and English lessons, is the dream of Scottish Indian couple Sam and Sunita Poddar.

They moved to Glasgow in the 1970s and, after making their fortune in care homes, last year bought an island in Ayrshire called Wee Cumbrae (now Peace Island), which they are busy turning into a yoga retreat.

Scottish school child Brandon says yoga has clamed him down
I used to have a quick temper and yoga has calmed that
Quarry Brae Primary school child Brandon

The project to bring yoga to schools is a collaboration between the Poddars' charity - Patanjali Yog Peeth UK Trust - and Glasgow City Council, with 15 schools in the city involved so far.

The scheme involves Mr Poddar giving a taster lesson to pupils and then inviting teachers to free training so they can deliver the yoga classes without him.

Miss Carr is one of the first to complete her training and says it is helping both her and her pupils.

"We have a laugh and we have good fun with it," she explained. "It's really improved my relationship with the children, their concentration levels and their attitude to one another.

"Teaching can be quite stressful and the yoga class is a nice time for me and the children to connect."

Brandon, 11, is quick to back her up and just as quick to try and give yoga tips.

"I got hit in the face with a ball," he explained. "Usually, I'd go up and start a fight with whoever did it but I don't any more. I used to have a quick temper and yoga has calmed that down."

Pay back

Mr and Mrs Poddar are dedicated to yoga and, specifically, their type, which is called Pranayama.

It puts emphasis on breathing techniques with Mr Poddar's classes involving plenty of inhaling and exhaling as well as more recognisable stretches.

Scottish Indian couple Sam and Sunita Poddar
Sam and Sunita Poddar say yoga can build bridges

There is no charge for the classes and the couple say they do it for free to help spread the benefits of yoga and repay the benefits being in Scotland has provided them.

"We really want to reach every child in Scotland and this is the start," said Mrs Poddar.

"I've been in Scotland for 33 years and wherever we are, in terms of success, has been given to us by this country. It's time to pay back some of that and this is why I'm out there to help."

Mr Poddar added: "Children are our future and health is everyone's business.

"Yoga can also build bridges between generations and communities. Often, in my classes you see a daughter, mother and grandmother sitting together. It's all about good health, body and mind."

You can hear more on this story at 1230 and 1800 GMT on 18 March on the BBC's Asian Network Reports radio show or via the BBC iPlayer.



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