This talk is from 2018, the inaugural speech at House of Commons

YOGA IN SCHOOLS

Mental health issues are a dominant issue for young people today, and stress is the root cause. 1 in 5 UK teens between the ages of 13 and 18 will experience at least one major mental health issue. 1) According to UNESCO reports from 2013 and 2017 on the happiness of 29 wealthy countries, the young people of the UK came 27th and 16th in the scale respectively. 2) 3) Suicide rates among young males have rocketed in the past 10 years, making it the leading cause of death amongst young men. 4)

Obesity (in some cases considered a mental health issue) has also doubled in the last ten years among young people. 5) The problem is so bad that the prevalence of rheumatoid arthritis and osteoporosis in young people is now on a significant upward curve. 75% of women over the age of 14 do no sport at all, a phenomenon that has come to be known as the “sitting disease”. 12)

Since 2015, the Department of Education has stipulated that all schools need a Wellbeing Lead, both to deal with the high prevalence of health issues in schools and the 30% drop in  the CAMHS budget, which has had a knock on effect on schools. Many schools find themselves under-resourced and firefighting acute problems, with no means to provide long-term, preventative solutions. This has led to an increasing number of schools opting for yoga as one such intervention. 13)26% of primary schools currently offer yoga, either as part of the curriculum or as an after-school club, according to a Department of Education report from 2016. 14)

Over the past 12 years Sport England has invested an estimated £500,000 across the country in yoga interventions for young people as an out of school activity, largely due to its accessibility, and its suitability for inactive students and athletes alike. 15) In 2015 the Teen Yoga Foundation won an Innovation Award of £50,000 to bring 700 young people back into sport through yoga in the South West. This intervention is deemed to have been extremely successful, with both a very high adherence rate and loyalty to the sport after completing the 6 weeks. 16)

In 2017, the BBC conducted a cortisol test on three groups of young people to ascertain which was the most successful exam prep, by measuring cortisol in the saliva of all three groups before and after the interventions. A yoga group, a choir and a control group were asked to ‘chill’ in a room for 60 minutes, with their cortisol measured before and then after the activity. The drop in cortisol was significant in the choir group and the yoga group at 20% and 35% respectively.

Alongside the anecdotal evidence, what was significant is that the yoga group had a lower cortisol level before they started the yoga, by approximately 25%. This indicates that either the yoga group had a long-term lower cortisol level in general because of their weekly yoga class, that the anticipation of the yoga class relaxed them, or a mixture of both. Either of these outcomes demonstrates that yoga can be very effective to reduce stress levels in young people. 17)

Half of all lifetime diseases start by age 14, and 75% by 24. ¼ of young people reported they didn’t get enough sleep. 86% of young people reported some cannabis use. 18) Meanwhile it is estimated that there are currently 627,975 young people practising yoga in the UK – of this figure, approximately 25% were taught as part of PE; 25% as an after-school club; and 45% as a separate class (youth clubs, yoga centres, gyms etc.) 19)

 

1) Mental Health Foundation website 2017

2) UNICEF UK, report card 11, 2016

3) UNICEF UK report card 10,  2017

4)Samaritans 2017

5) https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/statistics-on-obesity-physical-activity-and-diet-england-2017

6) – Department of Education, Sports Provision, Primary Schools, 2016

7) Sport England annual report 2007-2017

8) Sport England, Yoga Gilrs Can report 2016-2017

9) BBC Raw Productions, 2017

10)  http://www.partnershipforyounglondon.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/Young-People-Count-2016.pdf

11) TYF 2017 Census

12) Sport England Report 2017

13) Haberdasher Askes, Latymers, Wellington College, Dauntseys, MIllfield, Kingswood School, Bath and many

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