Class giving trouble? 10 minutes of pranayam, everyone

By Brij Khandelwal, IANS,

Agra : No more caning or beating, says a school in Agra. But wait. You will still be pulled up, though in a different way – by being asked to do yoga!

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An initiative of John Fareira, principal of the 166-year-old St Peter’s College, the ‘Dandasana’ package of yogic punishment includes postures such as anulom vilom, pranayams and kapal bharti.

Fareira is an ardent practitioner of yoga. When he joined the school last year, the church authorities were reluctant to introduce yoga in the school, as they thought it was a Hindu practice.

But against all protests John made it compulsory for the 3,000 students of his institution to join his yoga exercises in the morning assembly.

He also rid the school canteen of all junk food and cola drinks.

“The results are now for all to see. The educational standards as also the level of extra-curricular activities and sports have gone up. The doubting Thomases have been satisfied. Yoga is yoga, neither Hindu nor Christian, just like the Gayatri Mantra,” Fareira told IANS.

Any student found creating trouble, or failing to do assignments and homework is ordered to perform yoga.

“The yoga exercises as punishment do not have any side effects but only help students improve their powers of concentration,” Fareira said.

The duration and nature of exercises depend on the gravity of the offence.

If it is a routine matter a student will be asked to go back to a corner of the classroom and sit in a yoga posture to do anulom vilom.

Occasionally when the whole class is creating some trouble, they all have to do pranayam for ten minutes.

“Caning or beating children doesn’t really help these days,” says Fareira.

“We want our children to be focussed and disciplined and therefore the emphasis on yoga,” he adds.

Some of the students said they enjoyed the punishment as “this form of punishment was health-oriented and also gave us time to concentrate on the offence or whatever wrong we have done”.

The new form of punishment has drawn attention of lots of people who are averse to physical beating of children.

Even yoga guru Ram Dev has spoken highly of Fareira’s punishment technique.

Talking to a local daily on phone, Ram Dev said: “The new form of punishment started by St Peter’s College is indeed unique. Children will learn and improve. In the Gurukul tradition students were sent to fields and asked to do physical work as punishment or go cattle grazing. This school has taken us back to our roots.”

The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights has already expressed itself against physical punishment.

It wants teachers to look for some creative or constructive forms of punishment instead of caning. “Even scolding in public should not affect a child’s self esteem,” says one of the suggestions of the commission, according to Hari Dutt Sharma, editor of the fortnightly magazine School Prangan.