Health & Well-Being with Yoga - A Child's Perspective

We aim to bring Upa Yoga, a simple form of yoga to children to improve their physical health, mental concentration, and emotional balance.

Photo of Kalpana Rajdev,MD
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Founding Story: Share a story about a key experience or spark that helps the network understand why this project got started or a story about how you became inspired about the potential for this project to succeed.

We have many children come for a children's yoga camp at our center. We see the children's attention and focus increase over the course of one week. From those who kept up with the practices, it has paid dividends in their day-to-day lives. Isha Foundation in India, through its social outreach programs, has been improved children's well-being through its schools. 9s Rural Schools in Tamilnadu & Andhra Pradesh, with 5820 children, 58% of them on full scholarship and the rest on subsidised fees. Critical interventions in 40 Rural Govt. Schools in Tamilnadu benefitting 28,000 children. Source: The challenges in the US for children's well-being are vastly different than those in India. The challenges in the US are more related to emotional and mental health resulting in lack of focus, risky lifestyles, and poor eating habits. The yoga programs we offer are a holistic approach to a child's well-being. The result is an empowered child with stronger physical and mental constitutions. This in turn leads to better performance in the classroom, improved health, and better overall lifestyle choices. We have been conducting yoga programs for adults for 30 years and seen dramatic improvement in both physical and mental health. Parents have been requesting for more programs for their children. We want to be able to reach large number of children and introduce the science of yoga to enhance their lives.


Location: Where is your organization headquartered? [State]

  • Tennessee

Location: Where is your organization headquartered? [City]

McMinnville, TN

Location: Where is your project primarily creating impact? [City]

New York, Chicago, LA, San Francisco, San Diego, Atlanta, Nashville, Detroit, Minneapolis, Boston, Charlotte, Portland, Seattle, Houston, Dallas, Tampa, Dayton, Columbus, Washington DC, Philadelphia

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Stress in young children is associated with health issues. Anxiety disorders affect one in eight children and often co-occur with depression, eating disorders, ADHD, and others. In a nationally-representative study of youth, 20.1% reported being bullied at school and 32.8% reported being in a physical fight. Childhood obesity rates have tripled in the US over the past three decades. One out of six children is obese.

The program which we wish to offer is around something called Upa Yoga. This form of yoga would help children develop strong bodies and minds. This is becoming more important with the plethora of external influences which our children are facing.

Medical studies have demonstrated the significant benefits of yoga and meditation.  These include:

  • Increase in academic and attendance performance and decrease in the number of suspensions.
  • Decrease in hyperactivity and impulsivity, increase in self-control and attention spans, and a reduction in anxiety leading to higher IQ scores.
  • Relief in tiredness, improvement in physical health, sharper concentration, enhanced mental clarity, and better interpersonal relationships.

The Yoga for Beginners programs offers simple practices which can be done by anyone over the age of 7 years.

  • Workshop offers simple yoga postures to bring stability and balance to the system
  • Upon completion, all participants will have a yoga practice to take home to experience the benefits of yoga
  • Isha can conduct Yoga for Beginners workshops for teachers & students
  • Isha can also train teachers and students to present yoga sessions
  • No prior experience of yoga is required

These are some of the benefits which could be expected from the Yoga for Beginners program:

  • Relieve stress, anxiety, and tension
  • Strengthens the spine and activates lumbar region of the spine
  • Body will feel more rested, alert and focused
  • Includes postures which help fight obesity
  • 7 modules for varying benefits depending to interest and time

Is your model focused on any of the following traditionally underserved communities?

  • No, not explicitly

Does your model work within any of the following sectors?

  • Child and Family Services
  • Mental Health

Year Founded


Project Stage

  • Established (the solution has passed the previous stages, and has demonstrated success)

Example: Walk the network through a specific example of what happens when a person or group engages with your solution.

1. We held Upa Yoga sessions in Flint schools 2. Children's summer yoga residential camp at Isha Institute of Inner sciences in July. We had 150 participants, from age 7 to 13 for 7 days. Children learned the yoga practices and participated in other outdoor activities. All the children learned the practice to a point where they could continue when they go home. Parents were instructed to be supportive. Many children shared that this was a wonderful experience to be at the yoga camp.

Impact: What was the impact of your work last year? Please also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

We have been conducting summer camps for children. The response from parents and children have been overwhelmingly positive. Here's one piece of feedback: “It was a beautiful experience – we trekked different mountains, played in the waterfalls and learned about different snakes, birds and other insects. I not only enjoyed all this but came to respect the life-forms around me as well the need to preserve them. I feel I learned something worth taking back home, where I could tell everyone at home about nature and yoga.” – Anya "My little nephew attended the program and he still can't stop talking about it! He loved all the activities and since he's come back he's more outdoors! Thank you to all the volunteers for making this happen.​​"​

Organization Type

  • nonprofit/NGO/citizen sector

Annual Budget

  • over $5mil

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is your solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

Isha Foundation, Inc. was founded in 1998 and has self-sustaining through donations and program fees. We also receive grants for various projects. For this project, we have the infrastructure in place to implement our model. This includes a yoga facility with a residential campus, nationwide volunteer network, digital infrastructure, and trained yoga teachers. The modules have already been created.

Unique Value Proposition: How else is this problem being addressed? Are there other organizations working in the same field, and how does your project differ from these other approaches?

Most projects focus on developing a better external environment for children's well-being. Our project is focused on developing the child from the inside, making him/her more resilient in handling their life circumstances. Our Upa Yoga modules were developed and designed by Sadhguru. These practices are unique to Isha Foundation and can be given to children 7 and up. The Upa Yoga consist of 7 modules. Various combinations of these 7 modules can be taught based on the child's needs, time, and interest level.

Reflect on the Field and its Future: Stepping outside of your project, what do you see as the most important or promising shifts that can advance children’s wellbeing?

It's important to give children the tools for success for whatever they wish to achieve in life. Those who have the right tools and proper goals are more likely to avoid destructive choices as they grow. The yoga programs we are offering give children a strong foundation to grow physically, mentally, and emotionally to handle all of life's challenges. The most important aspects at this point is mental/emotional stability and proper lifestyle choices including eating habits. Implementation of our programs will make a significant impact on both of these criteria.

Source: How did you hear about the Children’s Wellbeing Challenge? (the answer will not be public)

  • Email

Referral: If you discovered the Challenge thanks to an organization or person other than Ashoka, who was it? (the answer will not be public)

We received this information from Tennessee Tech University.

Program Design Clarity

A) The Upa Yoga modules are available to all over the age of 7 for free. This can benefit children (and adults) from any community. B) Teach Upa Yoga modules to children. We can tailor which of the 7 modules based on need and interest. C) We can offer training once a month and offer the program to children on quarterly basis. D) These services can be delivered through Isha Foundation. Also, teachers, parents, and other caregivers can be trained (for free) to teach children these modules. E) We will continuously receive feedback and offer online support.

Community Leadership

We plan to utilize surveys for the stakeholders. We will provide surveys right after the session and have follow-up surveys to assess the impact of the practices. We plan to have an open feedback system to communicate the impact and any other sessions. We will have a practice support system with an email ID and phone number for any input or questions. All sessions and follow up are free to everyone.

Age of Children Impacted

  • 6 - 12

Spread Strategies

Our primary spread strategy is based on online and online webinars. We have set up webinar training sessions for trainers who could typically be parents, teachers, or other caregivers for children. Caregivers can attend a training session, typically around 2 hours, and then present the modules to children. Additionally, we have active volunteers base in 40 states to help conduct live sessions.

Reflect on how your work helps children to thrive. How are you cultivating children’s sense of self, belonging, and purpose through your model?

While yoga has become synonymous with physical postures and exercise, it is not limited to that alone. Yoga means that which takes you to a higher dimension or higher perception of life. Yoga is a holistic approach that encompasses overall human wellbeing; body, mind, emotions and energy. By improving the body, mind, emotions, and energies, this method will enhance children's capacity from the core to create a stronger sense of self.

Leadership Story

Sadhguru, a foremost yogi, established the Isha Foundation, a volunteer-run international nonprofit organization dedicated to cultivating human potential. It is headquartered at Isha Yoga Center in India and at Isha Institute of Inner-sciences in the United States. Yoga programs are offered in over 30 cities in the US and many other cities globally. Isha Foundation has also implemented several large-scale human service projects for rural upliftment, education reform, environmental stewardship, as well as holistic and healthy living.

What awards or honors has the project received? (Optional)

Guiness World Book Records Beyond Sport Awards Winner of Beyond Sport Awards, Sport for the Environment Category (2010) for Isha Foundation's Project GreenHands. Award Ceremony in Chicago, IL, USA. Sadhguru Day Mayor of the city, Seminole, Florida Sadhguru Day Mayor, City of Houston, TX

Organization's Twitter Handle

@InnrEngineering @SadhguruJV

Organization’s Facebook Page (URL)

Leader's LinkedIn Profile (URL)

Evaluation results

6 evaluations so far

1. Relevance: Does this project seem to help children (ages 0 to 12 years) develop a strong sense of self, belonging, and purpose?

5 - Yes, this is great! The project lays out a strong, compelling case for how its model nurtures children’s wellbeing. - 0%

4 - It seems like a good fit, and the model talks explicitly about children’s wellbeing. - 66.7%

3 - I think so. The project seems related to children’s wellbeing, but the logic is vague. - 33.3%

2 - Not sure. The project doesn’t have much to do with wellbeing, or it doesn’t give enough information. - 0%

1 - Nope, this project definitely doesn’t fit the challenge brief (e.g., It doesn’t help kids younger than 12, isn’t in the U.S., etc.) - 0%

2. Innovation: Does this project tackle children’s wellbeing from a new angle?

5 - I loved this! The project describes a novel model that addresses important cultural or systemic barriers. - 0%

4 - This is pretty cool. The project is addressing an important problem in a new or compelling way. - 16.7%

3 - I feel like there’s something there, but I want more details about what makes it distinctive. - 83.3%

2 - It’s a good project, but I’ve seen others like it before. - 0%

1 - It was confusing or hard to tell what it made it different. - 0%

3. Social Impact: What is this project’s potential for creating positive social impact?

5 - Lots of potential. This project is achieving impressive results, and it’s growing quickly. It could absolutely inspire changes in the ways we approach caring for kids nationally, across sectors (e.g. childcare, healthcare, education). - 0%

4 - Pretty good potential. This project demonstrates significant positive impact so far, and it could scale regionally or nationally one day and fundamentally change how a system operates (e.g. childcare, healthcare, education). - 16.7%

3 - Budding potential. This project is creating local impact, but it would take a few adjustments before it could scale. - 66.7%

2 - Some potential. This project demonstrates some initial positive impact, but it would require major changes before it could scale. - 16.7%

1 - Limited potential. This project has great intentions, but it looks like it does not include key drivers of a shift towards children’s wellbeing. - 0%

4. Overall, how do you feel about this idea?

5 - This idea rocked my world. It’s awesome! - 0%

4 - This idea seems really exciting. With a little more polishing, it’d be among my favorites. - 50%

3 - I think the idea is great, but it needs some work before it moves onto the next round. - 33.3%

2 - I liked it fine but preferred others. - 16.7%

1 - It didn’t make my heart beat faster. Needs significant revisions. - 0%

5. Offer some feedback. Where should this participant spend some time revising?

DEFINING THE PROBLEM. Make sure to articulate the root causes or main barriers of the social issue your project addresses. (Founding Story, Problem, Solution). - 75%

CLARITY OF MODEL. Make sure to mention (a.) the beneficiary, b) the main activities, and c) how those activities drive social impact. Keep it streamlined! - 100%

MARKETPLACE. Make sure to research other players in this space and articulate how this project is different. I didn’t get a complete sense of how this project compares to others. - 75%

IMPACT POTENTIAL. Make sure to use specific numbers to describe what your project has achieved so far! And consider how you might scale the model or its insights, through partnerships, trainings, or franchising. - 100%

WRITING STYLE. Try to stay concise and make it vivid. Avoid jargon. - 25%

Nothing stands out! I thought it was great. - 0%


Join the conversation:

Photo of Lisa Helfman

I love what you are doing - we have to focus on the whole child to give kids the opportunity to be their best selves.  It's not one thing that makes a difference but a collaboration of healthy options that change their lives.  As a yoga person myself, I think practicing is one of the most important things we can do to live happier lives.  And if kids can learn that early, imagine what they can do!  Expressing my gratitude for your work!

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