Yoga Shows Psychological Benefits for High-School Students

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Citations Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics

Compared to Regular PE Classes, Yoga Improves Mood and Reduces Tension

Newswise — Philadelphia, Pa. (April 4, 2012) – Yoga classes have positive psychological effects for high-school students, according to a pilot study in the April Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics, the official journal of the Society for Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics. The journal is published by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, a part of Wolters Kluwer Health.

Since mental health disorders commonly develop in the teenage years, "Yoga may serve a preventive role in adolescent mental health," according to the new study, led by Jessica Noggle, PhD, of Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston.

Pilot Study Shows Improvements in Some Psychosocial Outcomes
Fifty-one 11th- and 12th-grade students registered for physical education (PE) at a Massachusetts high school were randomly assigned to yoga or regular PE classes. (Two-thirds were assigned to yoga.) Based on Kripalu yoga, the classes consisted of physical yoga postures together with breathing exercises, relaxation, and meditation. Students in the comparison group received regular PE classes.

Students completed a battery of psychosocial tests before and after the ten-week yoga program. In addition to tests of mood and tension/anxiety, both groups completed tests assessing the development of self-regulatory skills—such as resilience, control of anger expression, and mindfulness—thought to protect against the development of mental health problems.

Teens taking yoga classes had better scores on several of the psychological tests. Specifically, while students in regular PE classes tended to have increased scores for mood problems and anxiety, those taking yoga classes stayed the same or showed improvement. Negative emotions also worsened in students taking regular PE, while improving in those taking yoga. (There was no difference in a test of positive emotions.)

However, the tests of self-regulatory skills were not significantly different between groups. Although attendance was only moderate, the students rated yoga fairly high—nearly three-fourths said they would like to continue taking yoga classes.

Could Yoga for Teens Help Prevent Mental Health Problems?
Adolescence is an important time for the development of mental health, including healthy coping responses to stress. Several types of school-based stress management and wellness programs have been developed with the goal of encouraging healthy coping strategies and resilience among teens.

One promising approach is yoga, which combines strength and flexibility exercise with relaxation and meditation/mindfulness techniques. Studies have shown benefits of yoga in a wide range of mental and physical health problems, including a growing body of evidence showing positive effects in children and teens.

Although limited by its small size, the study suggests some positive psychological effects of Kripalu yoga for high school students. The results are "generally consistent" with the few previous studies of yoga in school settings. Dr Noggle and coauthors call for larger studies including multiple schools and tracking teens for several years into adulthood. These larger studies will be needed to clarify the psychological and other health benefits of yoga for adolescents—including the possible preventive benefit on development of mental health problems.

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About the Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics
Written for physicians, clinicians, psychologists and researchers, each bimonthly issue of the Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics (www.jrnldbp.com) is devoted entirely to the developmental and psychosocial aspects of pediatric health care. Each issue brims with original articles, case reports, challenging cases and reviews—the latest work of many of today's best known leaders in related fields—that help professionals across disciplines stay current with the latest information in the field. Relevant areas covered include learning disorders, developmental disabilities, and emotional, behavioral, and psychosomatic problems. Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics is the official journal of the Society for Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics.

About Lippincott Williams & Wilkins
Lippincott Williams & Wilkins (LWW) is a leading international publisher of trusted content delivered in innovative ways to practitioners, professionals and students to learn new skills, stay current on their practice, and make important decisions to improve patient care and clinical outcomes.

LWW is part of Wolters Kluwer Health, a leading global provider of information, business intelligence and point-of-care solutions for the healthcare industry. Wolters Kluwer Health is part of Wolters Kluwer, a market-leading global information services company with 2011 annual revenues of €3.4 billion ($4.7 billion).


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