Previous studies among adults have shown that yoga may be helpful in coping with stress, treating depression and boosting mood in general. Now findings published in the Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics suggest the same may be true for adolescents.
In the small pilot study, researchers randomly assigned juniors and seniors at a Massachusetts high school to attend either traditional P.E. classes or a ten-week yoga program consisting of postures and breathing, relaxation and mediation exercises. Both groups completed tests assessing the development of self-regulatory skills including resilience, control of anger expression and mindfulness – all things considered useful in preventing development of mental health problems. Yoga participants also completed psychosocial tests a week before and after the program. Science Daily reports:
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.
The results are generally consistent with past studies on yoga in educational settings. However, the researchers caution that large, multi-school studies are needed to clarify the psychological and other health benefits of yoga for youngsters.