Yoga is a physical, spiritual and emotional meditation practice that originated over five thousand years ago in ancient India. The technique involves utilizing various movement, speech and breathing strategies to help calm the mind and body. In the 1930’s, an influx of Indian immigrants contributed to the expansion of yoga practices in the United States. Recently, the yoga industry has continued to flourish. According to a study by the Yoga Journal and Yoga Alliance, the number of Americans who practice yoga has risen from twenty million in 2012 to thirty seven million in 2016.
There are a wide variety of health and wellness benefits associated with practicing yoga. It has been shown to lower blood pressure, reduce anxiety and alleviate stress. Although the majority of yoga participants are in the middle adulthood demographic, the practice can have profound effects on teens and adolescents. In recent years, educators in schools across the nation have been seeking ways to implement yoga into their curriculum.
A 2011 report by the National Survey of Children’s Health estimates that approximately two million children between the ages of six and seventeen suffer from an anxiety disorder. However, only twenty percent of diagnosed adolescents receive proper medical treatment. Untreated anxiety in youth has been associated with lower academic performance, disciplinary issues, and an increased risk of substance abuse.
A trial by the Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology implemented a twelve week yoga intervention program for fourth and fifth grade students in Maryland. The study assigned a random sample of students to forty five minutes of mindfulness yoga and compared their responses to stress with students who did not participate in the program. The results showed reduced negative emotions and intrusive thoughts in students who took part in the yoga assignment.
Yoga 4 Classrooms, an educational institution that provides schools with yoga based curriculum, tools and training services conducted a study of second and third grade students who participated in their program. The study tested cortisol levels in the children’s saliva before and after the ten week intervention period. The second grade students showed significantly lower cortisol levels following the yoga intervention. The results of the study suggests that mindfulness can help decrease stress levels and improve academic performance.
Although research on the benefits of yoga in educational settings remains preliminary, various trials suggest that mindfulness programs can have positive effects on children and teens. Yoga can equip youth with a greater sense of emotional awareness and healthy coping mechanisms for confronting stress as adults.
Butzer, Bethany, et al. “Effects of a Classroom-Based Yoga Intervention on Cortisol and Behavior in Second- and Third-Grade Students: a Pilot Study.” Journal of Evidence-Based Complementary & Alternative Medicine, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Jan. 2015, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4410873/.
“Children and Teens.” Anxiety and Depression Association of America, ADAA, Anxiety and Depression Association of America, 2018, https://adaa.org/living-with-anxiety/children.
Deslippe, Philip. “Yoga Landed in the U.S. Way Earlier Than You’d Think-And Fitness Was Not the Point.” History.com, A&E Television Networks, 20 June 2019, https://www.history.com/news/yoga-vivekananda-america.
Mendelson, Tamar, et al. “Feasibility and Preliminary Outcomes of a School-Based Mindfulness Intervention for Urban Youth.” Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Oct. 2010, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20440550.
“The 2016 Yoga in America Study.” Yoga Journal and Yoga Alliance, Ipsos Public Affairs, 2016, https://www.yogaalliance.org/Portals/0/2016 Yoga in America Study RESULTS.pdf.
Walton, Alice G. “How Yoga Is Spreading In The U.S.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 15 Mar. 2016, https://www.forbes.com/sites/alicegwalton/2016/03/15/how-yoga-is-spreading-in-the-u-s/#79eb698f449f.
Wolters Kluwer Health, . “More than 1 in 20 US Children and Teens Have Anxiety or Depression.” ScienceDaily, ScienceDaily, 24 Apr. 2018, https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/04/180424184119.htm.