Finally! Kids yoga has received growing attention lately for the benefits it’s been shown to have on the youngins such as boosted self-esteem, better focus and even improved cognitive skills. And yoga for adults, well we’ve seen the benefits on and off our own mats as well as in scientific journals where studies have explored the positive effects of yoga on pain relief, stress, dis-ease (osteoporosis, stroke, heart disease, cancer, the list goes on) and yes even your eating and potty habits.
But who usually gets the shaft? Teens! Sure, marketers love them, but somehow they’re often overlooked by everyone else, because after all it’s just a phase, they’ll grow out of it! Oy. Which is why we’re delighted to see this new pilot study led by Jessica Noggle, PhD, of Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston that focuses on the benefits of yoga for teens as compared to a regular PE class.
The study, published in the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics took fifty one 11th and 12th grade students from a Massachusetts high school and split them - two thirds went to yoga classes and the rest took regular PE classes 2 to 3 times a week for 10 weeks. The yoga classes were based in Kripalu and included physical postures, breathing exercises, relaxation, and meditation.
Prior to the study each student completed a series of psychosocial tests which rated mood and tension/anxiety, as well as tests assessing the development of “self-regulatory skills” such as resilience, control of anger expression, and mindfulness, which are seen to help 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.)
Yoga:1 PE:0. Gym class actually made students drop in attitude. Admittedly, kickball every day always pissed us off. Besides that, the competitive nature of athletic sports can be really excluding for some kids, or young adults. ahem. Yoga takes away the need to compare yourself to others (or at least lowers it. They’re teenagers after all).
Students themselves rated their experience, so all of this offers a good sign that those oft fickle teens are cool with taking a little time out to tune in. At least we know they enjoy the practice, not just the pants. The results are also a further positive step toward drug-less therapy for troubled teens or perhaps even a good prevention for some susceptible to developing mental health problems.
“Yoga may serve a preventive role in adolescent mental health,” according to by Jessica Noggle, PhD who led the study.
Who can argue with that? IDK. I <3 YOGA. SMH.
If you could go back to your teenage years, what if you had chosen yoga for yourself instead of PE?
photo via thekidsyogaresource.com – check them out for more info on teaching yoga to teens.