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Study Finds Teen Yoga is Positively Awesome, Can Improve Health

in Science, Thanks for the tip, YD News

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.

The results?

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.




25 comments… add one
  • Couldn’t agree with you more! I am thrilled to see research happening in the teen yoga set, and just as happy to see YD covering it. Will share;)
    I’ve been teaching yoga to teens in schools for over a decade. It works, they love it, need it, thrive with it.

  • I feel bad for the kids that were selected to continue the PE classes :). Wish yoga was an option for me growing up…Only I probably wouldn’t have wanted to take a yoga class when I was a teen because I didn’t know better. Glad yoga is continuing to broaden its reach into the mainstream through research and science based studies

    • American, I hear you about not knowing better. What I have seen, though, in many schools, is that kids who do know sign up and spread the word to those who don’t. I’ve even had middle school yoga classes with waiting lists and semesters with ALL boys signed up. We just need more support from the yoga community to sustain yoga in schools because school budget can hardly do so.

  • Nicole

    I’ve always said I wished yoga had found me in high school but was happy to start my journey in my early twenties. I have been teaching eating disordered teens yoga in a hospital setting for a decade, it’s part of their therapy. Teaching teens has been a challenge at times but over all a very rewarding experience. They love it and so do I, it keeps me young. I’d love to get into the schools but it’s hard with so many budget cuts.

  • LOVE this!! IDK one teen who would do better after yoga! YAY!

  • Thanks so much for posting about this research. I’m enjoying teaching yoga to kids/teens as I know it’s something I wish I’d had exposure to at a younger age. I am all for research on the benefits of yoga, period, be it adults or kids as I think it’s all the more fodder to get buy-in (and in the case of kids yoga, hopefully funds for or better yet, inclusion in the curriculum).

  • Jean

    I really wish our school would offer yoga as an option in PE as they have begun offering other new sports like zumba. I am glad I have found about yoga at a young age!!

  • My high school actually had a yoga phys ed unit! It is funny looking back on it now and thinking about how different it is from my current yoga practice, but it was the first step and introduction to yoga for me and taught me the poses.

    There was something so relaxing about having yoga before a huge pre-calc test and having a moment to relax and focus on breath.

    I wish this unit had lasted longer and applaud my phys ed teacher for bringing something unique into the gymnasium. more high schools should really be implementing yoga into their physical education curriculum

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  • This really is the 3rd post, of your website I browsed.
    Nevertheless I actually love this particular 1, “Study Finds Teen Yoga is Positively Awesome, Can Improve Health – YogaDork” the most.
    Take care -Doris

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