Researchers from Tulane University worked with a local public school in New Orleans, Louisiana to add mindfulness and yoga to the school’s preexisting empathy-based program for students that need support. The study used third-graders for the study due to it being a crucial period of transition in elementary school and academic expectations increase during this year.
Kids express anxious feelings just like adults, although their symptoms may be harder to identify. Kids can’t usually express what they’re feeling at such a young age so they act out, which can be particularly disruptive at school.
Third graders were screened for symptoms of anxiety at the beginning of the school year. Those that were screened were randomly assigned to two groups. The first was a control group where students received their usual care, such as counseling and other activities let by the school social worker.
The other group participated in yoga and mindfulness activities for eight weeks using a yoga education curriculum. During these sessions breathing exercises, guided relaxation, and traditional yoga poses appropriate for children were done. Both groups attended the group activities at the beginning of the school day.
Both before and after the intervention of yoga, researchers evaluated each group’s health-related quality of life. They used two widely recognized research tools, the Brief Multidimensional Students’ Life Satisfaction Scale-Peabody Treatment Progress Battery and the Pediatric Quality of Life Inventory.
The introduction of yoga not only improved psychosocial and emotional quality of life scores for students compared to their peers, but teachers reported benefits too. Teachers reported using yoga more frequently throughout the week.
So can school-based yoga help kids manage stress and anxiety? It certainly seems that way. Many other schools have added meditation or yoga programs to their school and seen results. Some have even opted to replace traditional punishments like detention with yoga. So next time your kids or students act out, try a little yoga.