A new study adds to the growing evidence that yoga and mindfulness can help reduce stress and improve mental health in people of all ages. Researchers at Tulane University found that third-graders who participated in a school-based yoga and mindfulness program experienced reduced anxiety and improved well-being and emotional health.
The findings are published in the journal Psychology Research and Behavior Management.
For the study, researchers collaborated with a public school in New Orleans to incorporate mindfulness and yoga to the school’s existing empathy-based program designed for students who need need extra support.
The researchers targeted third grade because it is a crucial time of transition for elementary students when academic expectations are increasing.
“Our initial work found that many kids expressed anxious feelings in third grade as the classroom work becomes more developmentally complex,” said principal author Dr. Alessandra Bazzano, associate professor of Global Community Health and Behavioral Sciences at Tulane University School of Public Health. “Even younger children are experiencing a lot of stress and anxiety, especially around test time.”
At the beginning of the school year, the young participants were evaluated for symptoms of anxiety and randomly assigned to one of two groups: a control group and an intervention group. The control group of 32 students continued in the regular program, which included counseling and other activities guided by a school social worker.
The intervention group of 20 students participated in small group yoga/mindfulness activities for eight weeks using a Yoga Ed curriculum. The sessions, which took place at the beginning of the school day, included breathing exercises, guided relaxation and several traditional yoga poses appropriate for children.
The research team assessed each child’s health-related quality of life before and after the intervention, using two widely recognized research tools. The Brief Multidimensional Students’ Life Satisfaction Scale-Peabody Treatment Progress Battery version was used to assess life satisfaction, and the Pediatric Quality of Life Inventory evaluates psychosocial conditions and emotional well-being at the beginning, middle and end of the study.
“The intervention improved psychosocial and emotional quality of life scores for students, as compared to their peers who received standard care,” said Bazzano.
“We also heard from teachers about the benefits of using yoga in the classroom, and they reported using yoga more often each week, and throughout each day in class, following the professional development component of intervention.”
Source: Tulane University