Can Yoga Improve Mental Health In Youth?

Can Yoga Improve Mental Health In Youth?

Researchers explore how the breathing and stretching techniques can have physical and psychological benefits in teenagers.

Lamya Hussain
  • 9 may 2012

Researchers are buzzing about a new study from the Journal of Development & Behavioral Pediatrics where lead author Jessica Noggle is claiming that mental health disorders usually develop during teenage years. The study cites yoga as having been a proven physical and mental exercise that can help prevent the development of mental health disorders amongst youth. Reported via the Medical News Today the study comments that:

[It] involved 51 students from the 11th and the 12th grade who were registered for physical education (PE) at a Massachusetts high school. Two thirds of the students were randomly assigned to Kripalu yoga classes that consisted of physical yoga postures as well as breathing exercises, relaxation, and meditation, whilst the remaining third was assigned to the regular PE classes.

The study ran roughly for about 10 weeks and all 51 students were assessed through a range of psychosocial tests including tests that measured their mood, stress levels, anxiety and tension. In addition, researchers were interested to see how students responded in terms of development, resilience, attention span and emotional behavior (i.e. anger ) Results reported via Medical News Today indicate:

The students in the yoga group scored better in several of the psychological tests. The authors noted in particular that students in the control group were more likely to have higher scores for mood problems and anxiety, as compared with those in the yoga group whose scores remained unchanged or improved.

It was also noted that negative attitudes were heightened amongst students that were in the control group as opposed to those in the yoga group. The researchers documented that there was no important difference in the self-regulatory skill test between the groups. Essentially the study inspired a larger discussion on adolescence years as a critical stage of mental and physical development where yoga can play a significant role in shaping positive mental health. In particular, the suggestion made is that yoga encompasses both physical and mental workout strategies that can help teenagers deal with the stress and anxiety of daily life.

The research was done with only a small group, but has paved the way for further discussion on the issue of mental health amongst teenagers. Dr. Noggle and her team hope that more schools can participate in similar studies to further clarify the psychological and physical health benefits of yoga for adolescents.

Medical News Today

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