Behavioral and Psychophysiological Effects of a Yoga Intervention on High-Risk Adolescents: A Randomized Control Trial

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to conduct a pilot randomized control trial to test whether a mindful yoga intervention had a beneficial impact on substance use and its psychological and psychophysiological correlates in high-risk adolescents. Research on yoga has generated growing evidence for its positive effects on physical and emotional health. However, most studies are conducted with adults, with few controlled studies conducted with youth. We designed a 20-session mindful yoga intervention for adolescents attending a school for students at high-risk for dropping out. The 50-min classes were offered three times a week. The participants (mean age = 16.7 years) were randomly assigned to control and intervention groups. Multi-rater (student, teacher), multi-method (survey, cognitive, psychophysiological) data were collected before and after the yoga curriculum. At post-test, students in the yoga condition, as compared to control students, exhibited trends toward decreased alcohol use and improved teacher-rated social skills (p < .10); and showed a non-significant increase in arousal in response to relevant stimuli as measured in skin conductance. Significant effects were not found on hypothesized proximal measures of self-regulation, mood, mindfulness, or involuntary engagement coping. Future research is needed to replicate and expand upon our findings. Studies are also needed with larger samples to further investigate potential mediators and moderators of yoga’s effects.

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Acknowledgments

We are most grateful to the school administrators and teachers who supported our study. We also want to thank our data collectors and project staff including Lara Markovits, Jonah Leslie, and Greg Mosorjak. Thanks to Shari Lambert for her outstanding graphics. We are indebted to the scientific contributions of our consultants/advisors including James Spira, David Newlin, Paul Kizakevich, Cris Slentz, and Donna Eash. We are also very grateful to our Advisory Board and focus group students for their wise guidance. Most importantly, we thank our wonderful yoga teacher—Michelle Johnson and Christa Atkinson and the students who enthusiastically participated in the Be BOLD classes. This work was supported by grant 1R03DA027447-01 from the National Institute of Drug Abuse.

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Fishbein, D., Miller, S., Herman-Stahl, M. et al. Behavioral and Psychophysiological Effects of a Yoga Intervention on High-Risk Adolescents: A Randomized Control Trial. J Child Fam Stud 25, 518–529 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10826-015-0231-6

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Keywords

  • Yoga
  • Mindfulness
  • Adolescents
  • Substance use
  • Stress reactivity