Adolescence is a critical age for developing difficulties with emotion regulation and other psychosocial problems. Yoga programs implemented in schools may be a promising method of intervention, as previous research suggests that they improve emotion regulation and other psychological outcomes in adolescents. This study examined the effects of the Kundalini Yoga-based Y.O.G.A for Youth (Y4Y) after-school program on adolescents’ self-reported emotion dysregulation and psychological functioning. A sample of 119 students, ages 11–14, was recruited through after-school programs for middle school students in the North Carolina school system. Within four public schools, participants participated in 6 weeks of either the Y4Y after-school program (n = 52), or an alternate activity (n = 66) and completed self-report measures of emotion dysregulation, anxiety, depression, stress and mindfulness before and after the 6 weeks. Results from this study suggest that the students who participated in the Y4Y program reported significant decreases in emotion dysregulation over the 6-week program. They also reported significant decreases in anger, depression and fatigue over one yoga session. Students in the comparison condition only reported significant decreases in fatigue over one session of the program but reported no significant changes in any of the other outcomes. Results from exploratory between-subject analyses also suggested that the Y4Y program’s impact on depression, stress and anxiety depended on the school setting in which they were implemented. These findings suggest that the Y4Y program improved emotion dysregulation in adolescent students. However, some of its benefits may be influenced by the school environment.
We studied the effects of the Kundalini yoga program on adolescents’ emotion dysregulation and psychological functioning.
A sample of 119 adolescents from four public schools participated in either the yoga program or an alternate activity.
Students who participated in the yoga program reported significant decreases in emotion dysregulation across the program.
Students in the yoga program also reported significant decreases in anger, depression and fatigue over one yoga session.
Students in the comparison condition only reported decreases in fatigue over one session of the alternative activity.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Data and related experimental details cannot be made openly accessible because the authors do not have the permission to do so.
Adrian, M., & Veits, G. (2011). Methodological implications of the affect revolution: a 35-year review of emotion regulation assessment in children. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 110(2), 171–197. https://doi.org/10.1016/J.JECP.2011.03.009.
Axelrod, D. A., & Hayward, R. (2006). Nonrandomized interventional study designs (quasi-experimental designs). In Clinical research methods for surgeons (pp. 63−76). Humana Press.
Beauchaine, T. P. (2015). Future directions in emotion dysregulation and youth psychopathology. Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology, 44(5), 875–896. https://doi.org/10.1080/15374416.2015.1038827.
Bhajan, Y. (2007) The Aquarian Teacher: KRI International Teacher Training in Kundalini Yoga as Taught by Yogi Bhajan, Level 1 Instructor Textbook. 4th edition. Santa Cruz, NM: Kundalini Research Institute.
Bragard, I., Etienne, A. M., Faymonville, M. E., Coucke, P., Lifrange, E., Schroeder, H., & Jerusalem, G. (2017). Une étude comparative non randomisée de l’utilisation de l’autohypnose, du yoga et de la thérapie cognitivo-comportementale visant à réduire la détresse émotionnelle chez des patientes atteintes du cancer du sein. International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, 65(2), 189–209. https://doi.org/10.1080/00207144.2017.1276363.
Brown, K. W., West, A. M., Loverich, T. M., & Biegel, G. M. (2011). Assessing adolescent mindfulness: Validation of an Adapted Mindful Attention Awareness Scale in adolescent normative and psychiatric populations. Psychological Assessment, 23(4), 1023–1033. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0021338.
Chambers, R., Gullone, E., & Allen, N. B. (2009). Mindful emotion regulation: an integrative review. Clinical Psychology Review. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cpr.2009.06.005
Cho, H. K., Moon, W., & Kim, J. (2015). Effects of yoga on stress and inflammatory factors in patients with chronic low back pain: a non-randomized controlled study. European Journal of Integrative Medicine, 7(2), 118–123. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.eujim.2014.10.008.
Compas, B. E., Connor-Smith, J. K., Saltzman, H., Thomsen, A. H., & Wadsworth, M. E. (2001). Coping with stress during childhood and adolescence: Problems, progress, and potential in theory and research. Psychological Bulletin, 127(1), 87–127. https://doi.org/10.1037/0033-2909.127.1.87.
Dahl, R. E.(2004). Adolescent brain development: a period of vulnerabilities and opportunities. Keynote address. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1021(1), 1–22.
Daly, L. A., Haden, S. C., Hagins, M., Papouchis, N., & Ramirez, P. M. (2015). Yoga and emotion regulation in high school students: a randomized controlled trial. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2015, 1–8. https://doi.org/10.1155/2015/794928.
Des Jarlais, D. C., Lyles, C., Crepaz, N., & Trend Group. (2004). Improving the reporting quality of nonrandomized evaluations of behavioral and public health interventions: the TREND statement. American Journal of Public Health, 94(3), 361–366.
Devi, S. K., Chansauria, J. P., & Udupa, K. N. (1986). Mental depression and kundalini yoga. Ancient Science of Life, 6(2), 112–118. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22557558.
Eisenberg, N. (2000). Emotion, regulation, and moral development. Annual Review of Psychology, 51, 665–697.
Eisenberg, N., Fabes, R. A., Murphy, B., Karbon, M., Smith, M., & Maszk, P. (1996). The relations of children’s dispositional empathy-related responding to their emotionality, regulation, and social functioning. Developmental Psychology, 32(2), 195–209. https://doi.org/10.1037/0012-1622.214.171.124.
Frank, J. L., Bose, B., & Schrobenhauser-Clonan, A. (2014). Effectiveness of a school-based yoga program on adolescent mental health, stress coping strategies, and attitudes toward violence: findings from a high-risk sample. Journal of Applied School Psychology, 30(1), 29–49. https://doi.org/10.1080/15377903.2013.863259.
Frank, J. L., Kohler, K., Peal, A., & Bose, B. (2017). Effectiveness of a school-based yoga program on adolescent mental health and school performance: findings from a randomized controlled trial. Mindfulness, 8(3), 544–553. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12671-016-0628-3.
Frick, P. J., & Morris, A. S. (2004). Temperament and developmental pathways to conduct problems. Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology, 33(1), 54–68. https://doi.org/10.1207/S15374424JCCP3301_6.
Gard, T., Noggle, J. J., Park, C. L., Vago, D. R., & Wilson, A. (2014). Potential self-regulatory mechanisms of yoga for psychological health. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 8, 770. https://doi.org/10.3389/fnhum.2014.00770.
Garnefski, N., Boon, S., & Kraaij, V. (2003). Relationships between cognitive strategies of adolescents and depressive symptomatology across different types of life event. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 32(6), 401–408. https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1025994200559.
Granath, J., Ingvarsson, S., von Thiele, U., & Lundberg, U. (2006). Stress management: a randomized study of cognitive behavioural therapy and yoga. Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, 35(1), 3–10. https://doi.org/10.1080/16506070500401292.
Gross, J. J., & Muñoz, R. F. (1995). Emotion regulation and mental health. Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice, 2(2), 151–164. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-2850.1995.tb00036.x.
Henry, J. D., & Crawford, J. R. (2005). The short-form version of the Depression Anxiety Stress Scales (DASS-21): construct validity and normative data in a large non-clinical sample. British Journal of Clinical Psychology, 44(2), 227–239. https://doi.org/10.1348/014466505X29657.
Jeitler, M., Kessler, C. S., Zillgen, H., Högl, M., Stöckigt, B., Peters, A., & Steckhan, N. (2020). Yoga in school sport—a non-randomized controlled pilot study in Germany. Complementary Therapies in Medicine, 48, 102243. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ctim.2019.102243.
Kaufman, E. A., Xia, M., Fosco, G., Yaptangco, M., Skidmore, C. R., & Crowell, S. E. (2016). The Difficulties in Emotion Regulation Scale Short Form (DERS-SF): validation and replication in adolescent and adult samples. Journal of Psychopathology and Behavioral Assessment, 38(3), 443–455. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10862-015-9529-3.
Kessler, R. C., & Wang, P. S. (2008). The descriptive epidemiology of commonly occurring mental disorders in the United States. Annual Review of Public Health, 29(1), 115–129. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev.publhealth.29.020907.090847.
Khalsa, S. B. S., & Butzer, B. (2016). Yoga in school settings: a research review. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1373(1), 45–55. https://doi.org/10.1111/nyas.13025.
Khalsa, S. B. S., Butzer, B., Shorter, S. M., Reinhardt, K. M., & Cope, S. (2013). Yoga reduces performance anxiety in adolescent musicians. Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, 19(2), 34–45. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/236223778.
Kokinakis, L. H. (2011). Yoga and adolescents: what do we know? The effects of yoga on adolescents’ cognition and social-emotional development (Doctoral dissertation). https://deepblue.lib.umich.edu/handle/2027.42/91559.
Lovibond, P. F., & Lovibond, S. H. (1995). The structure of negative emotional states: comparison of the Depression Anxiety Stress Scales (DASS) with the Beck Depression and Anxiety Inventories. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 33(3), 335–343. https://doi.org/10.1016/0005-7967(94)00075-U.
Mathews, B. L., Koehn, A. J., Abtahi, M. M., & Kerns, K. A. (2016). Emotional competence and anxiety in childhood and adolescence: a meta-analytic review. Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review, 19(2), 162–184. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10567-016-0204-3.
Modecki, K. L., Zimmer-Gembeck, M. J., & Guerra, N. (2017). Emotion regulation, coping, and decision making: three linked skills for preventing externalizing problems in adolescence. Child Development, 88(2), 417–426. https://doi.org/10.1111/cdev.12734.
Raikes, H. A., & Thompson, R. A. (2005). Links between risk and attachment security: models of influence. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 26(4), 440–455. https://doi.org/10.1016/J.APPDEV.2005.04.003.
Raver, C. C. (2004). Placing emotional self-regulation in sociocultural and socioeconomic contexts. Child Development, 75(2), 346–353. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-8624.2004.00676.x.
Razza, R. A., Bergen-Cico, D., & Raymond, K. (2015). Enhancing preschoolers’ self-regulation via mindful yoga. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 24(2), 372–385. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10826-013-9847-6.
Roberts, R. E., Roberts, C. R., & Chan, W. (2009). One-year incidence of psychiatric disorders and associated risk factors among adolescents in the community. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 50(4), 405–415. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1469-7610.2008.01969.x.
Roemer, L., Williston, S. K., & Rollins, L. G. (2015). Mindfulness and emotion regulation. Current Opinion in Psychology, 3, 52–57. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.copsyc.2015.02.006.
Rubin, D. B. (1974). Estimating causal effects of treatments in randomized and nonrandomized studies. Journal of Educational Psychology, 66(5), 688–701. https://doi.org/10.1037/h0037350.
Sarkissian, M., Trent, N. L., Huchting, K., & Singh Khalsa, S. B. (2018). Effects of a Kundalini Yoga Program on elementary and middle school studentsʼ stress, affect, and resilience. Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics, 39(3), 1. https://doi.org/10.1097/DBP.0000000000000538.
Schafer J. L. (1997). Analysis of Incomplete Multivariate Data. New York: Chapman & Hall.
Shadish, W. R., Clark, M. H., & Steiner, P. M. (2012). Can nonrandomized experiments yield accurate answers? A randomized experiment comparing random and nonrandom assignments. nonrandom assignments. Journal of the American Statistical Association, 103, 1334–1344. https://doi.org/10.1198/016214508000000733.
Shannahoff-Khalsa, D. S. (2004). An introduction to Kundalini Yoga meditation techniques that are specific for the treatment of psychiatric disorders. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 10(1), 91–101. https://doi.org/10.1089/107555304322849011.
Silk, J. S., Steinberg, L., & Morris, A. S. (2003). Adolescents’ emotion regulation in daily life: links to depressive symptoms and problem behavior. Child Development, 74(6), 1869–1880. https://doi.org/10.1046/j.1467-8624.2003.00643.x.
Silvers, J. A., McRae, K., Gabrieli, J. D. E., Gross, J. J., Remy, K. A., & Ochsner, K. N. (2012). Age-related differences in emotional reactivity, regulation, and rejection sensitivity in adolescence. Emotion, 12(6), 1235–1247. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0028297.
Steinberg, L. (2005). Cognitive and affective development in adolescence. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 9(2), 69–74. https://doi.org/10.1016/J.TICS.2004.12.005.
Suveg, C., & Zeman, J. (2004). Emotion regulation in children with anxiety disorders. Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology, 33(4), 750–759. https://doi.org/10.1207/s15374424jccp3304_10.
Terry, P. C., Lane, A. M., Lane, H. J., & Keohane, L. (1999). Development and validation of a mood measure for adolescents. Journal of Sports Sciences, 17(11), 861–872. https://doi.org/10.1080/026404199365425.
Thiese, M. S. (2014). Observational and interventional study design types; an overview. Biochemia Medica: Biochemia Medica, 24(2), 199–210.
Vetter, T. (1988). The ideas and meditative practices of early Buddhism. Brill Archive.
Weinberg, A., & Klonsky, E. D. (2009). Measurement of emotion dysregulation in adolescents. Psychological Assessment, 21(4), 616–621. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0016669.
Yap, M. B. H., Allen, N. B., & Sheeber, L. (2007). Using an emotion regulation framework to understand the role of temperament and family processes in risk for adolescent depressive disorders. Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review, 10(2), 180–196. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10567-006-0014-0.
Zeman, J., Klimes-Dougan, B., Cassano, M., & Adrian, M. (2007). Measurement Issues in emotion research with children and adolescents. Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice, 14(4), 377–401. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-2850.2007.00098.x.
We wish to acknowledge many people who helped with this multi-site, applied research study. First, we want to thank the students from University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and Duke University who participated as team members on the Duke Bass Connections project from Fall 2016-Spring 2017: Sarah Jeffries, Marah Jolibois, Matthew Kaplan, and Sue Leichliter. We also want to thank everyone at the North Carolina public schools and the Y.O.G.A for Youth staff that contributed their efforts to the after-school program.
This work was supported by Duke University Bass Connections.
KM: designed and executed the study, conducted the data analyses, and wrote the paper. MB: designed and conducted the study, and edited the paper. KKK: designed and conducted the study, including the yoga class protocol, and wrote several sections of the paper. EH: conducted the study and edited the paper. SBSK: collaborated in the writing and editing of the final manuscript.
Conflict of Interest
The authors declare no competing interests.
All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.
Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.
Publisher’s note Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
About this article
Cite this article
McMahon, K., Berger, M., Khalsa, K.K. et al. A Non-randomized Trial of Kundalini Yoga for Emotion Regulation within an After-school Program for Adolescents. J Child Fam Stud 30, 711–722 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10826-021-01911-9
- Yoga intervention
- YOGA for Youth
- Socio-emotional learning
- Emotion regulation