A Non-randomized Trial of Kundalini Yoga for Emotion Regulation within an After-school Program for Adolescents

Abstract

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.

Highlights

  • 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.

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Data Availability

Data and related experimental details cannot be made openly accessible because the authors do not have the permission to do so.

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Acknowledgements

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.

Funding

This work was supported by Duke University Bass Connections.

Author Contributions

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.

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Correspondence to Kibby McMahon.

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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

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Keywords

  • Yoga intervention
  • YOGA for Youth
  • Kundalini
  • Socio-emotional learning
  • Emotion regulation
  • Adolescents