Journal of Youth and Adolescence

, Volume 46, Issue 3, pp 603–632 | Cite as

Evaluation of Yoga for Preventing Adolescent Substance Use Risk Factors in a Middle School Setting: A Preliminary Group-Randomized Controlled Trial

  • Bethany ButzerEmail author
  • Amanda LoRusso
  • Sunny H. Shin
  • Sat Bir S. Khalsa
Empirical Research


Adolescence is a key developmental period for preventing substance use initiation, however prevention programs solely providing educational information about the dangers of substance use rarely change adolescent substance use behaviors. Recent research suggests that mind–body practices such as yoga may have beneficial effects on several substance use risk factors, and that these practices may serve as promising interventions for preventing adolescent substance use. The primary aim of the present study was to test the efficacy of yoga for reducing substance use risk factors during early adolescence. Seventh-grade students in a public school were randomly assigned by classroom to receive either a 32-session yoga intervention (n = 117) in place of their regular physical education classes or to continue with physical-education-as-usual (n = 94). Participants (63.2 % female; 53.6 % White) completed pre- and post-intervention questionnaires assessing emotional self-regulation, perceived stress, mood impairment, impulsivity, substance use willingness, and actual substance use. Participants also completed questionnaires at 6-months and 1-year post-intervention. Results revealed that participants in the control condition were significantly more willing to try smoking cigarettes immediately post-intervention than participants in the yoga condition. Immediate pre- to post-intervention differences did not emerge for the remaining outcomes. However, long-term follow-up analyses revealed a pattern of delayed effects in which females in the yoga condition, and males in the control condition, demonstrated improvements in emotional self-control. The findings suggest that school-based yoga may have beneficial effects with regard to preventing males’ and females’ willingness to smoke cigarettes, as well as improving emotional self-control in females. However additional research is required, particularly with regard to the potential long-term effects of mind–body interventions in school settings. The present study contributes to the literature on adolescence by examining school-based yoga as a novel prevention program for substance use risk factors.


Yoga Substance use Adolescence Meditation Mindfulness School Addiction 



We are thankful to the KYIS intervention teachers and program mentors: Janna Delgado, Iona Smith, Jordan Grinstein, Renee Merrill, Lucie Kasova, Monica Laitner-Laserna, Cara Masullo, Katherine Olson, and Mikki Pugh. We also acknowledge the headmaster, assistant headmasters, school staff, physical education teachers, and students at the school who facilitated and/or participated in the project. We are grateful to Mark Greenberg for providing guidance during the development and implementation of this project. We also thank Frankye Riley who assisted with preparing this paper for publication.


This work was funded by grants from the Institute for Extraordinary Living of the Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health and the National Institute on Drug Abuse (Grant No. R34 DA032756).

Authors’ Contributions

BB coordinated the study, conducted statistical analyses, and drafted the manuscript. AL assisted with the execution of the study and drafted portions of the manuscript. SHS and SBSK conceived of the study, supervised the coordination of the study, and drafted portions of the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

Conflict of interest

The authors report no conflicts of interest.

Ethical Approval

This study was reviewed and approved by the Brigham and Women’s Hospital Institutional Review Board (Partners Human Research Committee). All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Written parental consent and written child assent were obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Bethany Butzer
    • 1
    Email author
  • Amanda LoRusso
    • 2
  • Sunny H. Shin
    • 3
  • Sat Bir S. Khalsa
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of New York in PraguePraha 2, PragueCzech Republic
  2. 2.Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women’s HospitalHarvard Medical SchoolBostonUSA
  3. 3.School of Social Work and Department of Psychiatry, School of MedicineVirginia Commonwealth UniversityRichmondUSA

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