Evaluation of the Mental Health Benefits of Yoga in a Secondary School: A Preliminary Randomized Controlled Trial

Abstract

The goal of this study was to evaluate potential mental health benefits of yoga for adolescents in secondary school. Students were randomly assigned to either regular physical education classes or to 11 weeks of yoga sessions based upon the Yoga Ed program over a single semester. Students completed baseline and end-program self-report measures of mood, anxiety, perceived stress, resilience, and other mental health variables. Independent evaluation of individual outcome measures revealed that yoga participants showed statistically significant differences over time relative to controls on measures of anger control and fatigue/inertia. Most outcome measures exhibited a pattern of worsening in the control group over time, whereas changes in the yoga group over time were either minimal or showed slight improvements. These preliminary results suggest that implementation of yoga is acceptable and feasible in a secondary school setting and has the potential of playing a protective or preventive role in maintaining mental health.

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Acknowledgments

This work was supported by a gift from Steve Glick and additional funding from the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health. We thank Monument Mountain Regional High School faculty and staff Maeve Hitzenbuhler, Andrew Luke Bloom, Michelle Campbell, Mike Powell, Sean Flynn, and Becky Campetti for their facilitation of the study and the student body for their participation. Technical research assistance/study coordination was provided by Torrey Baldwin, Tosca Braun, Jessica Frey, and Janna Delgado, and yoga instruction was by Janna Delgado, Iona Brigham, Jane Rosen, Talitha Eustice, Connie Wilson, Karen Arp-Sandel, and Karlee Fain. We thank Angela Wilson, Vandita Marchesiello, Barbara Bonner, Kelly Baxter Spitz, and Carolyn Butler from the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health for administrative assistance. S. Khalsa and D. Cohen have received consultant fees from the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health. S. Cope is the director of the Institute for Extraordinary Living and on the paid staff of the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health.

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Correspondence to Sat Bir S. Khalsa PhD.

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This work was done at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, 75 Francis Street, Boston, MA 02115.

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Khalsa, S.B.S., Hickey-Schultz, L., Cohen, D. et al. Evaluation of the Mental Health Benefits of Yoga in a Secondary School: A Preliminary Randomized Controlled Trial. J Behav Health Serv Res 39, 80–90 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11414-011-9249-8

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Keywords

  • Meditation
  • Adolescent
  • Anxiety
  • Anger
  • Stress