By Lisa Flynn, E-RYT, RCYT
As a kids’ yoga teachers, we have witnessed improvements in mood and behavior following a yoga session. Observing these benefits, many of us become inspired to bring yoga and mindfulness to our local schools, childcare centers, therapeutic settings, etc. However, anecdotal stories may be insufficient to convince parents, school administrators and other decision makers that yoga could be beneficial for their children. How can we explain the benefits of yoga for children and adolescents? How can we convince teenagers that practicing yoga, meditation and mindfulness could be an idea worth trying? What and where is the scientific evidence that it is beneficial?
There is now a growing body of research on the efficacy of kids yoga programs and while preliminary results prevent us from generalizing conclusions, scientists are beginning to understand the psychophysiological underpinnings of why children and adolescents benefit from yoga interventions. With the intention of providing a helpful resource for yoga program providers, schools and researchers interested in this growing body of evidence, Yoga 4 Classrooms and ChildLight Yoga founder, Lisa Flynn, and Bethany Butzer, PhD, partnered to compile the FREE “Research Repository: Yoga, Meditation and Mindfulness for Children, Adolescents and in Schools,” a comprehensive reference list of peer-reviewed published studies which provides links to abstracts and full-text publications when available. The repository includes approximately 423 related studies and research review articles published since 1969, with 46 new peer-reviewed studies published in just the first quarter of this year! The repository will continue to updated quarterly.
In summary, research suggests that yoga is efficacious for reducing stress while improving mood and well-being. In fact, both children and adolescents show improvements in physical and emotional well-being following yoga interventions. In addition, yoga cultivates competencies in mind-body awareness, self-regulation, and physical fitness. These core skills and their positive downstream effects on kids’ behavior, self-worth, and academic performance support the social and emotional learning (SEL) goals as set forth by the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL), which then also supports children in being successful in and out of school. As well, yoga promotes the formation of healthy habits which may serve to counter epidemic child obesity and diabetes rates.