Yoga Benefits Teen Mental Health

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By now the physical benefits resulting from a regular yoga practice are well established and accepted. The mental and psychological effects, however, can be somewhat harder to prove. Helping to do just that, Harvard Medical School has released a study, co-led by Jessica Noggle, Ph.D., on the psychological benefits of yoga on teenagers in 11th and 12th grade. Published in the April issue of the Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics, the study concluded that yoga may “serve a preventative role in adolescent mental health” by providing teens with beneficial ways to deal with stress and trauma, instead of falling into the dangerous and destructive behavioral patterns so prevalent in high schools across the country.

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The study included 51 high school students who were randomly assigned to either regular Physical Education (P.E.) classes, or Kripalu-style yoga classes that included asana, pranayama, relaxation exercises, and mediation. Before and after the 10-week program, the students were given multiple tests and questionnaires regarding their levels of anxiety and stress, their anger management abilities, and their mindfulness and resilience in the face of challenges. The results show that students who took yoga were better equipped to deal with life’s ups and downs than those in the regular P.E. classes. Since mental health disorders often form in the teenage years, learning healthy coping strategies with which to deal with stresses is essential during this time.

Although small in scale and scope, the study’s results are promising. If yoga can really teach young adults positive ways to react and deal with life’s challenges, maybe it should be offered in every high school!