NEW ORLEANS — Keeping young minds happy and healthy as school grows more challenging can pose a challenge for parents, but a new study finds that the schools themselves can help to greatly reduce anxiety a child may be experiencing.
Researchers from Tulane University found that school-based yoga helped improve the emotional health and overall well-being of third graders who exhibited signs of stress and anxiety at the start of the school year.
“Our initial work found that many kids expressed anxious feelings in third grade as the classroom work becomes more developmentally complex,” explains Alessandra Bazzano, associate professor of Global Community Health and Behavioral Sciences at Tulane, and the principal author of the study, in a university release. “Even younger children are experiencing a lot of stress and anxiety, especially around test time.”
The authors worked with a local public school to add mindfulness and yoga exercises to the school’s existing empathy-based programming for students who need additional support. Third graders who battled symptoms of anxiety were split into two groups. A control group of 32 students received the normal care, which includes counseling and other activities organized by a school social worker. Another group of 20 students participated in small-group yoga sessions for eight weeks using the Yoga Education program. These sessions included breathing exercises, guided relaxation, and several age-appropriate yoga poses.
Researchers then used two common and widely recognized research tools to measure each group’s health-related quality of life. One examination, The Brief Multidimensional Students’ Life Satisfaction Scale-Peabody Treatment Progress Battery, assessed life satisfaction. The other, the Pediatric Quality of Life Inventory, was used to measure psychosocial conditions and emotional well-being.
The authors found students who took part in the Yoga Education program showed improvements in stress and anxiety symptoms compared to those in the control group.
“The intervention improved psychosocial and emotional quality of life scores for students, as compared to their peers who received standard care,” says Bazzano. “We also heard from teachers about the benefits of using yoga in the classroom, and they reported using yoga more often each week, and throughout each day in class, following the professional development component of intervention.”
The full study was published in the journal Psychology Research and Behavior Management.