Moody Teenagers? Yoga May Help
Parents of moody teenagers take note: If you’re tired of the rolled eyes and are worried about your children’s emotional and mental health, then yoga may help. A new study found that high school students who practiced yoga scored better on a number of psychological factors.
Teenager years are challenging times
Parents of teenagers often use words like “moody” and “defiant” and “stressed” when they describe their children. The teenage years are times when adolescents are searching for a sense of self, asserting their independence, and in the process, undergoing much emotional turmoil.
Although parents realize the teenager years are challenging times, they wish there was something they could do to help relieve the stress, depression, and anxiety, which are a severe strain on their children’s mental health. Yoga may be some help.
Researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School evaluated the impact of Kripalu yoga classes on the mental health of 11th and 12th grade students at a Massachusetts high school. Two thirds were assigned to take Kripalu yoga classes for 10 weeks, 2 to 3 times a week, while the rest of the students attended regular physical education classes.
Kripalu yoga involves physical poses along with breathing exercises, deep relaxation, and meditation that can help individuals objectively experience their physical, emotional, and mental being. To assist the investigators in identifying the impact of yoga on the teenagers, psychosocial tests were administered before and after the 10-week study.
Here’s what the investigators learned:
- Teenagers who took yoga scored better on mood and anxiety compared with the control group
- Negative emotions got worse among students in the control group but improved among teens who took yoga
- Positive emotions did not change in either group
- Teenagers in both groups did not show any significant difference in self-regulatory skills. These skills include resilience, mindfulness, and controlling anger, which are believed to protect individuals against developing mental health problems
- Most of the teenagers said they wanted to continue taking yoga classes
Other yoga studies
Among the scores of yoga studies on the benefits of the practice, some have explored its impact on children and adolescents. For example:
- A recent review evaluated the effect of exercise on depression, anxiety, chronic illnesses, growth, and overweight in children and adolescents. Of the studies that involved yoga, the focus was on ADHD and anxiety, and the findings suggested yoga may be beneficial because it may stimulate pressure receptors that lead to increased vagal activity, decreased stress hormones, and an increase in the production of antidepressant neurotransmitters such as serotonin.
- A previous study from the University of Colorado School of Medicine evaluated use of yoga as a complementary therapy for adolescents, but focused on physical rather than mental health. The study did, however, note that “yoga appears promising as a complementary therapy for children and adolescents.”
- A Boston College study of 4th and 5th grade girls explored the impact of yoga on stress reduction. One group of girls met for 1 hour a week for 8 weeks and were taught mindfulness through yoga while the control group was on a wait list. Girls in the yoga group showed greater appraisal of stress and greater frequency of coping than did the control group.
According to the authors of the latest study, which was led by Jessica Noggle, PhD, their findings were “generally consistent” with the few yoga studies conducted previously among school children. Although larger and longer-term studies are needed to accurately identify the mental health benefits of yoga for teenagers, parents should take note of the positive findings thus far. Yoga anyone?
Field T. Exercise research on children and adolescents. Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice 2012 Feb; 18(1): 54-59
Kaley-Isley LC et al. Yoga as a complementary therapy for children and adolescents: a guide for clinicians. Psychiatry (Edgmont) 2010 Aug; 7(8): 20-32
Noggle JJ et al. Benefits of yoga for psychosocial well-being in a US high school curriculum: a preliminary randomized controlled trial. Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics 2012 Apr; 33(3): 193-201
White LS. Reducing stress in school-age girls through mindful yoga. J Pediatr Health Care 2012 Jan-Feb; 26(1): 45-56
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