Effects of Classroom-Based Yoga Intervention on Stress and Attention in 2nd and 3rd Grade Students
The study was designed to determine the effects of a classroom yoga and mindfulness program on students’ physiological stress, perceived behavior and attention.
The scientific manuscript has been submitted for publication (Butzer et al. (in submission). Effects of a Classroom-Based Yoga Intervention on Cortisol and Perceived Behavior in Second- and Third- Grade Students: A Pilot Study).
The results were presented at the research symposium session of the 2014 Bridging the Hearts and Minds of Youth Conference in San Diego on February 7th 2014.
The poster with the study's results was presented at the Symposium for Yoga Research (SYR) organized by the International Association of Yoga Therapists on June 11-13, 2013 in Boston, MA. You can view the scientific poster here.
The abstract for our pilot/feasibility study was published in the Final Program Guide and Abstracts for IAYT's Symposium on Yoga Research (SYR) in September, 2011.
Preliminary data showed that the perceived improvements after the 10-week yoga intervention, as assessed by the teachers’ surveys, were the ability to deal with stress/anxiety, emotional well-being, attention span, ability to stay on task, ability to concentrate, respect for self/others, and ability to adjust attitude. Based on these perceived outcomes, the research team set out the following study objectives:
• to examine changes in attention
• to assess teachers’ perceptions of the Y4C program’s effects on students’ cognitive, social and emotional skills
Pilot Study design:
- Two randomly assigned classrooms (one second- and one third-grade) at an elementary school in Maine.
- 18 second graders; 20 third graders.
- Both classrooms received the Yoga 4 Classrooms® (Y4C) intervention for 10 weeks
- Measures: salivary cortisol, attention network test, teacher surveys
PHYSIOLOGICAL STRESS: Salivary Cortisol
Both second and third graders also showed a significant decrease in cortisol from before to after the ANT-C at Weeks 1 and 10.
However, neither grade showed additional decreases in cortisol from before to after a single yoga class at Week 1 or Week 10.
PERCEIVED BEHAVIOR: Teacher surveys
Teachers reported an improvement in the following characteristics that were significant regardless of grade (both second & third graders improved):
-ability to be in control of behavior
-ability to manage anger
Overall improvements in 2nd and 3rd graders (statistical interaction effect of time and grade) in:
-ability to concentrate on work
-ability to stay on task
-ability to deal with stress/anxiety
-confidence and self esteem
Summary of Findings:
- No acute effect of a single yoga class on cortisol concentrations in second or third graders.
- Second graders did, however, show a longitudinal effect in which baseline levels of cortisol significantly decreased from before to after the entire 10-week intervention.
- Second and third graders also both showed significant decreases in cortisol from before to after the ANT-C cognitive task.
- Second graders generally exhibited more perceived behavioral changes than third graders.
As with any study, there are limitations and the need for further tests and analyses. Because of the pilot study design, these results do not allow us to attribute the changes in stress response or other characteristics to the yoga classes specifically, although they do show the possibility of longitudinal effect of yoga on children’s stress levels, and their ability to self-regulate. Due to lack control group, these differences may be attributed to the student’s maturity level, the activity level of the students, class dynamics, and the willingness of the students to learn. Nevertheless, this study is important as it suggest that a long-term practice of mind-body skills positively impacts the stress levels of students, especially at a younger age.
We are looking forward to the follow-up study that will address some of these limitations.
We want to thank Dr. Danielle Day, Dr. Adam Potts from University of Massachusetts- Lowell and their research team for conducting the study, as well as Dr. Sat Bir Khalsa and Dr. Bethany Butzer at Harvard Medical School/ Brigham and Woman's Hospital, for preparing the scientific publication of the study results.
Many thanks to the students and teachers of the Horace Mitchell Elementary School in Kittery, ME and Principal David Foster for their support and enthusiasm in conducting this study, as well as our lead Yoga 4 Classrooms Trainer Sharon Trull for facilitating the program's implementation in the school and assistance with the research.