Effects of Classroom-Based Yoga Intervention on Stress and Attention in 2nd and 3rd Grade Students
Yoga 4 Classrooms has partnered with the University of Massachusetts-Lowell Department of Exercise Physiology research team, led by Danielle Day, Ph.D, to determine the effects of a classroom yoga and mindfulness program on students’ physiological stress, perceived behavior and attention.
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
• Sample: 36 students in 2nd and 3rd grades, 2 classroom teacher’s reports
• Measures: salivary cortisol, attention network test, teacher surveys
• Test of both acute response, immediately following the first yoga session, and longitudinal effects after 10 weeks of the program
After 10 weeks of yoga classes, cortisol level was significantly lower in 2nd graders (longitudinal response). A potential explanation may be that younger children are more receptive to contemplative practices. However, this data should be interpreted cautiously as the study was limited by lack of a control group to confirm the longitudinal change was attributed to the yoga intervention and not some other factor.
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
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 and Adam Potts from University of Massachusetts- Lowell and their research team for conducting the study, as well as Dr. Sat Bir Khalsa and his lab members at Harvard Medical School/ Brigham and Woman's Hospital, for providing scientific support and consultation for this study.
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.