Attention high school teachers! Do you find yourself rushing to yoga after school to help you deal with the stress of being around teenagers all day? Perhaps you do, and you go because you know after an hour of yoga you will feel better, calmer, and have more energy for an evening of grading papers. It is generally understood that after practicing yoga, your mind will be clearer and as a result, you won’t stress over the little things that would otherwise bog you down and wear you out.
But if you are stressed from being around teens all day, how do you think the teens feel after constantly being around each other? Peer pressure, hormones, social anxieties and low self-esteem are all components that contribute to having a high level of stress.
The Society for Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics recently piloted a study to determine the psychological effects of yoga on high school students. Led by Jessica Noggle of the Harvard Medical School in Boston, the results of the study concluded positive benefits of yoga on teenagers.
For ten weeks, one group of teenagers participated in regular physical education classes, while the other group practiced Kripalu yoga; a style of yoga that consists of yoga poses, breathing exercises and meditation. Prior to the start of the PE or yoga program, and after ten weeks of attendance in class, students completed a run of psychologically focused tests. Testing included measuring states of anxiety, tension and mood.
After ten weeks, students in the PE class had greater mood problems, more negative emotions and higher levels of anxiety. The students in the yoga class had little or no change in mood, plus they expressed less negativity overall.
One might conclude that traditional style PE classes may stress out students more, especially as compared with yoga. Unlike the tense feeling of trying to keep up with peers that flaunt a high level of athletic prowess, yoga is non-competitive and accessible to all skills and abilities. Perhaps substituting bombardment, whiffle ball or basketball drills with a few sun salutations might be a better choice for teens.
Although this was only a pilot study of relatively small proportions, the results seem congruent with larger yet similar studies. If yoga helps to calm down the mind and body of an adult, one would feel certain to conclude it can do the same for teenagers.