Our Research Work

A key objective of Teen Yoga is to help collect evidence that will help to convince more people of the value of yoga for young people.

Much evidence comes from the experience of yoga, in the day-to-day running of yoga programs in schools across the UK and other places.

We collect feedback on the classes and this helps the teachers to gauge the benefit of their classes and gives them evidence to show the school of the benefits. We also collect this to get a picture of the satisfaction across the population of young people doing yoga. To see this information look at (Our Reach)[1] 

The feedback is usually very good, and most young people who do yoga notice the benefits very quickly. This “experiential” evidence means that once young people have begun a program they need little persuading to continue. However, there is a need to convince decision-makers at policy level and school principals who don’t do yoga of the benefits. For this reason, though the feedback, and the sheer numbers of people doing yoga are useful, we need the other dimension: academic research.

Wellbeing

The EU-funded HIPPOCAMPUS Programme introduced yoga-based practices in youth contexts such as schools and youth associations. The programme focused on improving the well-being of young people, especially disadvantaged young people, through the practice of yoga-based techniques. 750 young people and teachers took part.

There was a statistically significant improvement in wellbeing, a reduction in perceived stress and a reduction in sleep related problems. Also participants felt more calm and relaxed due to the yoga, had increased focus and concentration, and there was a greater sense of social cohesion.

Mental health

As part of a BBC programme looking at ways of reducing stress for young people (BBC Ouch 2018) three groups were compared: a yoga group, a singing group and a control group. The experiment chose 3 groups of young people aged 13-17 who had been doing the activity over a 3-month period).

They measured the levels of the stress hormone cortisol before and after a session. In both the singing group and the yoga group cortisol levels dropped substantially during the session, but more importantly the yoga group had much lower baseline cortisol level (0.12 compared to 0.20 control and 0.16 singing) due to their continued practice of yoga, indicating that the benefits of yoga are sustained over time.

Behaviour

At Foxwood Academy, Nottingham, in 2020, in the autumn term just after the lockdown ended, the school introduced yoga in the form of a short series of yoga-based practices (chair-based postures, breathing and some meditation) to be implemented within each secondary classroom for ten minutes at the start of the first class after lunch. The total number of students was 75 of ages between 11 and 18.

The previous autumn term the secondary school had had just over 80 behavioural incidents during the term. When the yoga-techniques were introduced, this figure dropped by 52%. This improved class and school atmosphere and allowed for greater focus on teaching and learning.

Academic

In addition to the behavioural effects, the students at Foxwood showed substantial improvements in their focus and concentration; 100% of the teachers affirmed that their “readiness to learn” was better, much better or excellent. There were also indications of direct academic improvement.

Among the Key Stage 3 students the percentage of students on track for English Reading increased from 52% to 72% while other indicators maintained similar levels to the previous year, which was viewed as very positive given the negative effects of the lockdown.

“We thought it would be hard for the less mobile students… when actually it was a great leveller.

They all found something for themselves in the project. One made choices about where he wanted to move to find new freedom on the floor… another responded to the music, sang to himself and danced, others took to the warrior story with great enthusiasm, pushing themselves and acting it out… so much more came out of this than physical activity than we ever anticipated: choice, master of challenge, unlocking hidden talents.”
Lucy Wawrzyniak, Deputy Head

Though there is some good research supporting the benefits of yoga for young people – for a summary of this have a look at The Body of Evidence – there is not very much large-scale research around the benefits of yoga for adolescents.

One of the key aims of Teen Yoga is to address this and since our inception, we have been working with universities and other organisations to support research in this area. Collaborators include Leeds University, Salamanca University, The Norwegian University of Science and Technology, University College London, The Anna Freud Institute, and Westminster University. For more details look at our list of partners.

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