Yoga and Mindfulness In School Helped Children With Anxiety
By Heather Callaghan, Editor
A small study compared school-based yoga/mindfulness to typical school methods of dealing with anxiety in children.
Typical methods of school-based help for anxiety include speaking to a counselor and other activities guided by a social worker.
A Tulane University study published in the journal Psychology Research and Behavior Management reports that “participating in yoga and mindfulness activities at school helps third-graders exhibiting anxiety improve their wellbeing and emotional health.”
Researchers worked with a public school in New Orleans to add mindfulness and yoga to the school’s existing empathy-based programming for students needing supplementary support. Third graders who were screened for symptoms of anxiety at the beginning of the school year were randomly assigned to two groups. A control group of 32 students received care as usual, which included counseling and other activities led by a school social worker.
The intervention group of 20 students participated in small group yoga/mindfulness activities for eight weeks using a Yoga Ed curriculum. Students attended the small group activities at the beginning of the school day. The sessions included breathing exercises, guided relaxation and several traditional yoga poses appropriate for children.
Principal author Alessandra Bazzano, associate professor of Global Community Health and Behavioral Sciences at Tulane University School of Public Health said:
The intervention improved psychosocial and emotional quality of life scores for students, as compared to their peers who received standard care. We also heard from teachers about the benefits of using yoga in the classroom, and they reported using yoga more often each week, and throughout each day in class, following the professional development component of intervention.
Third grade seems to be the time when academic pressures increase leading to anxietal stress in children. This can result in sending the child to the principal’s office where they may be evaluated and compelled to speak with a counselor or questioned by a social worker. Modern school-age children have the compounded stress of Common Core curriculum, standardized tests and “saving the world” morality lessons. Not to mention, being taught repeatedly of the horrors of past history.
Our initial work found that many kids expressed anxious feelings in third grade as the classroom work becomes more developmentally complex. Even younger children are experiencing a lot of stress and anxiety, especially around test time.
So far, other schools that have incorporated yoga and/or mindfulness into their curriculum have achieved stunning results.
A Missouri school principal decided to skip sending kids to the principal’s office and instead send them to a calming “mindfulness room.” This led to students receiving a lifelong skill in solving a problem with a calm demeanor.
Likewise, an Arkansas school decided that yoga and meditation were better than punishing students with detention or suspension. “[it] actually taught the students how to redirect their negative energy into something positive,” the principal said.
Another school decided that homework was a waste of time and that students would be better served to spend time with family or doing something fun. We’re sure all these ideas make school a little more bearable!
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