Kindergarten-based yoga programme improves cognition and behaviour in children

A randomised controlled trial published in Frontiers of Psychology, assesses the impact of a kindergarten-based yoga programme on cognitive performance, visual-motor coordination, and inattentive and hyperactive behaviours in five-year-old Tunisian children.

Forty-five children (28 female and 17 male) took part in the 12-week trial, and were randomly assigned to one of three groups. Fifteen children performed Hatha yoga twice a week for 30 minutes per session, 15 children performed generic physical education twice a week for 30 minutes per session, and another 15 children performed no kind of physical activity, and served as a control group.

Prior to and after the 12 weeks, all children completed a visual attention test and a visual-motor precision test, and teachers evaluated their inattention and hyperactivity behaviours. The three interventions were conducted in parallel and supervised by teachers who were not involved in rating the children’s behaviour pre- and post-test.

Sana Jarraya and colleagues found that yoga had a positive impact on children’s inattention and hyperactivity compared to the other two groups. Yoga also had a positive impact on the completion times for two visual-motor precision tasks in comparison to children in the physical education group. The visual attention scores of the yoga group were also higher in comparison to the control group.

The researchers concluded that yoga could be a cost-effective exercise for enhancing cognitive and behavioural factors relevant for leaning and academic achievement among young children.

Source: 12 weeks of kindergarten-based yoga practice increases visual attention, visual-motor precision and decreases behavior of inattention and hyperactivity in 5-year-old children (April 2019), Frontiers in Psychology

Mindfulness and yoga for primary pupils

A randomised controlled trial published in Psychology Research and Behavior Management assesses the benefits of introducing yoga and mindfulness into elementary (primary) classrooms.

Alessandra N Bazzano and colleagues worked with a public school in New Orleans to add mindfulness and yoga to the school’s existing empathy-based programme for pupils needing extra support. Third grade (Year 4) pupils were screened for symptoms of anxiety (using the Screen for Child Anxiety Related Emotional Disorders scale), and were then randomly split into an intervention group (n=20) and a control group (n=32). Pupils in the intervention group participated in a yoga and mindfulness programme for eight weeks, while the control group received the standard care, which included counselling and activities from a school social worker. All pupils filled out questionnaires to measure quality of life and life satisfaction across a number of different variables before, during and after the treatment period.

Pupils in the intervention group showed a significantly greater improvement in psychosocial and emotional quality of life compared with pupils who received standard care.

The researchers acknowledge that while this study was small, and more research is needed, introducing pupils to yoga and mindfulness may help to alleviate anxious feelings experienced in third grade due to their work becoming more complex, and learning how to handle these pressures sooner, rather than later, may promote healthy skills throughout life.

Source: Effect of mindfulness and yoga on quality of life for elementary school students and teachers: results of a randomized controlled school-based study (April 2018), Psychology Research and Behavior Management, Volume 2018:11

Does yoga improve academic performance more than PE?

A recent study published in Mind, Brain, and Education looks at the impact of a yoga programme on the academic performance of secondary school students.

At a New York City public high school, 112 students were randomly assigned to one of four yoga or six PE classes. The students were in Grades 9-11 (age 14-17); 59% were Hispanic and 22% Black, 11% Asian, and 8% White. Both PE and yoga classes met twice a week for 45 minutes throughout the academic year. The yoga curriculum used mindfulness and yoga-based exercises to help students focus on their work and respond appropriately to challenging situations. The PE class included weight lifting, fitness exercises, and common games, varied by the class teacher.

Student achievement was measured using their grade point average (GPA) from the previous and current academic years. Students and staff also completed a number of psychosocial measures, including the Response to Stress Questionnaire and the Child and Adolescent Mindfulness Measure.

The study found no difference in GPA between students assigned to the yoga classes and those assigned to the PE classes. Students who were assigned to the yoga classes were associated with lower scores on the psychosocial scales, although this was not significant. There was a higher level of participation by students in PE classes than yoga classes. However, researchers found that students who had high levels of participation in yoga classes had significantly better GPA than those who had high levels of participation in PE classes.

Source: Yoga Improves Academic Performance in Urban High School Students Compared to Physical Education: A Randomized Controlled Trial, Mind, Brain, and Education (2016).