Research Support for Yoga, Mindfulness & Social/Emotional Learning

This page summarizes research on the benefits of yoga, mindfulness and social/emotional learning including neuroscience, the latest scientific studies, and specific benefits for educators and students. We also describe research studies on the Yoga Calm curriculum.

You can stay up to date on highlights of the latest research on these topics by liking our Facebook page. You can also sign up for our newsletter, which contains summaries of research, tips for implementation, personal health, news and information on our courses and support materials.

Research on Yoga Calm

Since 2005 over 20,000 educators, therapists and related service providers have been trained in Yoga Calm techniques benefiting over 250,000 youth. Assessments and research from their implementation of Yoga Calm’s integrated approach to yoga, mindfulness and social/emotional learning have indicated the following results.

Stress Reduction, Attention & Behavior Support

A 2014 Wayne State University study of the Yoga Calm program at a low-SES Detroit-area elementary school reported significant improvements in the intervention group in the following areas:

  • Decrease in stress
  • Improvement in student attention and on-task behavior
  • Improvement in students’ behavior both in the classroom and outside of school
  • 72% of students reported enjoyment of yoga and unprompted use of Yoga Calm techniques at home to deal with anger, aggression and the need to regulate

The classroom teacher of the intervention group also had the following report:

“Yoga in my classroom creates a sense of community. They are more of a unified group.  Something about yoga brings the students together, almost like team building.”

The 10-week study of a third grade sample (n=40) used a mixed methodological approach to gather data, a comparison group and pre-tests to help strengthen the study. Academic achievement also increased, but was not significant relative to the comparison group.

Here’s a video presentation of the findings:

Improved Self Regulation & Time on Task

A 2007 Action Based Research project from Minneapolis Public Schools implementation of Yoga Calm reported:

  • Increased time on task/self‐regulation
  • Decreased behavioral referrals
  • Improved feelings of community
  • Improved auditory comprehension
  • Smoother transitions
  • Improved reflection in writing

Additional Research on Yoga Calm

As of summer, 2016, Yoga Calm has IRB approval with the University of Minnesota and is currently conducting two new controlled studies in Minnesota, at Public School and in an adolescent dual diagnosis unit at the Masonic Children’s Hospital. We are excited about the preliminary results and are looking forward to contributing the the evidence base supporting this important work.

Research on Yoga and Mindfulness for Child & Adolescent Health

In addition to Yoga Calm’s research, numerous other studies have examined the effects of contemplative practices such as yoga and mindfulness for youth. These studies suggest that yoga and mindfulness have a number of benefits for psychological and physical health.

Mental Health. Mindfulness-based interventions may help reduce symptoms of anxiety1 and depression2 in adolescents. Yoga-based interventions may help reduce stress in children.3
Attention & Behavior Support. Mindfulness-based interventions may help reduce aggression1 and improve attention4 in adolescents. Yoga-based interventions may help improve symptoms associated with ADHD.5, 6
Physical Health. Yoga-based interventions may have a positive impact on physical outcomes for youth such as improved physical functioning7 improved gross motor development8 reduced pain intensity9 and increased physical fitness.10

Click here for a summary of the largest and most rigorous meta-analyses and literature reviews on yoga and mindfulness for child and adolescent health. These initial findings have led to a surge of interest in studying yoga and mindfulness in educational settings. Below we highlight current research on yoga and mindfulness in schools.

Research on Yoga in Schools

Research on school-based yoga interventions has increased rapidly over the past several years. As a whole, these studies suggest that school-based yoga may have a number of positive effects on outcomes such as student mental health, behavior, and performance.

Self-Regulation. School-based yoga may help youth effectively manage their emotions11 and behavior.12
Mental Health. School-based yoga may help reduce anxiety13 depression14 and problematic stress responses.15
School Performance. School-based yoga may have positive effects on student grades16 and academic performance.17
Reduced Stress. School-based yoga may have beneficial effects on physical outcomes related to stress such as decreased cortisol concentrations18 and improved stress reactivity.19

Click here for a summary of the largest and most rigorous meta-analyses and literature reviews on yoga in schools.

Research on Mindfulness in Schools

Similar to research on school-based yoga, studies of school-based mindfulness interventions have also increased over the past several years. As a whole, these studies suggest that school-based mindfulness may have a number of positive effects on students, such as improving mental health and increasing student well-being.

Mental Health. School-based mindfulness may help improve mental health by reducing depression20 anxiety21 and stress.22
Well-Being. School-based mindfulness may help improve aspects of student well-being such as social competence23 emotion regulation24 and positive mood.22
Physical Health. School-based mindfulness may help reduce blood pressure25 and enhance sleep quality.26
Attention. School-based mindfulness may help improve student attention.27

Click here for a summary of the largest and most rigorous meta-analyses and literature reviews on mindfulness in schools.

Research on Social-Emotional Learning (SEL)

A growing body of research suggests that schools should focus not only on students’ cognitive development, but on their social and emotional development as well. The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) defines social emotional learning (SEL) as comprising five core competencies: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision making.

Academic Performance. Social-emotional learning interventions improve academic performance, reflecting an 11-percentile-point gain in achievement.28
Problem Behaviors. Programs that focus on enhancing social emotional skills may reduce antisocial behavior29 and behavioral problems such as substance use and dropout / non-attendance.30
Mental Health. Programs that focus on enhancing social emotional skills may reduce symptoms of depression31 and improve self-esteem.32
Positive Social Behaviors. Programs that focus on enhancing social emotional skills may enhance pro-social behaviors such as empathy33 and getting along with others28

Click here for a summary of the largest and most rigorous meta-analyses and literature reviews on social-emotional learning.


1 Bögels, S., Hoogstad, B., van Dun, L., de Schutter, S., & Restifo, K. (2008). Mindfulness training for adolescents with externalizing disorders and their parents. Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapy, 36(02), 193-209. Abstract. 12 Richter, S., Tietjens, M., Ziereis, S., Querfurth, S., & Jansen, P. (2016). Yoga training in junior primary school-aged children has an impact on physical self-perceptions and problem-related behavior. Frontiers in Psychology, 7. Full Text. 23 Schonert-Reichl, K. A., & Lawlor, M. S. (2010). The effects of a mindfulness-based education program on pre-and early adolescents’ well-being and social and emotional competence. Mindfulness, 1(3), 137-151. Abstract.
2 Wicksell, R. K., Melin, L., & Olsson, G. L. (2007). Exposure and acceptance in the rehabilitation of adolescents with idiopathic chronic pain–a pilot study. European Journal of Pain, 11(3), 267-274. Abstract. 13 Noggle, J. J., Steiner, N. J., Minami, T., & Khalsa, S. B. S. (2012). Benefits of yoga for psychosocial well-being in a US high school curriculum: a preliminary randomized controlled trial. Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics, 33(3), 193-201. Abstract. 24 Metz, S. M., Frank, J. L., Reibel, D., Cantrell, T., Sanders, R., & Broderick, P. C. (2013). The effectiveness of the learning to BREATHE program on adolescent emotion regulation. Research in Human Development, 10(3), 252-272. Abstract.
3 Jellesma, F. C., & Cornelis, J. (2012). Mind Magic: A Pilot Study of Preventive Mind-Body-Based Stress Reduction in Behaviorally Inhibited and Activated Children. Journal of Holistic Nursing, 30(1), 55-62. Abstract. 14 Frank, J. L., Bose, B., & Schrobenhauser-Clonan, A. (2014). Effectiveness of a school-based yoga program on adolescent mental health, stress coping strategies, and attitudes toward violence: findings from a high-risk sample. Journal of Applied School Psychology, 30(1), 29-49. Abstract. 25 Brown Wright, L., Gregoski, M. J., Tingen, M. S., Barnes, V. A., & Treiber, F. A. (2011). Impact of stress reduction interventions on hostility and ambulatory systolic blood pressure in African American adolescents. Journal of Black Psychology, 37(2), 210-233. Full Text.
4 Zylowska, L., Ackerman, D. L., Yang, M. H., Futrell, J. L., Horton, N. L., Hale, T. S., … & Smalley, S. L. (2008). Mindfulness meditation training in adults and adolescents with ADHD a feasibility study. Journal of Attention Disorders, 11(6), 737-746. Abstract. 15 Feagans Gould, L., Dariotis, J. K., Mendelson, T., & Greenberg, M. (2012). A school‐based mindfulness intervention for urban youth: Exploring moderators of intervention effects. Journal of Community Psychology, 40(8), 968-982. Abstract. 26 Bei, B., Byrne, M. L., Ivens, C., Waloszek, J., Woods, M. J., Dudgeon, P., … & Allen, N. B. (2013). Pilot study of a mindfulness‐based, multi‐component, in‐school group sleep intervention in adolescent girls. Early Intervention in Psychiatry, 7(2), 213-220. Abstract.
5 Harrison, L. J., Manocha, R., & Rubia, K. (2004). Sahaja yoga meditation as a family treatment programme for children with attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder. Clinical Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 9(4), 479-497. Abstract. 16 Butzer, B., van Over, M., Noggle Taylor, J. J., & Khalsa, S. B. S. (2015). Yoga may mitigate decreases in high school grades. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Abstract. 27 Napoli, M., Krech, P. R., & Holley, L. C. (2005). Mindfulness training for elementary school students: The attention academy. Journal of applied school psychology, 21(1), 99-125. Abstract.
6 Jensen, P. S., & Kenny, D. T. (2004). The effects of yoga on the attention and behavior of boys with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Journal of attention disorders, 7(4), 205-216. Abstract. 17 Kauts, A., & Sharma, N. (2009). Effect of yoga on academic performance in relation to stress. International Journal of Yoga, 2(1), 39. Full Text. 28 Durlak, J. A., Weissberg, R. P., Dymnicki, A. B., Taylor, R. D., & Schellinger, K. B. (2011). The impact of enhancing students’ social and emotional learning: A meta‐analysis of school‐based universal interventions. Child development, 82(1), 405-432. Abstract.
7 Hainsworth, K. R., Salamon, K. S., Stolzman, S. C., Simpson, P. M., Esliger, D., Mascarenhas, B., … & Weisman, S. J. (2014). Hatha Yoga for Pediatric Obesity: A Pilot Study. Journal of Yoga & Physical Therapy, 2014. Full Text. 18 Butzer, B., Day, D., Potts, A., Ryan, C., Coulombe, S., Davies, B., … & Khalsa, S. B. S. (2015). Effects of a classroom-based yoga intervention on cortisol and behavior in second-and third-grade students A pilot study. Journal of Evidence-Based Complementary & Alternative Medicine, 20, 41-49. Full Text. 29 Lösel, F., & Beelmann, A. (2003). Effects of child skills training in preventing antisocial behavior: A systematic review of randomized evaluations. The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 587(1), 84-109. Abstract.
8 Bubela, D., & Gaylord, S. (2014). A comparison of preschoolers’ motor abilities before and after a 6 week yoga program. Journal of Yoga & Physical Therapy, 4(2), 1. Full Text. 19 Fishbein, D., Miller, S., Herman-Stahl, M., Williams, J., Lavery, B., Markovitz, L., … & Johnson, M. (2016). Behavioral and psychophysiological effects of a yoga intervention on high-risk adolescents: A randomized control trial. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 25(2), 518-529. Abstract. 30 Wilson, D. B., Gottfredson, D. C., & Najaka, S. S. (2001). School-based prevention of problem behaviors: A meta-analysis. Journal of quantitative criminology, 17(3), 247-272. Abstract.
9 Brands, M. M., Purperhart, H., & Deckers-Kocken, J. M. (2011). A pilot study of yoga treatment in children with functional abdominal pain and irritable bowel syndrome. Complementary therapies in medicine, 19(3), 109-114. Abstract. 20 Kuyken, W., Weare, K., Ukoumunne, O. C., Vicary, R., Motton, N., Burnett, R., … & Huppert, F. (2013). Effectiveness of the mindfulness in schools programme: non-randomised controlled feasibility study. The British Journal of Psychiatry, 203(2), 126-131. Abstract. 31 Horowitz, J. L., & Garber, J. (2007). The prevention of depressive symptoms in children and adolescents: A meta-analytic review. Journal of consulting and clinical psychology, 74(3), 401. Abstract.
10 Purohit, S. P., Pradhan, B., & Nagendra, H. R. (2016). Effect of yoga on EUROFIT physical fitness parameters on adolescents dwelling in an orphan home: A randomized control study. Vulnerable Children and Youth Studies, 11(1), 33-46. Abstract. 21 Beauchemin, J., Hutchins, T. L., & Patterson, F. (2008). Mindfulness meditation may lessen anxiety, promote social skills, and improve academic performance among adolescents with learning disabilities. Complementary Health Practice Review, 13(1), 34-45. Abstract. 32 Haney, P., & Durlak, J. A. (1998). Changing self-esteem in children and adolescents: A meta-analytical review. Journal of clinical child psychology, 27(4), 423-433. Abstract.
11 Daly, L. A., Haden, S. C., Hagins, M., Papouchis, N., & Ramirez, P. M. (2015). Yoga and emotion regulation in high school students: A randomized controlled trial. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Abstract. 22 Broderick, P. C., & Metz, S. (2009). Learning to BREATHE: A pilot trial of a mindfulness curriculum for adolescents. Advances in School Mental Health Promotion, 2(1), 35-46. Abstract. 33 Durlak, J. A., Domitrovich, C. E., Weissberg, R. P. & Gullotta, T. P. (2015). Handbook of social and emotional learning: Research and practice. New York: Guilford Publications. Summary.

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