Research Support for Yoga, Mindfulness & Social/Emotional Learning

Research Tables

In the tables below, we summarize some of the largest and most rigorous reviews of the research on yoga, mindfulness and social emotional learning for children and adolescents.

The majority of these reviews report positive effects, however it is important to keep in mind that the results are preliminary.

Yoga for Child & Adolescent Health

DESCRIPTION OF STUDY RESULTS / CONCLUSIONS
Birdee et al. (2009) conducted a systematic literature review of 19 randomized controlled trials and 15 non-randomized controlled trials evaluating the effects of yoga interventions on youth aged 0 to 21 years.

 

Yoga showed beneficial effects in a large majority of the studies for a variety of outcomes including reductions in stress and negative emotions and improvements in symptoms associated with ADHD.
Galantino et al. (2008) conducted a systematic literature review of 24 studies of the effects of yoga on quality of life as related to neuromuscular, cardiopulmonary and musculoskeletal outcomes in children and adolescents. The majority of studies reported positive physiological effects of yoga, however most studies were of low methodological quality thus the results need to be interpreted with discretion.


For additional review articles on yoga for youth, see Hagen and Nayar (2014), Kaley-Isley et al. (2010), and White (2009)

 

Mindfulness for Child & Adolescent Health

DESCRIPTION OF STUDY RESULTS / CONCLUSIONS
Zoogman et al. (2015) conducted a meta-analysis of 20 peer-reviewed studies of mindfulness interventions for youth under age 18 (clinical and non-clinical samples). Mindfulness interventions were beneficial compared to control conditions, with an overall significant effect size within the small to moderate range (del = 0.23). A significantly larger effect size was found for studies that examined psychological symptoms (0.37) and for studies of clinical samples (0.50).

 

Kallapiran et al. (2015) conducted a systematic literature review of 15 randomized controlled trials evaluating the effects of mindfulness-based interventions on mental health symptoms and quality of life for children and adolescents (clinical and non-clinical samples). Conducted a meta-analysis on 11 of the 15 studies.

 

Mindfulness-based stress reduction and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy were more effective than non-active control conditions in non-clinical samples. Acceptance commitment therapy was comparable to active treatment for clinical samples. Other mindfulness-based interventions were effective at improving anxiety and stress but not depression in non-clinical samples compared to non-active control conditions.
Montgomery et al. (2013) conducted a systematic and empirical review of 15 studies of mindfulness-based therapies (acceptance and commitment therapy, dialectical behavior therapy, mindfulness-based cognitive therapy, and mindfulness-based stress reduction) for adolescents aged 12 to 18. The majority of studies reported moderate to very large effect sizes for the impact of mindfulness-based therapies on outcome variables such as psychological well-being, school attendance, and pain management.


For additional review articles on mindfulness for youth, see Perry-Parrish et al. (2016) and Weare (2013).

 

Yoga in Schools

In the table below, we summarize some of the largest and most rigorous reviews of the research on yoga in schools.

Description of Study Results / Conclusions
Khalsa & Butzer (2016) conducted a bibliometric analysis of 47 peer-reviewed studies of yoga in school settings (43 quantitative and 4 qualitative studies). School-based yoga may have beneficial effects on several student outcomes including mental state, health, performance, and positive behaviors. The authors suggest that school-based yoga is an emerging field, with 75% of studies published in the last 5 years.

 

Butzer et al (2016) conducted a narrative literature review of research on yoga in school settings. Proposed a preliminary theoretical model outlining the potential mechanisms and effects of school-based yoga. Examined similarities, differences, and possibilities for integrating school-based yoga, mindfulness, and social-emotional learning programs.

 

Research suggests that school-based yoga may foster three key competencies: self-regulation, mind-body awareness, and physical fitness. These competencies may, in turn, cultivate a variety of positive student outcomes such as improvements in behavior, mental state, health, and performance. Additional research is needed to identify best practices and methods for integrating yoga, mindfulness, and social-emotional learning within schools.

 

Butzer et al (2015) conducted a literature review and online searches to identify school-based yoga programs within the United States. School-based yoga programs were defined as yoga practices or curricula developed by organizations specifically for use in school settings. Programs were compared with regard to their scope of work, curriculum characteristics, teacher certification and training requirements, implementation models, modes of operation and geographical regions.

 

The authors identified 36 programs that offer yoga in more than 940 schools across the United States, with over 5,400 instructors who have been trained by these programs to offer yoga in school settings. The programs varied with regard to their implementation and training models (e.g., training hours required, pre-requisites for training). However at a curriculum level, most programs focused on combining four basic elements of yoga (physical postures, breathing exercises, relaxation techniques, mindfulness/meditation) with additional didactic material to promote positive student outcomes.
Ferreira-Vorkapic et al (2015)conducted a systematic review and effect size analysis of 9 peer-reviewed randomized controlled trials of yoga in school settings, with a focus on psychological outcome measures. The authors calculated effect size estimates for studies that included measures of mood, tension, anxiety, self-esteem and memory. Effect sizes calculated for each of these outcomes individually revealed that the results favored yoga compared to the control conditions.

 

Serwacki & Cook-Cottone (2012) conducted a systematic literature review of 12 peer-reviewed quantitative studies of school-based yoga interventions. School-based yoga may yield positive effects on factors such as student emotional balance, attentional control, cognitive efficiency, anxiety, negative thought patterns, emotional and physical arousal, reactivity, and negative behavior.


For additional review articles on yoga in schools, see Feagans Gould et al. (2016), Feagans Gould et al. (2014), and Hyde (2012).

 

Mindfulness in Schools

In the table below, we summarize some of the largest and most rigorous reviews of the research on mindfulness in schools.

Description of Study Results / Conclusions
Felver et al. (2015) conducted a systematic literature review of 28 peer-reviewed quantitative studies of mindfulness-based interventions in school settings (with students younger than 18 years of age). Many studies reported decreases in negative outcomes such as behavioral problems (6 studies), anxiety (5 studies), depression (4 studies), affective disturbances (4 studies), issues with executive functioning / attention (4 studies) and suicidal ideation (1 study). Studies also often reported improvements in psychosocial well-being such as emotion regulation, social skills, social-emotional competence, and coping. Four studies reported benefits in physiological functioning.

 

Langer et al. (2015) conducted a systematic literature review of 16 peer-reviewed quantitative studies of mindfulness interventions administered to adolescents (aged 12 and older) in educational settings. Mindfulness interventions in educational settings resulted in significant changes in the following types of outcomes: psychological (e.g., reduced depression and anxiety, improved emotional awareness), psychosocial (e.g., increased social skills, improved emotional self-concept), physiological (e.g., improvement in blood pressure and sleep quality).

 

Waters et al. (2015) conducted a systematic literature review of 15 peer-reviewed studies (3 qualitative; 12 quantitative) of meditation programs delivered in school settings (elementary, middle, high school, and college). School-based meditation was found to have positive effects on student well-being, social competence, and academic achievement. School-based meditation was beneficial in the majority of studies, with 61% of the results being statistically significant. The authors conducted effect size analyses for 10 of the 15 studies and found that in general, the majority of effects of meditation on student outcomes were small, however 33% of the effect sizes were medium or strong. This is to be expected given the numerous factors that contribute to student outcomes.

 

Zenner et al. (2014) conducted a systematic literature review and meta-analysis of 24 quantitative studies (13 published; 11 unpublished) of school-based mindfulness interventions on psychological outcomes. Overall effect sizes were statistically significant (Hedge’s g = 0.40 between groups and g = 0.41 within groups), indicating a small to medium effect of school-based mindfulness on student psychological outcomes (e.g., cognitive performance, emotional problems, stress / coping, and resilience). Effects were strongest for student outcomes related to cognitive performance. Effects were smaller but still significant for student resilience and stress. Effects were small and not significant for measures of emotional problems and parent / teacher ratings.


For additional review articles on mindfulness and meditation in educational settings, see Bostic et al. (2015), Davidson et al. (2012), Davis (2012), Felver et al. (2013), Meiklejohn et al. (2012), Rempel (2012), Sprengel and Fritts (2012), and Wisner et al. (2010).

 

Social-Emotional Learning (SEL)

In the table below we summarize two recent meta-analyses and a comprehensive handbook that reviews a large number of studies on the benefits of SEL.

DESCRIPTION OF STUDY RESULTS / CONCLUSIONS
Durlak et al. (2011) Conducted a meta-analysis of 213 school-based social and emotional learning (SEL) programs involving 270,034 kindergarten through high school students. The study reported statistically significant effect sizes across all outcome categories indicating that compared to students in control groups, students who received social-emotional learning programs demonstrated enhanced SEL skills, attitudes, and positive social behaviors as well as fewer conduct problems and lower levels of emotional distress following the intervention. Students who participated in SEL programs also demonstrated improvements in academic performance that reflected an 11-percentile-point gain in achievement.

 

Durlak et al. (2015) A comprehensive handbook covering all aspects of research, practice, and policy related to social emotional learning. Includes chapters on defining SEL, the neuroscience of SEL, making an economic case for SEL, examples of evidence-based SEL programming, assessing SEL, and implementation best practices.

 

Summarizes the current state of the field of social emotional learning and suggests that SEL programs are beneficial for enhancing a variety of student outcomes such as academic achievement, self-regulation, self-efficacy, confidence, connection and commitment to school, sense of purpose, empathy, positive social behaviors, reduced conduct problems and risk-taking behavior, and decreased emotional distress.
Sklad et al. (2012) Conducted a meta-analysis of 75 studies of school-based social, emotional and/or behavioral (SEB) programs. Beneficial effects were found for social emotional learning programs in seven major categories of outcomes: social skills, antisocial behavior, substance abuse, positive self-image, academic achievement, mental health, and prosocial behavior. Increases in social skills and decreases in antisocial behaviors were the most commonly reported positive outcomes.

For additional review articles of prevention programs related to SEL and positive youth development, see Durlak et al. (2010), Zins et al. (2004), Wilson et al. (2001), Greenberg et al. (2001), Durlak et al. (2007), Catalano et al. (2002), and Greenberg et al. (2003).

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