A quick look at Covid-era high school websites reveals a plethora student mental health, stress and anxiety resources. Increasingly, findings indicate yoga’s benefits don’t stop at improved physical and mental health. Yoga also helps overall teen wellness including brain function.
THE CASE FOR YOGA IN TEEN WELLNESS
In International Journal of Yoga, “Effect of Yoga on Academic Performance in Relation to Stress,” students who practice yoga perform statistically significantly better in academics. The study further shows low-stress students perform better than high-stress students. Stress affects students’ performance and yoga directly reduces stress.
In “The Acute Effects of Yoga on Executive Function” published in The Journal of Physical Health, cognitive performance after yoga exercise is significantly superior (ie, shorter reaction times, increased accuracy). This is compared with aerobic and baseline conditions for both inhibition and working memory tasks.
“Yoga Asana Sessions Increase Brain GABA Levels: A Pilot Study” in the The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine reports a 27% increase in GABA (a neurotransmitter that blocks impulses between nerve cells in the brain) levels in the yoga practitioner group. This is after a 60 minute yoga session vs a 60 minute reading session for a comparison group which yields no increase. This suggests yoga be explored as a treatment for disorders with low GABA levels such as depression and anxiety disorders.
Per “Yoga Poses Increase Subjective Energy and State Self-Esteem in Comparison to ‘Power Poses’” in Frontiers in Psychology, the effects of performing open, expansive body postures is driven by processes other than the poses’ association with interpersonal power and dominance. This study demonstrates positive effects of yoga practice occur after performing yoga poses for only 2 min.
Brain Plast: “Yoga Effects on Brain Health: A Systematic Review of the Current Literature” demonstrates a positive effect of yoga practice on the structure and/or function of the hippocampus, amygdala, prefrontal cortex, cingulate cortex and brain networks including the default mode network (DMN). The studies offer promising early evidence. Behavioral interventions like yoga mitigate age-related and neurodegenerative declines as many of the regions demonstrate significant age-related atrophy.
Yoga as Part of the Big Teen Wellness Picture
Holistic Learning, founded by neuroscience, physiology and meditation experts Eli Marx-Kahn and Kush Patel, is a platform on a mission to integrate services in multiple domains. These include high school academics, wellness, and career development to help students find their unique paths in life.
The easy and fun to use platform incorporates timely and critical touchpoints for high school students: 1-on-1 tutoring, learning strategies, wellness & meditation courses, guidance counseling, career development, and personalized progress tracking. Parents and educators see it as a valuable supplement providing their teens with a number of individualized, self-select tools. Breathing exercises to reduce anxiety, STEM, English and writing tutoring, college application advice, and career seminars with professionals from dozens of fields are included.
The wellness & meditation portion of the Holistic Learning site teaches students mindfulness and breathing techniques to calm anxiety and reduce stress, as well as offering 10 different yoga practices for students to explore.
Mindfulness and Wellness
Yoga and teen wellness go hand-in hand. Yoga is a proven way to increase mindfulness.
“Mindfulness has significant positive effects, with 76% of people reporting increases in general wellness, 60% having higher energy, and 50% reporting stress relief,” states Co-Founder and Chief Wellness Officer Eli Marx-Kahn. “Any way you look at it, introducing young people to the benefits of mindfulness, yoga and meditation as early as possible is a great way to ensure lifelong wellness.”