The Importance of Yoga for Teen Wellness

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.


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.” 

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    How Teen Mindfulness, Nutrition and Yoga Affect Brain Function

    Especially to a teen? Eating is brought on by two categories of signals in the brain.  Homeostatic signals, or feelings of hunger, come from the body’s need for nutrients. These usually work to balance intake with output. Non-homeostatic eating, on the other hand, is not tied to nutrient needs or hunger. Instead, these relate to the environment or to the pleasurable and rewarding qualities of food. These cues are powerful signals to eat even when there is no physical need for food. Teen mindfulness is a vital life and health skill often overlooked in adolescence, during critical teen brain growth.

    Mindful Eating

    Mindful eating involves paying attention to eating while it is occurring, including attention to the sight, smell, flavors, and textures of food – the experience of eating.  Eating mindfully helps reduce intake by affecting the response to non-hunger cues. High levels of mindfulness is associated with lower levels of obesity. Thus, creating mindful eating habits is critical for teen health and leads to greater lifelong health.

    Mindfulness, Eating and Yoga

    Yoga is a mindfulness technique using physical postures and stretching to calm the mind and gain a sense of presence. Yoga practice reduces emotional eating, reduces eating disorders, and improves mental health and dieting in those with obesity. Hence, yoga practice is another method improving healthy eating and physical activity in adolescents.

    According to a study conducted by John M. de Castro, PhD, “Promote Healthy Eating and Physical Activity in Adolescents with Yoga”, adolescents who practice yoga have healthier diets and greater physical activity. This includes significantly greater consumption of fruits and vegetables and lower consumption of fast foods, snack foods, and sugar sweetened beverages. In addition, the greater the number of hours of yoga practice, the better the diets and greater the physical activity. In interviews, adolescents indicate yoga practice increases their mindful eating, cravings for healthier foods, and motivation for healthier eating. It also improves their management of stress and emotional eating. They additionally report yoga practice increases their strength and flexibility and their desire to engage in other physical activities.

    “Yoga’s Potential for Promoting Healthy Eating and Physical Activity Behaviors Among Young Adults: A Mixed-Methods Study” in The International Journal for Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity also reveals important findings.  Yoga supports:

    -Healthy eating through motivation to eat healthfully

    -Greater mindfulness and management of emotional eating

    -More healthy food cravings

    -A positive influence in/from the yoga community

    -Physical activity

    -Motivation to do other forms of active

    -A generally active and healthy lifestyle

    Conclusions of this study: young adult yoga practitioners report healthier eating behaviors and higher levels of physical activity than non-practitioners. Yoga should be investigated as an intervention for young adult health promotion and healthy weight management.

    Bottom Line:  Critical Teen Wellness

    The primacy of teen mindfulness, nutrition and yoga in brain function and general wellness cannot be emphasized enough,” states Holistic Learning’s Chief Wellness Officer Eli Marx-Kahn. “Efforts to further understand and address the entirety of adolescent growth are in sharp focus amid pandemic challenges and may end up driving dramatic positive change.”

    Holistic Learning is an online learning platform helping high school students achieve academic success as well as personal and professional growth. This is possible through 1-on-1 tutoring, meditation & wellness courses, learning strategies, college and career counseling, career seminars, and life skills. Recognizing mindfulness is a vital component of student health, Holistic Learning helps teens stay focused and productive during COVID and beyond. Neuroscience-informed learning experts designed this space for adolescents to develop much needed skills ensuring future wellness and success.

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    Meet with one of our experts for 30 minutes

    Get your questions answered and receive a personalized Holistic Learning plan!

      How Students Find Focus, Motivation, and Wellness

      What If?

      How can you think about the latest physical change in your body, that upcoming chemistry test, the part-time job, basketball practice, college applications, dating, career options and… All without feeling a bit overwhelmed, anxious, or stressed?  And, this doesn’t even include those cell-phone interruptions!

      What if you could soften and relax your racing thoughts?  If you could make a conscious decision to direct your mind to another place to “reset”, would you?


      Holistic Learning’s Chief Wellness Officer Eli Marx-Kahn specializes in meditation and mindfulness exercises for student wellness because they teach how to simply “breathe out your worries”. And, these take just a few minutes to master. 

      “Being aware of sensations in our bodies allows us to find stillness,” states Marx-Kahn.  “Through simple breathing exercises, we consciously decide to direct our mind to a place it can soften and relax.  Then, we learn to consistently recognize our own ‘home base’ or anchor. We can keep coming back to base as a source of peace. Once you have this, you are ready to tackle anything.”

      In The 24 Brilliant Benefits Of Meditation For Students (Backed By SCIENCE), “… meditation has an incredibly wide range of benefits. These include focusing and concentrating for longer periods of time, lowering and coping with stress, improving self-esteem, and increasing resilience, motivation and social confidence.”

      Habits For Lifelong Wellness

      Intro to Meditation” is part of a 8-10 minute video series, important elements of Holistic Learning’s personal growth tools. However, teens quickly find the benefits of meditation are not just limited to the personal. A relaxed and grounded mindset helps to be a better, more focused student, as well. 

      The Holistic Learning team is committed to providing academic, wellness, and career development tools to help students focus, relax and center.  These tools create mindfulness habits and prepare students to lead happy, healthy, and purposeful lives. 

      Find out more about Holistic Learning

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      Meet with one of our experts for 30 minutes

      Get your questions answered and receive a personalized Holistic Learning plan!