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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    What Would Teens Do If They Knew They Couldn’t Fail?

    But, sometimes, fear is really just lacking a roadmap or the tools to succeed.  It is daunting to study for a test with no outline, notes or book, right?  So, how often do teens experience the angst or fear of not knowing how to start?

    What if high school students had self-directed tools to help inspire, kick-start life plans and reduce stress?  How would they see themselves?

    Countless studies have concluded that high school teen anxiety is at record highs since the Pandemic.  The demand is high for teen resources providing gap-filling tools for immediate, positive results. These tools must build life and learning skills while helping to enable skillful college and career choices.

    What if teens had access to weekly career seminars with leading experts from a wide variety of professions as well as interactive self-development workshops? What if they could take advantage of facilitated future-planning sessions for personal, academic, and professional growth?

    Holistic Learning is an online learning platform helping high school students achieve academic success as well as personal and professional growth. It integrates a range of timely and critical services including 1-on-1 tutoring, learning strategies, meditation and wellness courses, college and career counseling, and career seminars. Parents and educators see it as a valuable supplement providing students with the tools to live healthy, happy, and stress-free lives. Teens see it as a way to navigate fear of the unknown and intimidating life situations. 

    “Holistic Learning is committed to accessibility and equality of access,” states Co-Founder Eli Marx-Kahn. “It was created as an online space to meet the needs that high school alone cannot meet. It helps students grow and visualize their path towards a meaningful and fulfilling future. The Pandemic made the need for a service like Holistic Learning greater than ever.”

    Tiered subscriptions are available at based on frequency of tutoring desired, and are priced well below standalone tutoring, counseling, and wellness programs. Sliding scale scholarship opportunities are available for low income families, by inquiring at   

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      Talking to Your Teen About Careers and College Post Pandemic

      “What do you want to do when you grow up?” is a question they’ve been asked from an early age.  Industry demands change every decade. Looking at high growth areas such as healthcare, tech or environmental conservation may be the way that you want to start the conversation with your teen. Other parents may want to make college (no matter what) a focus.  Many lucrative career paths, however, are no longer requiring college degrees.  Trades and other training opportunities increasingly come as a result of experience versus degrees. So, when talking to your teen about careers and college post pandemic, it’s good to remain open to all ideas. Encouraging research through on site as well as online exploration is key.

      Some Career Talk Guidelines:
      1. Introduce the concept of careers as early as possible. Take them to work at an early age. Let other trusted friends and family take them to their jobs, as well.  Expose them to as many environments and settings as possible.
      2. Encourage internships and volunteer work projects as soon as possible
      3. Ask open ended questions about the future. What does your teen love to do in their free time? Might there be a way to build a career around that?
      4. Provide support and encouragement. Remind them where they excel.
      5. Collaborate but don’t direct. Do not speak for them.
      6. Don’t pose ultimatums: they always backfire.
      7. Encourage your kids to make the most of their high school counselors and other resources they can connect with and relate to such as Holistic Learning

      Provide Empowerment Thru Self-Assessment

      “Encouraging teens to explore career cluster information and aptitude self-assessments which are readily available online can be a great way to get them started on the path towards a fulfilling career,” according to Holistic Learning College & Career Counselor Jess Spayd.

      Holistic Learning provides tutoring, wellness, learning strategies, career counseling and career seminars for students to explore at their own pace or in live settings. Weekly career seminars with leading experts from a wide variety of professions are available as well as interactive self-development workshops and facilitated future-planning sessions to aid with personal, academic, and professional growth. Group and individual sessions with experienced college and career counselors help give teens a sense of self-direction. This, combined with a video library featuring a wide variety of topics related to finding purpose and motivation in life, college, careers and beyond, can open students’ eyes to the countless possibilities available to them.

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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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          Why Wellness Must Lead Learning – Holistic Approach

          When students get ready for the school day and the overall school year, we generally assume some level of readiness is present.  In the wake of record low mental health and high suicides among teens, however, it is imperative the approach to learning must become holistic, addressing wellness first. 

          The Issue

          According to Davnee Foundation: Between 20% – 30% of adolescents report symptoms of depression. While depression once was considered an “adult” affliction, the mean age of onset today is 15. Almost 9 percent of high school students have attempted suicide in the past year. Reports are estimated to be highly underreported.

          Not to be overlooked is the age of 18.  “The percentage of adults who experienced symptoms of depression was highest among those aged 18–29 (21.0%) per the Center for Disease Control. Though the CDC classifies 18 as adult, this age refers to many high school seniors. 

          Pew Research Center reported pre-pandemic anxiety and depression were on the rise among America’s youth.  Whether they personally suffer from these conditions or not, seven-in-ten teens see them as major problems among their peers. Concern about mental health cuts across gender, racial and socio-economic lines. Equal shares of teens across demographic groups say it is a significant issue in their community. At this time, 61% reported getting good grades as the number one stressor.

          The Solution

          A holistic approach to learning puts wellness first. It includes understanding and supplementing mental, emotional, and physiological factors.  These affect how students process, internalize, relate to and ultimately learn and function. 

          So, how do teachers and parents supplement much needed support and reinforcement? Particularly for teens who do not express or show need?  Grades alone are also not an indicator of wellness, learning skills, or ability. 

          Chief Wellness Officer and Founder of Holistic Learning Eli Marx-Kahn provides perspective based on his experience in neuroscience. “Holistic Learning helps prepare high school students for college, jobs, and all of the challenges life may throw at them by providing a wide range of services across multiple domains.”

          “First, by providing an online tool with six unique wellness learning services, we help high school students thrive in all aspects of their lives,” continues Marx-Kahn.  “We meet students where they are and where they are willing to communicate. They can have as much or as little 1-1 or group interaction as they like.”  

          Services include: 
          1. Meditation and Wellness – Important for calming and centering the mind and body. Developing self-regulation skills is a key factor enabling teens to focus, while reducing stress and anxiety.
          2. Learning Strategies – Studying techniques and evidence-based memory consolidation from trained learning strategists.
          3. 1 on 1 Tutoring – Private tutoring in a range of subjects with top tier tutors from prestigious universities around the country.
          4. College & Career Counseling – College and career advice from credentialed counselors, Q&A sessions, and college application workshops.
          5. Career Seminars – Guest speakers from a wide variety of professions to help expose students to the many careers available to them.
          6. Personalized Progress Tracking – Regular 1-on-1 meetings with our learning experts to discuss academic, personal, and professional growth.

          According to mental health and addiction teen specialist Dr. Monica Roberts, “Engaging with teens is more important than ever.  They are suffering from isolation, distrust, and lack of healthy, mindful habits.  While cell phone habits contribute to this, a useful online supplement can provide them autonomy, control of pace and healthy habit learning skills.”    

          “We must reach teens and students where it resonates,” adds Marx-Kahn.  “Parents and teachers want to do their part as much as possible, but we don’t always feel like we’re getting through.  By putting a holistic twist on the process of learning, we can provide important life skills to teens in an otherwise challenging time. It is difficult to be both a student and positive minded young adult, but it is readily achievable. Our goal is to help every student get there.”

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