A recent study published inMind, Brain, and Education looks at the impact of a yoga programme on the academic performance of secondary school students.
At a New York City public high school, 112 students were randomly assigned to one of four yoga or six PE classes. The students were in Grades 9-11 (age 14-17); 59% were Hispanic and 22% Black, 11% Asian, and 8% White. Both PE and yoga classes met twice a week for 45 minutes throughout the academic year. The yoga curriculum used mindfulness and yoga-based exercises to help students focus on their work and respond appropriately to challenging situations. The PE class included weight lifting, fitness exercises, and common games, varied by the class teacher.
Student achievement was measured using their grade point average (GPA) from the previous and current academic years. Students and staff also completed a number of psychosocial measures, including the Response to Stress Questionnaire and the Child and Adolescent Mindfulness Measure.
The study found no difference in GPA between students assigned to the yoga classes and those assigned to the PE classes. Students who were assigned to the yoga classes were associated with lower scores on the psychosocial scales, although this was not significant. There was a higher level of participation by students in PE classes than yoga classes. However, researchers found that students who had high levels of participation in yoga classes had significantly better GPA than those who had high levels of participation in PE classes.
Source: Yoga Improves Academic Performance in Urban High School Students Compared to Physical Education: A Randomized Controlled Trial, Mind, Brain, and Education (2016).