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Implementing yoga within the school curriculum: a scientific rationale for improving social-emotional learning and positive student outcomes

Bethany Butzer (Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, US)
Denise Bury (Independent Health Outcomes Researcher/Medical Writer, Agoura Hills, California, US)
Shirley Telles (Patanjali Research Foundation, Haridwar, India and affiliated with the Patanjali Yogpeeth (USA) Trust, Sugar Land, Texas, US)
Sat Bir S. Khalsa (Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, US)

Journal of Children's Services

ISSN: 1746-6660

Article publication date: 21 March 2016

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Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to review and synthesise research evidence and propose a theoretical model suggesting that school-based yoga programs may be an effective way to promote social-emotional learning (SEL) and positive student outcomes.

Design/methodology/approach

This paper is a literature review focusing on: the current state of research on school-based yoga interventions; a preliminary theoretical model outlining the potential mechanisms and effects of school-based yoga; similarities, differences and possibilities for integrating school-based SEL, yoga and meditation; practical implications for researching and implementing yoga in schools.

Findings

Research suggests that providing yoga within the school curriculum may be an effective way to help students develop self-regulation, mind-body awareness and physical fitness, which may, in turn, foster additional SEL competencies and positive student outcomes such as improved behaviours, mental state, health and performance.

Research limitations/implications

Given that research on school-based yoga is in its infancy, most existing studies are preliminary and are of low to moderate methodological quality. It will be important for future research to employ more rigorous study designs.

Practical implications

It is possible, pending additional high-quality research, that yoga could become a well-accepted component of school curricula. It will be particularly important for future research to examine possibilities around integrating school-based yoga and meditation with SEL programs at the individual, group and school-wide levels.

Originality/value

This paper is the first to describe a theoretical model specifically focused on school-based yoga interventions, as well as a discussion of the similarities and differences between school-based yoga, SEL and meditation.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The authors are grateful for the support of Shekhar Agrawal, President of Patanjali Yogpeeth (USA) Trust. The preparation of this manuscript was funded in large part by a generous grant from Patanjali Yogpeeth (USA) Trust, an affiliate organisation of Patanjali Yogpeeth - Divya Yog Mandir (Trust), Haridwar, India and the Patanjali Research Foundation, Haridwar, India. BB and SBSK were supported in part by a grant from the Institute for Extraordinary Living of the Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health. The authors are also grateful for the contribution of Amanda LoRusso, who assisted with the preparation of this paper for publication.

Citation

Butzer, B., Bury, D., Telles, S. and Khalsa, S.B.S. (2016), "Implementing yoga within the school curriculum: a scientific rationale for improving social-emotional learning and positive student outcomes", Journal of Children's Services, Vol. 11 No. 1, pp. 3-24. https://doi.org/10.1108/JCS-10-2014-0044

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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