Methods: Peer-reviewed articles were systematically examined from the Cochrane Central for Controlled Trials (CENTRAL), CINAHL, MEDLINE, PsycINFO, and ERIC. Each database was searched from its inception until April 15, 2011. Yoga intervention studies were included in the final review if they met the following criteria: (1) the sample was from the U.S.; 2) the sample was between the ages of 4 and 18; (3) the study design was either an RCT or quasi-experimental. Interventions were rated using the Methodological Quality Rating Scale (MQRS; Miller et al., 2995), and the outcome attainment index (Rhee & Auslander, under review).
Results: The initial search rendered 422 studies, which were screened to exclude those conducted outside of the U.S., not including children or youth, or not meeting study design criteria. Seventeen studies met all review inclusion criteria. Five studies measured depression, 11 anxiety, 10 self-esteem, and 7 stress. Eight of the 17 studies demonstrated high methodological rigor (n=5 with an adolescent sample; n=3 with younger children). Taking into account methodological rigor, yoga was most effective in reducing stress across both age groups (n=5), but there was also strong support for yoga as an effective intervention for anxiety (n=4). There was strong support for anxiety reduction with adolescents, and for stress reduction with younger children.
Conclusions and Implications: The few yoga interventions that test effects on psychosocial outcomes with children and youth in the U.S. indicate the potential for yoga as an effective method of especially for stress and anxiety reduction. As yoga requires regular and ongoing practice, it could be a good fit for integration in primary and secondary schools. Considering the number of comorbid disorders associated with stress and anxiety, yoga is a holistic method that needs further exploration and rigorous testing with children and youth.