An academic performance at school is one of the essential indicators of student success and the effectiveness of teaching methods. This article study at yoga as a tool for enhancing academic performance in high-poverty schools to determine its applicability in the educational process. A literature review has shown that while there are many studies on the benefits of yoga in education, there is still a significant gap in knowledge on this topic. This aspect exists due to various limitations in research methodology, such as sample size or the duration of the experiment. However, the main disadvantage is that researchers tend not to consider the specifics of education in high-poor schools. Consequently, this study aims to correct this flaw and determine the effectiveness of yoga as a tool for improving the academic performance of students in high-poverty schools.
The academic performance of students is influenced by multiple factors, from inner motivation and learning abilities to external stressors such as family situation, quality of education, and educational environment. For this reason, educators seeking to enhance student academic performance should focus on assisting students in managing stress as well as the process of transferring knowledge. The introduction of yoga practices into the educational process is one of the options for such assistance as it helps students to improve skills in mind-body consciousness, self-regulation, and concentration (Butzer et al., 2018). However, a review of the literature demonstrates that most research studies this issue without connection with socio-economic factors and limited time, which does not allow scientists to understand the effectiveness of yoga practice fully. Consequently, this problem needs to be fixed through long-term research on the impact of yoga on academic performance in high poverty schools.
The question of the influence of yoga on the process and the quality of students’ educational process is well-studied; however, various research approaches and methodologies yield different and often contradictory conclusions. Ferreira-Vorkapic et al. (2015), in their qualitative literature review, found that most of the research shows improvements in students’ emotional well-being and some cognitive abilities. However, only a few of the studied articles confirm a positive effect of yoga on academic performance. For example, Wang and Hagins (2016) studied the effects of a 12-week high school-based yoga course and concluded that the practices improved self-regulation, mindfulness, self-esteem, physical achievements, academic performance, and stress level of the students. In this study, the researchers used qualitative analysis; however, the authors paid little attention to the issue of academic achievement. For instance, Wang and Hagins (2016) cited three to nine students’ statements about positive changes in their emotional states but did not provide any examples in the section on academic performance. Bazzano et al. (2018) also concluded that mindfulness activities significantly improved students’ emotional state, as well as reduced stress and anxiety. However, scientists have not studied the relationship of these changes to academic performance.
Nevertheless, many authors associate the factors of the emotional state of students with their academic performance. For example, the main focus of the study by Mendelson et al. (2010) is yoga’s influence on regulatory capacities and responses to stress, such as rumination, intrusive thoughts, emotional and physiologic arousal, and impulsive action. The authors found positive effects of yoga on these aspects and also emphasize the possibility of developing regulatory capacities through yoga to improve academic performance (Mendelson et al., 2010). This opportunity exists because stress, excitement, or intrusive thoughts distract students from learning, and the absence of these feelings allows them to focus on learning. This aspect is especially important for students at high-poverty schools who face stress due to their social status and economic problems. Schor (2018) emphasizes these characteristics in her study, although her work aims to directly investigate the grades in high-poverty schools that use the mindfulness practices and those that do not provide them. This connection is also logical for self-regulation skills and self-consciousness because students can avoid anger or distraction by possessing them, and, therefore, focus on learning.
The study of yoga practices is associated with improving the physical condition of students, which also helps develop the memory and attention of students. Devi and Rathor (2018) note that physical health and mental well-being are closely related, and mastering breathing techniques, postures, and healthy habits of yoga improve the physical condition of the body. Physical fitness, in turn, affects the ability of the brain to perceive and process information, increasing a person’s attention and memory. Consequently, the regular and continuous practice of yoga allows students to assimilate knowledge better. These features associated with the duration of the course are also noted by Carman and Parrott (2018), since they say that more noticeable positive changes are observed in students who practice yoga for longer. Consequently, although many authors do not investigate the dependence of academic performance on the introduction of yoga into the educational process, they demonstrate a connection between them.
At the same time, some scholars analyzing the influence of yoga on academic performance indicate the absence of positive changes and associate them with research limitations. Schor (2018) studied student’s grades at two high-poverty schools, one of which did not use yoga, and the other has had lessons since 2009 and found no significant difference. However, the author highlights several limits as the reason for this result, for example, the absence of longitudinal measures and prior assessments.
Haden et al. (2014) also did not find a difference between the emotional state and the behavior of sixth-grade students who attended PE and yoga. In addition, scholars noted an increase in negative emotions in the group visited yoga classes (Haden et al., 2014). The authors substantiate such results the insufficient age of the participants and an increase in the mindfulness of students attending yoga, which led to their awareness of their own emotions. Thomas et al. (2016) justify the lack of significant academic performance results due to the short duration of the program, since an increase in indicators was noticeable at the end of testing. Consequently, while some studies show that yoga does not impact student academic performance, they all have limitations that may have influenced the outcome.
Moreover, the authors of some articles provide facts and arguments that are important and relevant to the conclusion of their researches and this study. Butzer et al. (2015) note that students who attended yoga rapidly deteriorated their performance after the end of the program. This finding speaks of the short duration of the effect of yoga and the need for its constant practice in schools. Bazzano et al. (2018) emphasize that yoga classes should be adapted to the audience and age of the students and also partially be in a playful form for children. This observation can explain the negative results in some studies if the programs are selected without considering these features. Carman and Parrott (2018) also note that many factors, from the behavior or appearance of the instructor to the physical space of the classroom, can affect student satisfaction with classes. Consequently, all these nuances demonstrate that different results from previous researches can be influenced by various external factors that need to be considered in future studies.
Nevertheless, although these articles are relevant and suitable for substantiating a research question and forming hypotheses, they have some disadvantages. Firstly, most of these studies have a short period of yoga practice in schools and do not have a pre- and post-program test of performance. This flaw makes it difficult to understand the long-term prospects of using yoga in schools for its implementation in the educational process. Most studies also have small samples of participants that are limited to one age group, which also does not provide a complete picture. Furthermore, only Schor (2018) is conducting research in high-poverty schools whose students are most in need of stress reduction and improved academic performance. At the same time, Schor (2018) conducts its research in only two schools and has several other limitations that may prevent accurate results. Therefore, these gaps in the literature need to be filled to understand effective tools for enhancing student academic performance and their application. This research is especially important for high-poverty schools, which require new low-cost tools to improve the conditions and quality of education of their students who face challenges in their daily lives.
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