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Our trainings and programs are rooted in a knowledge and understanding of current research and best practice.
YOGA & THE BRAIN
An overview of child and adolescent brain development, neuroplasticity, memories, sensitive periods, the stress response, and the effects of maltreatment on brain development and functioning. A good introduction to neuroscience as it relates to trauma-informed care. Children’s Bureau: Understanding the Effects of Maltreatment on Brain Development
“This combination of reactions to stress is also known as the “fight-or-flight” response because it evolved as a survival mechanism, enabling people and other mammals to react quickly to life-threatening situations. The carefully orchestrated yet near-instantaneous sequence of hormonal changes and physiological responses helps someone to fight the threat off or flee to safety. Unfortunately, the body can also overreact to stressors that are not life-threatening, such as traffic jams, work pressure, and family difficulties.” Harvard Medical School: Understanding the Stress Response
“The results, published today in JAMA Pediatrics, were striking: Kids who came from families below the poverty line exhibited “systematic structural differences” in their brains, with 7-10 percent less gray matter in the three tested areas than those children living above the poverty line. The participants below the poverty line also scored significantly lower on the academic achievement tests; the researchers estimate that 15 to 20 percent of this difference can be attributed to the differences in brain development.” Mother Jones: What Poverty Does to Kids’ Brains
What is trauma and how are yoga based practices related?
A selection of journal articles about the relationship between adverse childhood experiences and chronic disease, health risk behaviors, life opportunities, mental health, reproductive health, special populations, victimization and perpetration, and other health and social issues. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Journal Articles
“When a child experiences multiple ACEs over time—especially without supportive relationships with adults to provide buffering protection—the experiences will trigger an excessive and long-lasting stress response, which can have a wear-and-tear effect on the body, like revving a car engine for days or weeks at a time.” Harvard University Center on the Developing Child: ACES and Toxic Stress Frequently Asked Questions
“‘There are people with high ACE scores who do remarkably well,’ says Jack Shonkoff, a pediatrician and director of the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University. Resilience, he says, builds throughout life, and close relationships are key. Recent research also suggests that for adults, ‘trauma informed’ therapy — which can center on art, yoga or mindfulness training — can help.”National Public Radio: Take the ACE Quiz – And Learn What It Does and Doesn’t Mean
A comprehensive web-based resource tool. Modules include researcher and care provider perspectives on understanding the impact of trauma, implementing trauma-informed practice, creating trauma-informed provider organizations, evidence-based treatments, cost benefits of trauma-informed care, and more. National Technical Assistance Center for Children’s Mental Health: Perspectives and Resources on Trauma-Informed Care
“Yoga significantly reduced PTSD symptomatology, with effect sizes comparable to well-researched psychotherapeutic and psychopharmacologic approaches. Yoga may improve the functioning of traumatized individuals by helping them to tolerate physical and sensory experiences associated with fear and helplessness and to increase emotional awareness and affect tolerance.” Trauma Center at Justice Resource Institute: Yoga as an Adjunctive Treatment for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: A Randomized Control Trial (2014)
“Rather than reacting to challenges with a proportional response, maintaining regular activities, and being able to return to a pre-activation state, people with anxiety, depression, and related conditions, such as post-traumatic stress, get stuck in states of both under- and over-activation, with difficulty smoothly transitioning back and forth as required by circumstances.” Psychology Today: How Yoga and Breathing Help the Brain Unwind
Van der Kolk, Bessel. The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma. Penguin Books, 2015.
Emerson, David and Elizabeth Hopper. Overcoming Trauma Through Yoga: Reclaiming Your Body. North Atlantic Books, 2011.
Pascoe, Thompson, and Ski. (2017). Yoga, mindfulness-based stress reduction and stress-related physiological measures: A meta-analysis.
- Summarizes and evaluates research on the relationship between yoga and mindfulness and stress.
- Compares yoga and mindfulness (Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction) to a non-yoga active control; i.e. running, cycling, general exercise
- Types of yoga included Iyengar, Restorative, “Integrated,” Hatha, Prenatal
- Moderate evidence for a relationship between yoga poses and decreased stress as measured by cortisol
- Some evidence for decreased inflammation
- Strong evidence indicating that yoga reduces resting heart rate
- Some evidence indicating yoga had a more positive impact on resting blood pressure than non-yoga exercise
- Moderate evidence that yoga increased heart rate variability
- Moderate evidence that yoga lowers cholesterol
Cramer, Lauche, Langhorst, and Dobos. (2013). Yoga for depression: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Depress Anxiety. 2013 Nov;30(11):1068-83. doi: 10.1002/da.22166. Epub 2013 Aug 6.
- 12 randomized controlled trials (RCTs) with 619 participants were included of yoga for patients with depressive disorders and individuals with elevated levels of depression were included.
- Types of yoga included the Inner Resources program, laughter yoga, the Broota Relaxation Technique, Iyengar yoga, undefined “exercise-based” yoga programs, Kirtan Kriya, Sudarshan Kriya
- Moderate evidence for short-term effects of yoga compared to usual care regarding severity of depression.
- Yoga can be considered an additive treatment option for patients with depressive disorders and individuals with elevated levels of depression.
Gard et. al. (2014). Potential self-regulatory mechanisms of yoga for psychological health.
- Proposes a model for how yoga works simultaneously on executive functioning, moral cognition, stress response, and attention.
- Read if you’re curious about how the field of cognitive science is speculating on yoga.
Rivest-Gadbois and Boudrais. (2019). What are the known effects of yoga on the brain in relation to motor performances, body awareness and pain? A narrative review.
- 32 research articles included
- Healthy adults, including those with musculoskeletal pain
- Included only systems of yoga that researchers identified as in line with the eight-limbed system described in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras; excluded MBSR, Qi-gong, and transcendental meditation
- Read the discussion (section 4) if you want more information on the specific kinds of yoga practiced and the findings associated with each.
- Yoga increased learning rate, speed, and accuracy of motor tasks.
- Yoga increased sensory awareness and interoception (the sense of the internal state of the body), thereby increasing sense of embodiment and decreasing generalized fear.
- Yoga promoted parasympathetic activity and self-regulation.
- Yoga reduced threat signal, increased pain tolerance, and decreased pain-related anxiety and distress.
Birdee et. al. (2009). Clinical applications of yoga for the pediatric population: A systematic review
- Included randomized and non-randomized control trials with subjects ages 0-21. Found no studies that were of children ages 2-5.
- Included studies that specifically mentioned that the study was yoga or yoga-based exercise; excluded MBSR and transcendental meditation.
- Suggests yoga can be beneficial for children’s physical fitness.
- Suggests yoga’s potential benefit for children with ADHD.
Niles et. al. (2018). A systematic review of randomized trials of mind-body interventions for PTSD
- Included 22 randomized control trials with mindfulness- or yoga-based interventions.
- Decreased PTSD symptomatology.
- Treatment gains were sustained over a period of months.
Shapiro, Brown, and Biegel. (2007). Teaching self-care to caregivers: effects of mindfulness-based stress reduction on the mental health of therapists in training.
- Examined the effects of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR)
- MBSR’s thesis is that bringing attention to actual experience in the present moment encourages disengagement from self-related rumination and anxiety, both of which can have a negative effect on well-being.
- Students in the MBSR intervention reported decreases in perceived stress, negative affect, state and trait anxiety, and rumination.
- Students reported increases in positive affect and self-compassion.
- Combined cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and Kundalini Yoga to treat patients with generalized anxiety resistant to standard CBT.
- Addressed physiological and cognitive symptoms of anxiety in patients’ bodies; patients were “taught to reduce the discrepancy between feeling and knowing”.
- Suggests yoga may reduce the tendency for dysfunctional thoughts to arise
- Improvements in state and trait anxiety, depression, panic, suicidality, sleep disturbance, sexual function, and quality of life.
Evaluation of the Mental Health Benefits of Yoga in a Secondary School: A PreliminaryRandomized Controlled Trial
Sat Bir S. Khalsa, PhD, Lynn Hickey-Schultz, EdD, Deborah Cohen, MEd, Naomi Steiner, MD, Stephen Cope, MSW.
“Happy teachers lead to happy students, educators and researchers say. As schools across the country put more of a focus on social-emotional learning for their students, experts have come to realize that teachers’ social-emotional competencies, especially their stress-management skills and their ability to regulate their emotions, are a vital piece of that puzzle.”
“Although research on mindfulness, especially with children and adolescents, is still in relatively early stages, an increasing number of studies have shown the potential benefits of mindfulness practices for students’ physical health, psychological well-being, social skills, academic performance, and more. Other studies have indicated that mindfulness may be effective for reducing stress and burnout in teachers and administrators as well.”
“Part of the reason why mindfulness is so effective for children can be explained by the way the brain develops. While our brains are constantly developing throughout our lives, connections in the prefrontal circuits are created at their fastest rate during childhood. Mindfulness, which promotes skills that are controlled in the prefrontal cortex, like focus and cognitive control, can therefore have a particular impact on the development of skills including self-regulation, judgment and patience during childhood.”
“How to manage the day-to-day stress that’s part of early childhood work? Mindfulness is a process of intentionally bringing our attention to what’s happening in the present moment with acceptance and openness. It means being curious and not judging our feelings or experiences.”
Jennings, Patricia. Mindfulness for Teachers: Simple Skills for Peace and Productivity in the Classroom. W.W. Norton & Company, 2015.
Rechtschaffen, Daniel. The Way of Mindful Education: Cultivating Well-Being in Teachers and Students. W.W. Norton & Company, 2014.
Mindful Teaching and Teaching Mindfulness: A Guide For Anyone Who Teaches Anything. Deborah Schoeberlein David
Teach, Breathe, Learn: Mindfulness In and Out of the Classroom. Meena Srinivasan
Jessica J. Noggle, PhD,* Naomi J. Steiner, MD,† Takuya Minami, PhD,‡ Sat Bir S. Khalsa, PhD. Benefits of Yoga for Psychosocial Well-Being in a US High School Curriculum: A Preliminary Randomized Controlled Trial. Vol. 33, No. 3, April 2012. www.jdbp.org