Research Summary: How Yoga Reduces Stress

The human body naturally has a response to stressful situations - elevated hormone levels, heightened sensory awareness, and an increased heart rate. While this response is helpful in truly dangerous situations, it's a less than ideal reaction to a pop quiz, or realizing you forgot your homework.

Researchers have found that yoga is an effective way for people of all ages to regulate their body's natural stress response. The stress-response networks in the brain are responsible for the feelings that we associate with stress, such as elevated heart rate and nervousness. When these networks are activated for prolonged periods of time, a person's brain functions can be negatively impacted. Prolonged stress can also affect physical and mental health. Researchers having found links between stress and obesity, cancer, depression, and anxiety disorders. Lowering stress in students can help them over time to be healthier physically and mentally.


Researchers have studied yoga to learn how it impacts brain systems. When facing a stressful situation, people who practice yoga have less reactivity in their stress-response networks, with these effects being found in several different age groups. Studies have found that people who practice yoga have lower levels of cortisol - a hormone our brains release when we are stressed - when faced with a stressful stimuli. This is an indicator that the stress-response systems in their brains are less reactive after yoga practice. Additionally, participants in these studies expressed lower anxiety and more positive moods on surveys measuring their stress.

What This Means For Schools

This research has important implications for schools. Many students feel anxious at school, and they may express their anxieties by acting out or withdrawing from the classroom. When students feel stressed at school, the stress-response systems in their brains become activated, and high levels of activation over time can impact students' ability to ignore distractions, regulate their behavior, and hold information in their memory. When students' memory and self-control are impacted in this way, it can have negative effects on their academic achievement. They may pay less attention and have difficulty remembering what they have learned. Students who practice yoga in their classrooms lessen the reactivity of their stress response systems, and have lower cortisol levels when in stressful situations. This helps them succeed socially and academically in schools.

To read the research this summary is based on, click