Yoga in school is a beneficial tool to promote the good health and well-being of students by changing the way they react to stress. The positive effects of yoga—taught in schools—on children, youth and young adults have been demonstrated in former studies using mostly subjective psychometric data.
The present trial aims to evaluate the potential effects of yoga on autonomic regulation in young adults by analyzing heart rate variability (HRV).
This study is a non-randomized, explorative, two-arm-pilot study with an active control group. Fourteen healthy young adults took part in a 10-week yoga program (90 min once a week) in school and were compared to a control group of 11 students who participated in conventional school sports (90 min once a week over 10 weeks). 24-hour electrocardiograms (ECGs) were recorded at baseline and following the 10-week intervention. From 20-minute of nocturnal sleep phases, HRV parameters were calculated from linear (time and frequency domain) and nonlinear dynamics (such as symbolic dynamics and Poincaré plot analysis). Analyses of variance (ANOVA) followed by t-tests as post-hoc tests estimating both statistical significance and effect size were used to compare pre-post-intervention for the two groups.
The statistical analysis of the interaction effects did not reveal a significant group and time interaction for the individual nocturnal HRV indices. Almost all indices revealed medium and large effects regarding the time main effects. The changes in the HRV indices following the intervention were more dramatic for the yoga group than for the control group which is reflected in predominantly higher significances and stronger effect sizes in the yoga group.
In this explorative pilot trial, an increase of HRV (more parasympathetic dominance and overall higher HRV) after ten weeks of yoga in school in comparison to regular school sports was demonstrated, showing an improved self-regulation of the autonomic nervous system.