Namaste to Wellbeing? The Effect of Yoga on the Health of African American High School Students

(1) The Neighborhood Academy, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, (2) The Neighborhood Academy, Pittsburgh, Pennslyvania

This study examined the potential psychological and physiological benefits of yoga for African American high school students who attended a rigorous college preparatory program. We hypothesized that yoga exercises would improve perceived stress levels, lower resting heart rate and blood pressure, and increase blood oxygen saturation. Our sample consisted of twenty-two students who participated in yoga or track (the control), with eleven in each group. The yoga group was a pre-existing afterschool program, while the track control group was matched as closely as possible to the yoga group by gender, age and blood pressure levels. We measured the perceived stress, resting heart rate, blood pressure, and blood oxygen saturation levels prior to the first class and after the last class. We found that the perceived stress levels of yoga participants decreased 13% compared to the control group, which only decreased 1%; however, this was not a statistically significant difference. There were no significant differences between or within the groups’ resting heart rate, blood oxygen saturation, and systolic and diastolic blood pressures. Our results suggest that yoga does not have a significant effect on healthy high school students, possibly due to a lack of motivation among participants, although the generalizability of our findings are limited by the small sample size.

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