Can Yoga Help Adolescents Manage Their Anger?


October 11, 2022     benefits of yoga | Yoga Research

Yoga may help adolescents manage anger

Research Study At A Glance

The Research Question Asked

Can yoga help adolescents manage their anger?

Type of Study

Preliminary pilot study

Methods

In a three-phase preliminary pilot study researchers first created a yoga treatment protocol based on yoga texts and peer-reviewed sources. Then, in phase two, a panel of outside experts evaluated the proposed protocol for its effectiveness in helping adolescents use yoga to manage anger. In phase three the research team tested the effect of the yoga protocol on anger with two groups of 8th-grade participants.

Results

The yoga protocol significantly reduced anger scores in the treatment group compared to the control group.

Conclusion

Preliminary results suggest that yoga practices can help adolescents manage their anger.

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Background

Anger is a normal emotion experienced by all of us. But for some, it is particularly overwhelming. This is especially true for adolescents. Frequent or prolonged experiences of anger can have both mental and physical health consequences.

Previous treatment methods for coping with anger issues include cognitive behavioral therapies as well as teaching various skills for managing the experience. Additionally, some preliminary research has evaluated the effects of yoga and mindfulness practices on anger management. Schools have embraced some of these practices with the intention of preventing anger issues and generally supporting adolescents during what is often a tumultuous phase of change. This research team focused on developing a yoga-based program for adolescent anger management that could be applied in schools.

Research question

Can yoga help adolescents manage their anger?

Research methods

Phase one

This was a three-phase preliminary pilot study. The researchers based their approach to developing a yoga protocol to manage anger on the Integrated Approach to Yoga Therapy (IAYT) principles. In phase one they conducted a literature review and used primarily contemporary yoga texts to design an initial yoga protocol. The initial protocol had 18 practices. These practices were included because a literature review suggested the practices would activate the parasympathetic aspect of the autonomic nervous system and/or help balance the parasympathetic and sympathetic aspects of the nervous system.

Phase two

In phase two, the researchers submitted their initial yoga protocol to manage anger to a panel of 26 experts for evaluation. The experts consisted of: six yoga practitioners/therapists, four yoga professors, four yoga research scholars, ten psychologists, and two adolescent counselors. The experts evaluated the practices included in the yoga protocol to manage anger in four categories. Those included: relevance, specificity, sensitivity, and evidence from the literature justifying the inclusion. They evaluated each of the four categories on a Likert scale from 0 to 4, where 0 = not necessary; 1 = a little useful; 2 = moderately useful; 3 = essential; and 4 = extremely essential. The feedback from the experts was then used to finalize the yoga protocol design that the researchers tested in a pilot study in phase three.

Phase three

In phase three, the researchers tested the revised yoga protocol with a non-randomized sample of fifty 8th-graders. The yoga protocol consisted of five parts: 1) opening and closing chant, 2) postures and breathing, 3) meditation, 4) philosophy-type knowledge, and 5) home practice. The participating adolescents were in two groups. One class of 28 kids completed the yoga treatment. The other class of 22 kids was assigned to the waitlist control group. The yoga treatment included two yoga sessions per week during a free period at school. Each yoga session was 30 minutes. The research team did an anger assessment with all participating adolescents using the Adolescent Anger Assessment Scale. They administered the scale before the study began and again at the end of the study.

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Results

The researchers included yoga techniques in the yoga module if at least 8 of the 26 experts both reviewed and okayed them. They included a total of 16 techniques. The yoga protocol significantly reduced anger scores compared to the waitlist control group. However, this was just a pilot study, so researchers need to do additional research to see if these initial results are supported with further testing.

Why is this relevant to yoga practitioners?

We all experience many different emotional states during the day. And, as the article we summarized here points out, anger can be particularly distressing and overwhelming. Yoga is one tool that can encourage the parasympathetic side of our autonomic nervous system. In that way, it can help balance our nervous system so we don’t get carried away by our emotions, including anger.

Conclusion

Anger is an overwhelming emotion for many of us, particularly adolescents. The research team, in the study we summarized here, developed a yoga protocol that they could implement in schools to help adolescents manage their anger. The initial pilot study found that the yoga protocol reduced anger compared to the control group. However, this is only a preliminary study, so researchers need to do further testing to see if they can repeat these results.

Reference citation

Alaka Mani TL, Omkar SN, Manoj K. Sharma, Astha Choukse, Nagendra HR, 2021. Development and validation of yoga module for anger management in adolescents. Complementary Therapies in Medicine. 61:102772. 7pgs.

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