Yoga and Mindfulness for Social-Emotional Development and Resilience in 3–5 Year-Old Children: Non-Randomized, Controlled Intervention
Background: Early childhood is the key life course period for development of social-emotional skills, providing the foundation for school readiness and resilience in later life. Age-appropriate yoga and mindfulness programs may contribute to the development of critical skills in children. Young children from minoritized communities that face structural racism and health disparities may benefit from programs that support social-emotional development and contribute to future academic success. Systematic reviews of yoga interventions for young children have indicated the potential for effectiveness in supporting social-emotional development, executive function, and physical activity. However, studies of yoga and mindfulness with non-White children are sparse and, overall, the evidence base to date for such programs remains limited by non-controlled studies and the variable quality of studies evaluating programs in early childhood settings. Methods: The analysis of data from a non-randomized, controlled intervention aimed to assess the effect of exposure to a yoga and mindfulness program for early childhood development of social-emotional skills in a majority Black/African American urban preschool setting in southeastern US. Children in the intervention received group yoga and mindfulness led by a certified children’s yoga teacher who also had training and experience as a school teacher. Intervention participants engaged in activities for 20 minutes once per week for 32 weeks, while the control group had no yoga. The final sample included 579 in the historical control group and 122 in the intervention group. Results: Results indicated that children who participated in the yoga and mindfulness program had higher total protective factor (TPF) subscores on the Devereux Early Childhood Assessment over time than children who did not receive yoga and mindfulness programming, and that the difference was statistically significant (P<0.05). Participation in the intervention group significantly predicted increases in initiative score, self-control score, and TPF score, as well as a decrease in the behavioral concerns. Discussion: School based yoga and mindfulness programming can support social-emotional skills and resilience in young children. Additional studies with larger sample sizes and randomization are needed on use of yoga and mindfulness in young children for social-emotional development, particularly for Black/African American children and others from minoritized communities.