Mindfulness in Human Development (2018-2019)


The presence of yoga and meditation in educational settings has steadily increased, making its way from the periphery (after-school programs, yoga clubs) to a central part of school culture and curriculum through innovative programs. A promising new field of study has emerged as researchers examine the mental, emotional and physical effects of yoga on children and adolescents in school settings. Despite the interest in yoga and mindfulness in K-12 settings, this developing research area faces many methodological and theoretical challenges. Many studies are small, rely on a single interval, do not have control groups and do not use a mixed methods or interdisciplinary approach. Moreover, there are questions about the elements of yoga practice as opposed to mindfulness itself, and gaining buy-in from parents, teachers and school administrators is often a challenge. These questions need to be investigated empirically to provide a trajectory of best practices.

Project Description

This multiyear Bass Connections project brings together Duke and UNC Chapel Hill faculty and students, the nonprofit organization Y.O.G.A. for Youth NC as well as community educational partners. The researchers are analyzing the effects of a regular yoga and meditation practice on students’ mindfulness, emotional regulation, self-esteem, stress response, resilience, physical health, academic performance, social behavior and body image.

Although Y.O.G.A. for Youth has taught over 20,000 youth in its 20-year history, only one published research study has been conducted on the effects of its curriculum. The team’s findings will provide the organization with important information regarding the effectiveness of the curriculum and contribute to the growing field of yoga and mindfulness in K-12 settings.

The 2017-18 Bass Connections team expanded the work from the afterschool program to the school day at Phillips Middle School in Chapel Hill. The team introduced yoga into the school day through training key administrators and teachers in the 40-hour Y.O.G.A. for Youth Teacher Training program. Y.O.G.A. for Youth teachers led weekly classes in the classrooms of those teachers, who also began each day with five minutes of yoga/meditation (Monday through Thursday) and time for writing in journals about their the experience every Friday.

The 2018-19 team will analyze the effectiveness of this approach through administering surveys and mood scales; conducting interviews with the yoga classroom teachers and their students; observing yoga teachers and classroom teachers; and obtaining academic and discipline records pre-, mid- and post-intervention of all yoga and control participants.

The team will also host an Embodied Learning Summit that will bring together educators, parents and students to explore the intersection of social justice, educational systems and research on yoga and mindfulness. Open to all community members, the free event will feature a keynote speaker, several workshops, panels and time for yoga practice. Following the event, the team will collect feedback from attendees and facilitate the continuation of conversations around these topics by sending out a monthly newsletter to connect attendees to relevant events and resources.

Anticipated Outcomes

Presentations at Embodied Learning Summit and other conferences (Yoga in the Schools Symposium and Research Summit, Contemplative Practices for 21st Century High Education Conference, National Kids Yoga Conference, International Symposium for Contemplative Studies); two manuscripts for publication; sustainable model for bringing Y.O.G.A. for Youth and other yoga programs into the school setting


Fall 2018 – Spring 2019

  • Fall 2018: Planning for Embodied Learning Summit; yoga and research project orientation sessions; pre-intervention survey administered; Y.O.G.A. for Youth weekly classes and daily “yoga & mindfulness moments” implemented and continue for the year; team members observe Y.O.G.A. for Youth and yoga classroom teachers; team administers 5-minute mood measure before and after yoga classroom classes and control group classroom classes; mid-intervention student survey administered
  • Spring 2019: Collection of pre- and mid- academic and discipline records; data entry of academic and discipline records, fall teacher observations and pre- and post- class mood surveys, and Y.O.G.A. for Youth and yoga classroom teacher protocol forms; individual interviews with yoga classroom teachers; team members observe Y.O.G.A. for Youth and yoga classroom teachers; team administers 5-minute mood measure before and after yoga classroom classes and control group classroom classes; data entry of teacher observations and pre- and post- class mood surveys; transcribe and code interviews with classroom teachers; Embodied Learning Summit planning and hosting; administer post-survey and collect post- academic and discipline records; focus groups with students; data entry of post-survey and post-academic and discipline records, Y.O.G.A. for Youth and yoga classroom teacher protocol forms from January to April; transcribe and code focus groups; analyze data and begin writing for publication

Team Outcomes to Date

Mindfulness in Human Development (poster by Briana Bernstein, Roxy Ghadimi, Alejandra Gómez, Lindsey Noonan, Alizeh Sheikh, Emilia Soulios, Morgan Vickery, presented at EHDx, Duke University, April 9, 2019 and at Bass Connections Showcase, Duke University, April 17, 2019)

Mindfulness in Human Development (talk by Alejandra Gomez and Alizeh Sheikh, EHDx, Duke University, April 9, 2019)

Embodied Learning Summit, February 23, 2019

This Team in the News

The Power of Bass Connections Teamwork

Yoga in the Era of #MeToo: Scenes from the Embodied Learning Summit

See related teams, Mindfulness in Human Development (2019-2020) and Mindfulness in Human Development (2017-2018).

Children in a class doing yoga

Team Leaders

  • Michele Berger, Department of Women's & Gender Studies, UNC-Chapel Hill
  • Keval Kaur Khalsa, Arts & Sciences-Dance

/graduate Team Members

  • Kibby McMahon, Psychology-PHD

/undergraduate Team Members

  • Tiffany Ghadimi, Neuroscience (BS)
  • Alejandra Gomez, Public Policy Studies (AB)
  • Lindsey Noonan, Biology (BS)
  • Alizeh Sheikh, Evolutionary Anthropology (BS), Philosophy (AB2)
  • Emilia Soulios, Int Comparative Studies (AB)

/yfaculty/staff Team Members

  • Amy Patel, Social Science Research Institute

/zcommunity Team Members

  • Briana Bernstein, Undergraduate Student, UNC-Chapel Hill
  • Y.O.G.A. for Youth
  • Chapel Hill-Carrboro Public School System
  • Sat Bir Singh Khalsa, Harvard Medical School
  • Morgan Vickery, Undergraduate Student, UNC-Chapel Hill (Computer Science & Human Dev)