Mindfulness in Human Development (2019-2020)


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 some schools’ culture and curriculum through innovative programs. A 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 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.

Adolescents from vulnerable, underserved communities are exposed to unique stressors and trauma that may affect academic achievement and performance. Although yoga and mindfulness programs in K-12 can’t erase structural issues, they can provide a powerful set of tools and lead to stronger academic engagement and achievement.

Project Description

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

The 2019-2020 project team will continue the data analysis and manuscript development based on the previous studies conducted with Chapel Hill-Carrboro public middle school students and Durham public middle school students. The focus of the analysis is to compare results from the schools while learning to use aggregate data for a larger sample size and greater impact. Quantitative analyses, qualitative analyses and mixed methods approaches will be taught and applied.

The team will also host and organize a day-long Embodied Learning Summit during the Spring semester that will bring together educators, parents and students to explore the intersection of social justice, educational systems and research on yoga and mindfulness.

Anticipated Outputs

Papers for publication; sustainable model for bringing Y.O.G.A. for Youth and other yoga programs into schools; Embodied Learning Summit


Fall 2019 – Spring 2020

  • Fall 2019: Plan for Embodied Learning Summit; conduct individual interviews with students; observe Y.O.G.A. for Youth classes and conduct teacher observations; assist with analysis of data; assist with writing for publication.
  • Spring 2020: Transcribe and code interviews with students; host Embodied Learning  Summit; assist with analysis of data; assist with writing for publication.

Team Outputs to Date

Yoga for Elementary School Students (Fortin Foundation Bass Connections Virtual Showcase 2020)

Designing a Yoga Intervention for All Bodies (poster by Shylah Duchicela, Roxy Ghadimi, Joanne Kim, Lindsey Noonan, Sierra Winters)

See related teams, Mindfulness in Human Development (2020-2021) and Mindfulness in Human Development (2018-2019).


Image: Courtesy of Y.O.G.A. for Youth North Carolina


Courtesy of Y.O.G.A. for Youth North Carolina.

Team Leaders

  • Michele Berger, Department of Women's & Gender Studies, UNC-Chapel Hill
  • Keval Kaur Khalsa, Arts & Sciences-Dance
  • Harlyn Skinner, Social Science Research Institute

/graduate Team Members

  • Shylah Duchicela, Masters of Public Policy
  • Katherine McMahon, Psychology-PHD

/undergraduate Team Members

  • Tiffany Ghadimi, Neuroscience (BS)
  • Joanne Kim, Public Policy Studies (AB)
  • Lindsey Noonan, Biology (BS)
  • Sierra Winters, Cultural Anthropology (AB)

/zcommunity Team Members

  • Briana Bernstein, Undergraduate Student, UNC-Chapel Hill
  • Y.O.G.A. for Youth
  • Sat Bir Singh Khalsa, Harvard Medical School