Research in Effects of Yoga on Children

Sn. Amargeet, BYMM, Munger

First of all I would like to welcome all of you and all the yoga lovers here to my workshop today. The topic that we will be discussing is 'Research in Effects of Yoga on Children – An Experience', presented by the Bal Yoga Mitra Mandal (BYMM) of Munger under the guidance of Yoga Research Foundation, Bihar School of Yoga, Munger. Now, let us learn something about BYMM.

Bal Yoga Mitra Mandal (BYMM)

Bal Yoga Mitra Mandal is an association of children aged up to fourteen years, and it is connected to and associated with the ashram. It is an association of children working for children and managed by children. Established in 1995 with six members, it currently has the strength of over 40,000 children present here in Munger, and about 200,000 members all over India. This movement is directly guided by our own Swami Niranjan and its aim is cultivating good samskaras, becoming self-dependent and having a love for our cultural heritage.

It has many different activities apart from learning and teaching yoga, such as dancing, chanting bhajans and kirtan, chanting Sanskrit stotras, learning karate, working outdoors, indoors, gardening, and so forth. Every weekend, we members meet here at Ganga Darshan Vishwa Yogapeeth to work together, to chant together, to sing together, to dance together and to express our views and interact with each other. We children manage most of the major ashram events.

The beginning of the BYMM was the seed of desire to grow in newer areas, which was watered and nurtured by the mandate given by Swamiji to be self-dependent. Once, in 2007, a group of children expressed their views to our beloved Swamiji that they wanted to do research on yoga. Swamiji was very pleased and with a smile all the curtains went up to make a golden history in the BYMM association.

The process

For this, we all thought together of what we needed. We planned, we re-planned, we started the preparations and we also conducted a major shivir at the Polo Ground, where the World Yoga Convention is presently being held.

We organized a mega yoga shivir for the children of Munger in the summer of 2008 to generate a research population, subjects without any yoga experience. About 4,000 children attended the yoga camp. Over 500 willing children were registered as members of Bal Yoga Mitra Mandal.

The entire group was divided into two; the control group and the yoga group. We organized ourselves to collect pre-data for 469 enrolled subjects for the yoga group; out of these, we focused on 400. We had 274 children in the control group.

We studied physical growth, the ten dimensions of memory, the rational and logical intelligence and two dimensions of creativity.

Generally, research gave us only one-third of the results. That is, the observation and the outcome of the research. But our research gave us two sets: the subjects and the researchers.

At the end we collected post-data for both the groups.

Research design

There was a total of 469 children in the yoga group, and in the control group 274. This number was reduced to half in the yoga group, 201, and in the control group, 199. This reduction was because if children in either group were not able to attend all of the tests or were absent for a few days for any reason, they were taken out of the research. We felt that to conduct any research we had to continue the process without gaps.

When we step forward from one step of the staircase to another step, we have to continue one by one; we cannot jump from the first to the tenth step. So we really needed continuity for the tests and the research, therefore if the children were not able to attend the classes, the tests, the exams which were held here at Ganga Darshan, they were taken out of the research.

Parameters of the research design

The parameters on the left column and the corresponding tools used to measure them on the right column. We studied two aspects of creativity: the verbal and pictorial.

Parameters Measuring tools
Height in centimeters Height Scale
Body-weight in Kg Digital Weighing Scale
Ten dimensions of memory function PGI Memory Scale
Rational intelligence Ravens Progressive Matrices
Creativity (verbal & pictorial) Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking

The intervention

A little about the classes. In the classes we tried to balance both the introverting and extroverting attitude, both fun and discipline, because children do not follow just one aspect. Their minds divert, so we have to manage both aspects, both sides of the brain: the left and the right. The function of the right brain is of pictoriality, or vision. The function of the right brain is to see and visualize. The left brain is verbal and allows you to act according to what you see. So we balanced both aspects: the extroverting and the introverting, the fun and the discipline, teamwork and creative expression, and so on. We tried to balance everything.

Four classes were held. The first class was of asana and pranayama. The second class was outdoor games such as gardening, karma yoga, etc. The third class was creative activity. There were different discussions in the classes, quizzes, indoor games, chart-making; different creative ideas were brought in. The main focus was to inspire in the children creative ideas through teamwork. As Swamiji says, unity is the best thing. If we are united, we can achieve anything.

To unite anyone, to unite children, a group of people, a locality or a nation, we need creative ideas, we need discussion. We need to clear everything: what we think and what the other person is thinking. Interaction is needed. Thus, for the third class, there was mostly interaction between the teacher and the students and between students and students. The fourth class was a chanting class, in which stotras, kirtan and dancing were practised, and moral stories were told. The chanting of the mantras and the kirtan brought more focus in the children when participating in the other three classes: asana, karma yoga, creative ideas.

Research sample

The total number of children in the yoga group was 201, among which 96 were girls and 105 were boys. The average age was 141.22 months.

The control group had 199 in this group, of which 73 were girls and 126 were boys. Their average age in months was 138.16 months.

  Yoga Control Yoga 1 (>134 mth) Yoga 2 (<135 mth) Con 1 (>134 mth) Con 2 (<135 mth)
n 201 199 143 58 124 75
Girls 96 73 65 31 41 32
Boys 105 126 78 27 83 43
Av. Age 141.22 138.16 148.79 122.55 148.58 120.93
Min. Age 98 83 135 98 135 83
Max. Age 174 170 174 134 170 134

Results of the research

Physical changes
In height you can see a comparison of both the yoga and the control group. In the yoga group pre-data, the height was 144.56, and after the yoga intervention the average raised to 147.26. The change was about 2.70 cm. In the control group, the pre-data average was 143.63, and the post-data was 145.05, and the change was 1.42. This difference was highly significant.
The next parameter is weight. In the yoga group we see that the pre-data mean was 32.48 kg, whereas the post-data was 35.55 kg. The change was by 3.07 kg. In the control group the pre-data was 32.12 kg and the post was 34.28 kg. The change was 2.16 kg. This was also highly significant.
The data indicated that with the practice of yoga there was more change, there was more improvement, whereas in the control group there was less change or improvement.

  Height in cms Weight in kg
Y=201 Yoga Control Yoga Control
C=199 Pre Post Pre Post Pre Post Pre Post
Mean 144.56 147.26 143.63 145.05 32.48 35.55 31.12 34.28
Change   2.70   1.42   3.07   2.16
F>   8.295       3.771    
Signifi.   0.000       0.024    

Memory
In the yoga group the mean pre-data was 52.07 and the post-data was 64.03. The change was 11.96. The pre-data for the control group was 46.42, which became 53.60. The change was 7.18. This was also highly significant. We can see the changes, we can see the difference between the yoga and control groups. In the yoga group, children with poor memory improved the most. The mean went up in the yoga group the most, whereas in the control group it did not move much.

Overall Memory
Y=201 Yoga Control
C=199 Pre Post Pre Post
Mean 52.07 64.03 46.42 53.60
Change   11.96   7.18
F   24.837    
Signifi.   0.000    

Rational intelligence
Here we have tried to show the difference by time, score and grade. The time indicates the total time taken to complete any work given to the children. The pre-data for the yoga group shows that the children took an average of 36.22 minutes to complete any work: exams, tests, verbal exercises, etc. After the practice this average changed to 23.18 minutes, a big reduction of time. The change was 13.04 minutes. For the control group, the pre-data timing average was 32.18 minutes to complete any of the work, whereas the post-data shows that they took 25.88 minutes. The change was only about 6.5 minutes of reduction in the control group.

Height in cms
Y=201 Yoga Control
C=199 Pre Post Pre Post
Mean Time 36.22 23.18 32.18 25.88
Change   -13.04   -6.30
Mean Score 23.00 26.09 18.60 21.74
Change   3.09   3.14
Mean Grade 7.76 7.43 8.22 8.04
Change   +0.33   +0.18
F   6.229    
Signifi.   0.000    

We move on to rational intelligence by grades. First of all I would like to make something clear. These children were from nine grades: one, two, three, four, up to nine. Grade one was the best performer of all and grade nine was the lowest of all. So here, the mean grade pre-data for the yoga group was 7.76 and in post it was 7.03. The change was about 0.73. In the control group the pre-data was 8.22 and the post-data was 8.04. This was also highly significant. I would like to take your attention to the graph on the right side, the intelligence graph. Here we can see that the children with the lower intelligence rating scored the highest during this period.
In the yoga group the pre-data shows that there was a total of 107 children, whose reduction came to 86. In the control group there were 130 children and the reduction came to 128, grade-wise. This means that in the yoga group more children improved grade-wise and more of them moved up to the next grade than the children in the control group.

Rational intelligence by grade
  Intel.-Grade (No. of subjects) Intel.-Grade (% of subjects)
Y=201 Yoga Control Yoga Control
C=199 Pre Post Pre Post Pre Post Pre Post
1 2 2 0 2 0.995 1.015 0.000 1.064
2 0 5 3 2 0.000 2.538 1.531 1.064
3 4 9 2 4 1.990 4.569 1.020 2.128
4 14 4 5 0 6.965 2.030 2.551 0.000
5 3 15 0 14 1.493 7.614 0.000 7.447
6 16 8 9 3 7.960 4.061 4.592 1.596
7 25 33 21 12 12.438 16.751 10.714 6.383
8 30 35 26 21 14.925 17.766 13.265 11.170
9 107 86 130 128 53.234 43.655 66.327 68.085

Verbal creativity
Here we have touched the three dimensions of verbal creativity: fluency, flexibility and originality. In comparing the pre- and post-data between the two groups, we can see that here also, the yoga group improved more than the control group. This is because of the practices and the involvement. Both the groups involved themselves in the activities, of course, but the attention, the alertness, the awareness of the yoga group was much greater than in the control group.

Verbal creativity
Y n=201 C n=199 Fluency Flexibility Originality
Y-Pre 57.04 57.42 43.15
Y-Post 58.21 58.22 42.15
C-Pre 51.26 49.35 42.39
C-Post 48.80 49.81 23.45
F value 22.658 21.702 38.374
Signifi. 0.000 0.000 0.000

Pictorial creativity
In pictorial creativity, by contrast, the control group improved a lot. The yoga group improved more and more and more for verbal creativity, but here it was the control group that showed the most significant improvement. In the yoga group, the change in fluency was 13.67, and in the control group it was 16.58. On originality, the yoga group's change was 4.07, and for the control group it was 14.07. In elaboration, the yoga group measured a change of 6.22, whereas the control group's number was higher, at 7.67. Abstract of the title for the yoga group was 6.06, whereas for the control group it was 0.87. Resist to closure for the yoga group was 0.20, and in the control group it was 0.42. In the creativity index, the yoga group measured at 1.31, while in the control group the number was 8.38, a significantly greater improvement.

Pictorial creativity
Y n=201 C n=199 Fluency Originality Elaboration Abstract. of Title Resist. to Closure Creativity Index
Y-Pre 78.18 69.81 28.51 11.06 0.00 37.65
Y-Post 91.85 73.88 22.29 5.00 0.20 38.96
Change 13.67 4.07 -6.22 -6.06 0.20 1.31
C-Pre 66.17 47.59 14.47 2.53 0.00 25.83
C-Post 82.75 61.66 22.14 3.40 0.42 34.21
Change 16.58 14.07 7.67 0.87 0.42 8.38
F 18.837 24.407 20.969 10.191 0.405 37.584
Signifi. 0.000 0.000 0.000 0.000 0.525 0.000

Conclusion

The growth rate both in height and body was significantly better for the yoga group in comparison to the control group. The total score of memory significantly improved in the yoga group, representing improvement in overall memory function. Rational intelligence showed significant improvement in the raw score and time taken to complete any test, exam or work that was given to them, meaning that the time taken reduced. The first day when the children came they took more time to complete work, whereas after we completed the research we came to the conclusion that the time taken had reduced much more.

There was also, overall, a significant improvement in verbal creativity among the children in the yoga group. They were more confident, more flexible to interact with other people. On the first day they were very nervous and shy, but as the research moved forward they became more confident and willing to work with the children in the control group, with the researchers, with the people and residents of the ashram, with the people surrounding them. They were more confident and more comfortable in interacting with people. In some areas, like pictorial creativity, the control group improved more than the yoga group, in their overall score as well as in five out of six individual dimensions.

Benefits to the researchers

It is true that the children on whom we did the research benefited greatly from this study, from the meditation and the karma yoga, and all of the other activities they were given, and were affected by the experience of the study. However, those of us who conducted the research were affected even more than the children, since we needed to understand and verify any doubt about every subject, every aspect of the research before it was conducted. So we moved on, very much, from one dimension and aspect of life to higher aspects and dimensions of life. Our lives changed during the course of this research. Our physical endurance increased to a great extent, a great lesson in alertness, one-pointedness as well as multifocal-ness, discipline and precision.

The researchers were able to focus their attention not only on one point, not only on one area, but on many areas. We learned that we could become experts in many different aspects and activities of life, not only one. For example, we learnt to pay attention to both groups that we would be working with, not only one or the other. We were responsible for observing and understanding the activities of both groups, and we had to grasp the whole picture.

It was an opportunity to improve what may be called intellectual learning in new subjects like psychology, research methodology and statistical techniques. While doing research you have to be very creative, alert and present-minded. You cannot be haphazard. You have to think about every single area of the research: 'If this happens, what will be the result of this?' Every possible outcome of the study had to be thought of.

Communication was very important. If I am speaking a word to any person, what impression will that make on the person? What will he think? I have to think before speaking any word regarding how and what we say to each other, how our words affect other people, what their impressions and responses are. We improved as we came to interact with many subjects such as psychology, yoga, meditation. Whatever programs we introduced in the research, we actually did them first; we experimented and tried them on ourselves first before we taught them to the children. In this way, our understanding of the different yoga practices also improved dramatically.

Through teamwork, task management and coordination, we also grew emotionally. We came together and united ourselves, and we will carry this impression or feeling of joy in our hearts for a long time. This research taught us many things and made a great change in our lives.

To sum up, our maximum benefits were in the areas of planning and management: people management, event management, time management and self-management. You can see the children today during this event, dancing, singing and managing the people. It is because of this research that this change has been taking place.

Satyananda Yoga practices and exposure to the ashram environment had a significant, beneficial effect on various dimensions of the children's personality. Both the research team and the children on whom the research was conducted improved physically, mentally, creatively, verbally and, most importantly, emotionally. They were able to experience many emotional, physical, and mental changes. You can say that a transformation took place. They underwent a transformation of mind, body, everything after this research.

The opportunity of this research provided manifold benefits and influenced multiple dimensions of the childrens' and the researchers' personality. The children totally changed. Their thoughts totally changed. For this, I would like to say a 'Thank you' to our beloved Swamiji, who gave us this opportunity and his precious time. I would also like to say 'Thank you' to the Yoga Research Foundation, which gave us guidance and help in performing this research in any way that we needed. Although we did everything, we needed a guideline to do so. So we were walking ahead, but the Yoga Research Foundation and Guruji were behind us, pushing us, saying, "You can do it. You can complete this research successfully," and we did it, we children did it.

Q & A: Why the difference in creativity between the two groups?

Swami Nirmalananda: Children are very creative pictorially, and the control group did not have any intervention, so they retained their right-brain creativity, the visual creativity. On the other hand, though the yoga group also had the chance for both right- and left-brain practices, there was some additional work given for the left brain, which the control group did not have. Thus, in the yoga group the left-brain activity was improving more than in the right. If there was no intervention then it would have been equal. It was comparatively based more on the left side, so it seems that it did not improve on the right. That is one reason.

You see how the children outside of the ashram are. However, when they enter into the ashram environment they become disciplined, more aware of the different types of people here and more serious. Due to this, their creativity goes down slightly. This research was very short, five months, with only twenty sessions, once a week on Sundays. Most of the benefits of yoga applied to them adjusting to the new surroundings and environment. I believe that is why the pictorial development did not show as much improvement as it could have. If the syllabus changes a little to ensure the balance of the use of both sides of the brain and if the study is longer, then the results will be more factual than what we found in this first research study.

—Workshop, 25 October 2013, Ganga Darshan