Improve the Regulation of Emotions with Yoga
By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.
“yoga has an important role in regulating the feelings of the adolescents and the students who practice yoga are more happy, energetic, focused, and healthy.” – Yasmin Janjhua
Emotions are important to our well-being. They provide the spice of life, the joy, the love, the happiness. But they can be troubling producing sadness, hurt and fear. They can also be harmful such as the consequences of out-of-control anger or suicidal depression. We need emotions, but we must find ways to keep them under control. Emotion regulation is the term used to describe the ability to control emotions. It is not eliminating or suppressing them. Far from it, emotion regulation allows for the emotion to be fully felt and experienced. But it maintains the intensity of the emotion at a manageable level and also produces the ability to respond to the emotion appropriately and constructively. Clearly, emotion regulation is a key to a happier life.
Mindfulness practices have been shown to improve emption regulation. Exercise has also been shown to improve mental health. Yoga is both a mindfulness practice and an exercise. It has been shown to have a myriad of benefits for psychological and physical health, social, and spiritual well-being. So, there is reason to believe that yoga practice may improve emotion regulation. How this might work in young adults has not been well explored.
In today’s Research News article “”I Just Find It Easier to Let Go of Anger”: Reflections on the Ways in Which Yoga Influences How Young People Manage Their Emotions.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8645589/ ) Hagen and colleagues examine the changes in emotions that occur in teenagers during participation in an 8-week yoga class. The teens received semi-structured interviews and filled out logs of their experiences.
The youths reported that yoga reduced negative emotions and improved their ability to regulate these emotions. This is very important for everyone but especially during the highly volatile teenage years. By making the teens more aware of their emotions and improving their ability to understand their origins, they become better at working with them as opposed to suppressing or ignoring them. Hence, yoga practice may be an important means to help teens navigate this difficult period.
“Yoga is beneficial for everyone, from 3 years to 103! It might be said though, that the 13-18 year old age group needs it the most.” – Lyn Russell
CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies
This and other Contemplative Studies posts are available on Twitter @MindfulResearch
Hagen, I., Skjelstad, S., & Nayar, U. S. (2021). “I Just Find It Easier to Let Go of Anger”: Reflections on the Ways in Which Yoga Influences How Young People Manage Their Emotions. Frontiers in psychology, 12, 729588. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2021.729588
In this article we discuss how young people experienced a school-based yoga intervention. We pay particular attention to how yoga provides a space for young people to deal with their emotions. We base our discussion on qualitative data from young people in Norway who participated in the European research project “Hippocampus: Promoting Mental Health and Wellbeing among Young People through Yoga.” The qualitative results are based on experiences described by these young people in individual semi-structured interviews and in diaries or logs. Our data include nine interviews performed in the spring of 2019 with young people of Norwegian and refugee background in their late teens and early twenties. There were also 133 logs noted by the students exposed to the yoga intervention. In the qualitative interviews, young people talk about yoga and emotional management, improved sleep habits, and regulation. They also report improved ability to regulate and cope with stress. Yoga seemed especially beneficial for refugee trauma. In this article, we have chosen to focus on the utterances of young people about emotions, as those were quite dominant in our data, especially in the interview material. We have identified instances of emotional regulation, but also of emotional processes and changes of emotions, all of which were related to these young students practicing yoga. The impact of yoga on emotions illustrates the potential of yoga to improve the well-being and mental health of young people.