As surveys document a rise in yoga participation among American children, interest in using yoga therapy to prevent or treat various medical conditions is also increasing. According to a research review published in Academic Pediatrics (2009; 9, 212–20), more research is required to determine the therapeutic value of yoga for children. Clinical trial findings from research on adults suggest that yoga can benefit those with back pain, osteoarthritis, cardiovascular disease and depression.
Investigators from Harvard Medical School Osher Research Center in Boston conducted a systematic review of studies to identify evidence of yoga applications for all pediatric conditions. The criterion for age inclusion was 0–21 years.
Researchers identified 26 controlled studies for pediatrics and eight for young adults. In most studies the methodological quality was poor: randomization methods were not described, many had small sample sizes, sample size calculations were not provided, inappropriate statistical analyses undermined the principle of randomized clinical trials, rationales for control groups were not explained, and many studies did not report withdrawals or dropouts. The reviewers stated that future studies would need to meet a higher standard of methodology and reporting to provide the scientific evidence required to support therapeutic use of yoga for pediatric populations.
Preliminary evidence showed that yoga might be beneficial for children’s physical fitness, but the researchers believed that studies should be conducted in different cultural settings to evaluate the feasibility of yoga as a form of exercise for children. Only one study looked at yoga’s benefits for newborns, despite the popularity of prenatal yoga. Studies are also needed to examine applications of yoga to improve pediatric behavior and development; for example, in the case of kids with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder or other mental health conditions.