Evaluation of an Eight-week Yoga Program for Children Living in Orphanages in Haiti: A Preliminary Study of Child Mental Health
<bold>Objective:</bold> Posttraumatic stress due to trauma exposure in childhood disconnects the mind and body, producing a chronic state of anxiety and ill health that worsens into adulthood. In order to mitigate the harmful effects of trauma experienced by children living in low-resource settings worldwide, evidence-based research on the effect of feasible mind-body interventions to reduce trauma-related symptoms among this vulnerable population is needed. The complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) practice of yoga holds promise as a mind-body approach to child mental and physical wellbeing. The purpose of this preliminary study was to evaluate the effectiveness, feasibility, and acceptability of an 8-week yoga intervention to reduce trauma-related symptoms and emotional and behavioral difficulties among children living in orphanages in Haiti.
<bold>Methods:</bold> The study design is a case-control study with random assignment to yoga or aerobic dance plus a non-randomized wait-list control group. The UCLA PTSD Reaction Index and the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire measured trauma-related symptoms and emotional and behavioral difficulties, respectively. A supplementary questionnaire evaluated participants' experience in the yoga program.
<bold>Results:</bold> Our main findings include that participation in either 8-weeks of yoga or aerobic dance classes predicted a reduction in trauma-related symptoms and emotional and behavioral difficulties, though not statistically significant (p > .05). The average yoga class attendance was 14.65 (SD = 2.17) out of 16 classes. Ninety-two percent of respondents (N = 26) reported being satisfied with the yoga program and all reported positive changes in wellbeing.
<bold>Conclusion:</bold> Although the reductions in trauma-related symptoms and emotional and behavioral difficulties among children in the yoga and aerobic dance groups were not statistically significant, positive feedback suggests that yoga is a feasible, acceptable, and enjoyable activity with benefits to child mental and physical health. Further research is needed to evaluate the effect of yoga to relieve trauma-related mental illness among Haitian youth and to promote sustained health into adulthood. Yoga programs designed to improve health and resilience to stress are essential social justice approaches for investing in the wellbeing of our global youth and creating peace within the community at large.
Global mental health
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