The Evidence Portal

Kripalu Yoga in the Schools (KYIS) curriculum

About the program

KYIS is a secular yoga curriculum for school-aged children and youth. The program focuses on stress management, emotion regulation, self-appreciation, confidence, and strong peer relationships. The program emphasizes Kripalu yoga techniques such as mindfulness (self-observation without judgment), self-regulation (‘‘riding the wave of resistance’’) and compassion meditation (loving-kindness).

The core structural elements of each KYIS class include: delivery of didactic content, experiential activities, breath-work, warm-up, yoga poses, and an integration/relaxation activity.

Who does it work for?

KYIS is designed for 11-12 year old students. KYIS has only been evaluated in the USA. One randomized control trial (Butzer et al., 2017) was conducted with 205 participants (114 in the intervention group and 91 in the control group). One quasi-experimental design study (Felver et al., 2020) was conducted with 23 participants (9 in the intervention group and 14 in the control group).

In the Butzer et al. (2017) study, the majority of participants were white (53.6%) and female (63.2%). Participants were an average of 12.64 years old. In the Felver et al. (2020) study, the majority of participants were also white (65%) and female (52%). Participants were an average of 12.1 years old. The majority of students attending the school where the study took place were classified as “economically disadvantaged”.

KYIS has not been evaluated in Australia or with Aboriginal Australians.

What outcomes does it contribute to?


  • KYIS participants had increased levels of socio-emotional competence

No effect:

  • The program had no effect on participants’ problem behaviours or sensation-seeking
  • The program had no effect on participants’ emotional self-control or emotional dysregulation.
  • The program had no effect on participants’ perceived stress levels or tension
  • The program had no effect on participants’ anger
  • The program had no effect on participants’ sense of confusion
  • The program had no effect on participants’ symptoms of depression
  • The program had no effect on participants’ levels of fatigue or vigour
  • The program had no effect on participants’ negative or positive urgency (measures of impulsivity)
  • The program had no effect on participants’ lack of premeditation (measures an individual's tendency to act without consideration of the potential consequences of the behaviour) or lack of perseverance
  • The program had no effect on participants’ present or future time perspective (both measures of whether people focus in the past, present or futures and how this focus shapes behaviour)

How effective is it?

Overall, KYIS had mixed effects on client outcomes.

How strong is the evidence?

Mixed research evidence (with no adverse effects):

  • At least one high-quality randomised controlled trial (RCT)/quasi-experimental design (QED) study reports statistically significant positive effects for at least one outcome, AND
  • An equal number or more RCT/QED studies of similar size and quality show no observed effects than show statistically significant positive effects, AND
  • No RCT/QED studies show statistically significant adverse effects.

How is it implemented?

Both studies implemented KYIS slightly differently.

In the Butzer et al. (2017) study, KYIS ran for thirty-two 45-minute sessions over 6 months occurring roughly twice per week. Review sessions occurred once every 3 sessions to reinforce learning from prior lessons. A typical yoga session contained the following segments:

  • Centering and breathing exercises (*5 min)
  • Warm-ups (*5 min)
  • Yoga poses (*15 min)
  • Didactic/experiential content (*5 min)
  • Relaxation (*5 min).

Each session built upon the previous sessions and introduced new postures as the curriculum progressed. Commonly practiced poses included warrior I, warrior II, triangle, sun salutations, integrative twist, and legs up the wall. Sample breathing techniques included ocean breath (i.e., breathing through the nose while slightly constricting the esophagus), alternate-nostril breathing (i.e., breathing in through one nostril and out the other), and 3-part breathing (i.e., deep diaphragmatic breathing moving from the abdomen to the solar plexus and upper chest). Didactic and experiential content often encouraged social interaction (e.g., peer-to- peer listening, group discussion, students leading poses) or activities for self-discovery (e.g., holding a posture beyond initial resistance, journaling about ways to de-stress).

KYIS was instructed by 2 lead teachers (one male; one female) and 5 female assistants. All teaching staff were trained to teach yoga and the KYIS program.

In the Felver et al. (2020) study, KYIS ran for fifteen 45-minute sessions held roughly twice per week for 7 weeks. Each of the KYIS classes followed the same structure. Classes began with didactic instruction that included basic social-emotional learning content (e.g., psychoeducation on the physiological “fight or flight” stress response, and how that relates to physical and emotional experience). This theme was revisited briefly for the rest of the class period (e.g., students were instructed to notice before and after yoga practice what their physical experience of stress was like).

Next, students participated in brief experiential activities to engage with the thematic content of that day (e.g., a group discussion on how students experience stress). During the next and largest portion of the class (~50% of the class time), students practiced diaphragmatic breathing exercises, “warm up” physical movements, and then a series of yoga poses to increase flexibility, strength, and awareness of present moment somatic experience. Each class concluded with a brief relaxation activity.

The KYIS program was delivered by an independent yoga provider trained to delivered KYIS.

How much does it cost?

The costs for KYIS were not reported in either study.

What else should I consider?

Facilitators need to be trained to teach yoga and trained in KYIS.

Where does the evidence come from?

1 RCT and 1 QED both conducted in different states in the USA. The RCT by Butzer et al. (2017) had 205 participants and the QED by Felver et al. (2020) study had 23 participants.

Further resources

Felver, JC, Razza, R, Morton, ML, Clawson, AJ, & Mannion, R 2020, ‘School-based yoga intervention increases adolescent resilience: a pilot trial’, Journal of Child & Adolescent Mental Health, vol. 32, no. 1, pp. 1-10, DOI 10.2989/17280583.2019.1698429.

Butzer, B, LoRusso, A, Shin, SH, & Khalsa, SBS 2017, ‘Evaluation of yoga for preventing adolescent substance use risk factors in a middle school setting: a preliminary group-randomized controlled trial’, Journal of youth and adolescence, vol. 46, pp. 603-632, DOI 10.1007/s10964-016-0513-.

Last updated:

09 Dec 2022

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