The Evidence Portal

Transformative Life Skills

About the program

Transformative Life Skills (TLS) is a manualized program which provides students with sequenced instruction and applied experience in using yoga postures, breathing techniques, and centring meditation to reduce stress and promote social-emotional health and physical wellness.

Who does it work for?

TLS can be used with students from a range of age groups. TLS has only been evaluated in the USA. One randomized control trial (Frank et al., 2017) was conducted with 159 participants. One quasi-experimental design study (Frank et al., 2014) was conducted with 49 participants. In the Frank et al. (2014) study, students ranged from ages 13-17 years old and in the Frank et al. (2017) study, participants were either between 10-11 years old (6th graders) or 13-14 years old (9th graders).

Participants in the 2014 study were recruited from an alternative education school (alternative schools in the USA serve students who have been suspended or expelled for disruptive classroom behaviour). In the 2014 study, one third of participants were black, one third were Hispanic and the remaining participants comprised a range of different races and ethnicities. Just over half of the sample were female (54%). Most participants in the 2014 study reported living in a two-parent household (45%).

Participants in the 2017 study were recruited from a diverse middle school in a high-poverty neighbourhood. Most of these students were Latino (54%) and just under half (46%) were female. The majority of students in the study lived in a two-parent household (64%).

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

What outcomes does it contribute to?

Positive outcomes:

  • TLS participants’ scores improved on measures of involuntary engagement broadly (e.g. physiological reactivity, rumination) and involuntary action (e.g. subconscious movements like jaw clenching, pen tapping, leg jiggling etc)
  • TLS participants experienced reduced levels of rumination (continuously thinking about the same thoughts, which tend to be sad or dark) and intrusive thoughts
  • TLS participants experienced a reduction in physical and emotional arousal
  • TLS participants experienced a reduction in motivation for revenge and a reduction in hostility.
  • TLS participants primary coping (attempts to alter objective conditions) and secondary coping (attempts to adjust oneself to objective conditions) skills improved
  • TLS participants’ measures of emotional regulation improved
  • TLS participants scored better on measures of positive thinking and cognitive restructuring

No effect:

  • The program had no effect on participants’ positive or negative affect
  • The program had no effect on participants’ somatization (the physical or bodily expression of stress and emotions)
  • The program had no effect on participants’ attitudes towards violence
  • The program had no effect on measures of participants’ levels of acceptance
  • The program had no effect on participants’ problem-solving skills
  • The program had no effect on participants’ emotional expression

How effective is it?

Overall, TLS had a mixed effect 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?

TLS is usually delivered in 30-minute sessions 3-4 days per week; however sessions can be delivered in 15, 30, or 60-min segments. There are 4 units in the TLS program, each with 12 associated lessons (total 48 lessons) which have scripted, manualized instructions. The 4 units are:

  1. Stress Management
  2. Body and emotional awareness
  3. Self-regulation
  4. Building Healthy Relationships

Each lesson is designed to teach specific skills connected to the overarching unit theme. Before beginning each lesson, behavioural expectations are reviewed and the agenda for the day’s lesson is reviewed. Then, instructors attempt to activate student background related to the topic in question and may engage in brief conversation with the group to stimulate interest. Subsequently, students engage in the Action-Breathing-Centering Activities (referred to as the ABCs) which provides students experience in engaging in yoga postures, focused breathing, and centring meditation. Across sessions, ABC sequences become progressively more challenging. At the end of each lesson, instructors are asked to complete a fidelity checklist documenting that each lesson component was implemented, rate the overall level of student engagement, and reflect on the quality of lesson implementation. At the end of each unit, instructors are asked to review their implementation data to plan a reteaching lesson during which they repeat coverage of content within the last content unit that was poorly covered or had limited student engagement.

How much does it cost?

The costs for TLS were not reported in the study.

What else should I consider?

TLS is delivered in classroom settings across 1 semester of the school year. The program is delivered by professional yoga instructors with at least 2-years of experience and training in providing TLS.

Where does the evidence come from?

1 RCT and 1 QED both conducted in different states in the USA. The QED by Frank et al., (2014) had 43 participants and the RCT by Frank et al., (2017) had 149 participants.

Further resources

Frank, JL, Bose, B, & Schrobenhauser-Clonan, A 2014, ‘Effectiveness of a school-based yoga program on adolescent mental health, stress coping strategies, and attitudes toward violence: Findings from a high-risk sample’, Journal of Applied School Psychology, vol. 30, no. 1, 29-49, DOI 10.1080/15377903.2013.863259.

Frank, JL, Kohler, K, Peal, A, & Bose, B 2017, ‘Effectiveness of a school-based yoga program on adolescent mental health and school performance: Findings from a randomized controlled trial’, Mindfulness, vol. 8, 544-553, DOI 10.1007/s12671-016-0628-3.

Last updated:

09 Dec 2022

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