Yoga to reduce trauma-related distress and emotional and behavioral difficulties among children living in orphanages in Haiti: A pilot study.


Objectives: To measure trauma-related distress and evaluate the feasibility, acceptability, and preliminary efficacy of an 8-week yoga intervention (YI) in reducing trauma-related symptoms and emotional and behavioral difficulties (EBD) among children living in orphanages in Haiti. Design: Case comparison with random assignment to YI or aerobic dance control (DC) plus a nonrandomized wait-list control (WLC) group. Setting: Two orphanages for children in Haiti. Participants: 76 children age 7 to 17 years. Intervention: The YI included yoga postures, breathing exercises, and meditation. The DC group learned a series of dance routines. The WLC group received services as usual in the institutional setting. After completion of data collection, the WLC group received both yoga and dance classes for 8 weeks. Outcome measures: The UCLA PTSD Reaction Index and the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire were used to indicate trauma-related symptoms and EBD, respectively. A within-subject analysis was conducted to compare pre- and post-treatment scores. A post-treatment yoga experience questionnaire evaluated acceptability of the YI. Results: Analyses of variance revealed a significant effect (F[2,28] = 3.30; p = 0.05) of the YI on the trauma-related symptom scores. Regression analyses showed that participation in either 8 weeks of yoga or dance classes suggested a reduction in trauma-related symptoms and EBD, although this finding was not statistically significant (p > 0.05). Respondents reported satisfaction with the yoga program and improved well-being. Conclusions: Children with trauma-related distress showed improvements in symptoms after participation in an 8-week yoga program compared to controls. Yoga is a feasible and acceptable activity with self-reported benefits to child mental and physical health. Additional research is needed to further evaluate the effect of yoga to relieve trauma-related distress and promote well-being among children.