A pilot study at one school randomly assigned some of the pupils to yoga classes and the rest to ordinary PE classes.
Teens taking the yoga classes scored higher on several of the psychological tests.
Using Kripalu yoga, the classes included physical yoga postures, breathing exercises, relaxation and meditation.
All students completed a battery of psychological tests before and after the 10 week yoga programme and the yoga group scored higher on several tests.
The students in the regular PE classes tended to have higher scores for mood problems and anxiety while those in the yoga classes stayed the same or improved.
Nearly three quarters of the yoga students said they would like to continue taking the classes.
Dr Jessica Noggle of Harvard Medical school who carried out the study concluded that “yoga may serve a preventive role in adolescent mental health”.
Studies have shown benefits of yoga in a wide range of mental and physical health problems, including a growing body of evidence showing positive effects in children and teens.
Although limited by its small size, the study suggests some positive psychological effects of Kripalu yoga for high school students.
The results are “generally consistent” with the few previous studies of yoga in school settings, it says.
Dr Noggle and coauthors have called for larger studies including multiple schools and tracking teens for several years into adulthood.
These larger studies will be needed to clarify the psychological and other health benefits of yoga for adolescents — including the possible preventive benefit on development of mental health problems.
The study is published in the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics.