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YOGA MEANS UNION: A CORRELATIONAL STUDY BETWEEN HATHA YOGA AND PERCIEVED STRESS, SELF ESTEEM, AND SELF COMPASSION BY MAURICETTE JORGENSO N A Thesis Submitted to the Division of Social Sciences New College of Florida in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree Bachelor of the Arts Under the sponsorship of Steven Graham Sarasota, Florida May, 2013
ii "Yoga is not about touching your toes, it is what you learn on the way down" To every individual that shares a love of yo ga. Namaste. To my family Maria, Selina, Shaylin, and Jordan Yoga has contributed to my personal growth in more ways than I could have ever imagined but nothing and no one has shaped who I am more than you four. From each one of you, I learned the most important lesson life has to offer: unconditional love. I love you with all my heart.
iii Acknowledgements I would like to thank my thesis committee Professor Heidi Harley, Professor John Newman, and especially my advisor, Professor Steven Graham, for their help, insight, and guidance during the writing process of this thesis. You all give so much of your time and energy to students I just want you to know it is truly appreciated. Thank you to Duff Cooper, for helping me w ith my dreaded statistics and for actually making it fun with his wonderful sense of humor and exceptional music taste! Thank you to all the anonymous individuals who participated in my study and shared their experiences of yoga with me. Those stories mad e this process so much easier and have inspired me to stay persistent with my own practice. Thank you to Helen, my first yoga teacher and the original inspiration for this thesis. For teaching me the true meaning of yoga and encouraging me to explore fur ther on my own. Thank you for your stories, your patience, your guidance, and your love of yoga. Thank you to all of my friends who gave me the support, encouragement, and once in a while the tough love I needed to complete my thesis and who make my life a blast. My API! crew, the SWER "Dream Team," everyone in the Holistic Lifestyles "club." You all made my time at New College so amazing and special. I wish I could mention you all by name but that would be pages long. You all know who you are. Thank yo u. Thank you to the best roommates anyone could ask for! Sam Hoar, for being my best friend since the first day of New College. I could not have done this without your support, love, and especially your jokes, which kept me sane! Thank you for our long w alks and for always pointing me towards the brighter (and sometimes more rational) side of things. Ben Kerns (AKA: BB Kerns) (AAKA: BB Cakes), for your calm presence, your comedy styling's, unparalleled ability to make me laugh, and for putting up with my many nicknames. Olivia Levinson, my original roommate and chef extraordinaire. Thank you for being so adorable, kind, caring, and for always being there for me when I needed emotional support. It's hard to describe just how much you all mean to me and how much I will miss you next year. I love you immensely and my time at New College would not have been the same without you three. Thank you to Ronnie Perez, my partner, my best friend, and my unofficial editor. You have changed my life. Thank you for two y ears of many long nights spent editing my papers. Thank you for your optimism, goofiness, and laughter. Thank you for giving me your love, time, patience, wisdom, and dedication (especially in the moments I made it difficult for you to do so). Most of all, thank you for your unwillingness to accept nothing less than the best from me.
iv Most importantly, thank you to my family. My mom, Maria, for your unconditional love, your encouragement, and your affection. You taught me what it means to be a loving person, to have compassion for all people, to help people in any way I can, and to stand up for what I believe in. You inspire me everyday and I can't thank you enough. My sister, Selina, for being a guide and role model throughout my life. Much of who I am is based in your example. Thank you for bringing faith into my life, for teaching me the power of love and kindness, to believe in myself, and how to trust. To trust in the universe, in God, in myself, and in others. My niece and nephew, Shaylin and Jordan. Thank you for your existence and for awakening both the inner child and the inner mommy in me. You two are the light and sunshine of my world, the reason I wake up every morning and strive to be the best person I can be. There is nothing I want more in my life than for you two to be happy, healthy, and to know how much you are loved.
v Table of Contents Page Number Dedication ii Acknowledgements iii Table of Contents v Ab stract vii Introduction 1 What i s Y oga? 3 Hatha Yoga 7 Benefits of Y oga 9 Stress 10 Yoga and Stress Reduction 13 Self Esteem 16 Yoga and Self Esteem 18 Self Compassion 22 Yoga and Self Compassion 25 The Current Study 27 Method 27 Results 30 Discussion 32 References 40 Table 1 45 Table 2 46
vi Appendices Appendix A 47 Appendix B 56
vii Yoga Means Union: A Correlational Study Between Ha tha Yoga and Perceived Stress, Self Esteem, and Self Compassion By Mauricette Jorgenson New College of Florida, 2013 ABSTRACT Evidence suggests that yoga not only has physical benefits, but is associated with decreases in stress, depression, anxiety, a nd increases in self esteem. The purpose of this study was to explore the correlation between length of hatha yoga experience and the variables of perceived stress, self esteem, and self compassion. Participants were drawn from various yoga forums and comp leted an online survey, which included Cohen's Perceived Stress Scale, the Rosenberg Self Esteem scale, and Neff's Self Compassion Scale Short Form. These scales were supplemented with short response questions in order to give a qualitative, personal voice to the data. No significant correlation was found between length of hatha yoga experience and any of the variables. However, data revealed a significant negative correlation between perceived stress and self esteem, and between perceived stress and self c ompassion, while indicating a significant positive correlation between self esteem and self compassion. Despite these results, it is still likely that hatha yoga has a correlation with these variables, demonstrated by both the research contained in relevan t literature and within the answers to short response questions given in the survey. ___________________________ Professor Steven Graham Division of Social Sciences
Running head: YOGA MEANS UNION 1 Yoga Means Union: A Correlational Study Between Hatha Yoga and Perceive d Stress, Self Esteem, and Self Compassion "Movement is a medicine for creating change in a person's physical, emotional, and mental states ~Carol Welch "Yoga, an ancient but perfect science, deals with the evolution of humanity. This evolution include s all aspects of one's being, from bodily health to self realization. Yoga means union the union of the body with consciousness and consciousness with the soul. Yoga cultivates the ways of maintaining a balanced attitude in day to day life and endows skill in the performance of one's actions" ~B.K.S. Iyengar It may seem obvious that we need active, regular movement for our bodies and minds to function at their greatest potential but this fact is increasingly taken for granted. Millions of people spend hou rs at a time sitting and staring at a computer or television screen for both work and recreation. Instead of venturing outdoors, climbing trees, or playing tag, children of an increasingly younger age are spending the majority of t heir recreational time in doors inert and sluggish playing video games or watching television. At many schools, recess is being replaced with indoor recreation that does not involve significant bodily activity So many people spend little to no time actually moving their bodies in significant ways. This inactivity, combined with an unhealthy diet, can lead to obesity, loss of flexibility, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, lack of blood flow leading to stiff joints, pain in all parts of the body, and various diseases such as diabetes and cancer. Without consistent physical activity it becomes more and more difficult for the body to perform simple tasks. Simply walking a short distance can be strenuous for a person who is not physically active on a regular basis. Movement no t only a ffects physical well being but much research has been conducted demonstrating the fact that regular physical activity, including exercise and
YOGA MEANS UNION 2 sport s, also promote psychological well being. Ways in which exercise enhances psychological well being in clude enhanced feelings of control, improved self concept, self esteem and self efficacy, and more positive social interactions (Edwards, Edwards, & Basson, 2004). Exercise has also been found to increase academic performance, assertiveness, confidence, em otional stability, intellectual functioning, memory, perception, positive body image, self control, and to decrease alcohol abuse, anger, confusion, depression, headaches, hostility, phobias, psychotic behavior, and tension ( Edwards, Edwards, & Basson, 200 4). One study con ducted by Edwards, Edwards, and Basson (2004) compared 60 regularly exercising aerobic hockey players, 27 regularly exercising health club members, and a control group of 111 non exercising students from two universities in South Africa on the variables of well being and physical self perception. Results found exercisers were significantly more psychologically well than non exercisers in the dimensions of autonomy, personal growth, purpose in life, positive relations with others, and self a cceptance. Exercisers also had significantly more positive physical self perception than non exercisers. Another study conducted by Frost and McKelvie (2005) tested global self esteem, body satisfaction, and body build in 127 male and female non exercisers and exercisers in elementary school, high school, and university students. For all participants combined, those who exercised more frequently reported greater self esteem than those who exercised less and were more satisfied with their bodies overall. M any studies have now begun to explore specific types of exercise and their individual benefits. Hatha yoga is one such exercise that has gained popularity in the West over the past few decades. Many people practice hatha yoga as a form of exercise because it is relatively accessible and highly beneficial to their physical and
YOGA MEANS UNION 3 psychological health. However, the deeper meaning, history, and purpose behind yoga is commonly misunderstood or even unknown to many who practice it. This fact makes it important to a sk What is Y oga? Lucy Lidell and Lucy Narayani (1983) in The Sivananda Companion to Yoga explain that, a t first glance, yoga may seem to be little more tha n a series of strange physical postures, which help to keep the body lean and flexible. However, an yone who regularly practices yoga becomes aware of a subtle ch ange in his or her approach to life; for, through persistently toning and relaxing the body and stilling the mind, an individual may begin to glimpse a state of inner peace, arguably his or her true nature. Yoga is the oldest system of personal development in the world often called a philosophy or science of life, and its techniques date back more than 5,000 years. The word yoga is derived from the Sanskrit root word "yuj" meaning, to bind ," "to yoke," or to "to join." It also means union ," the union of the individual self (jiva) with the Absolute or pure co nsciousness (Brahman), which is the ultimate purpose of yoga. In ancient times, the desire for greater personal freedom, health and long life, and heightened self understanding gave birth to this system of physical and mental exercise, which has since spread throughout the world. Despite more than a century of research the origins of yoga are still largely unknown. The oldest archaeologica l evidence of yoga's existence is provided by a number of stone seals showing figures in yogic postures, excavated from the Indus valley and thought to date from around 3000 BC. The tradition of yoga has largely been passed down individually from teacher t o student through oral teachings and practical demonstration. The formal techniques now known as yoga are, therefore, based on the
YOGA MEANS UNION 4 collective experiences of many individuals over many thousands of years. The particular manner in which the techniques are ta ught and practiced today depends on the approach passed down in the line of teachers supporting the individual practitioner. For purposes of clarity, the history of yoga can be broken down into four periods: vedic, pre classical, classical, and post class ical. The vedic period is where we find the first instance of yoga in writing. This reference to yoga is found in the Rig Veda, the oldest sacred text in the world. The Vedas, dating back to 1500 and 1200 BC, are a collection of hymns, mantras, and brahman ical rituals that praised a greater being. Yoga is referred to in the book as yoking or discipline without any mention of a practice or a method to achieve this discipline. The creation of the Upanishads, between 800 to 500 BC, marks the period known as pr e classical yoga. The word Upanishad means "to sit near" and implies the finding of the truth through sitting next to a guru. Yoga is referenced in both the Maitrayaniya Upanishad and the Bhagavad Gita. The development of the presentation of yoga as we kn ow it today takes place during what is known as the classical period of yoga. This is when Patanjali's Yoga Sutras were written, in approximately 200 AD. This set of 195 sutras is considered to be the first systematic presentation of yoga and Pantanjali is revered as the father of yoga for this reason. Pantanjali defined the eight limbed path of yoga, which described a practical treatise on living and laid out a path for attaining the harmony of the mind, body, and soul. The post classical period saw the bi rth of both tantra and hatha yoga. Modern yoga has been brought around the world, mainly by gurus who traveled west to spread the benefits of yoga, as well as researching and creating different schools of yoga. B.K.S Iyengar (1982) in The Concise Light on Yoga discusses the concept of the four main paths of yoga that were outlined in Pantanjali's Yoga Sutras Each path is
YOGA MEANS UNION 5 suited to a different temperament or approach to life but all paths ultimately lead to the same union of jiva and Brahman. Many yoga pra ctitioners incorporate elements of all paths within their practice. The four paths are k arma b hakti j nana and r aja Karma yoga is the yoga of action, which is said to purify the heart by teaching you to act selflessly, without thought of gain or reward. It is the path that involves work, duty, and giving to others. Bhakti yoga is the yoga of emotions and the path of devotion and divine love. The yogi who follows the Bhakti path is motivated by the power of love and sees God as the embodiment of love. Thr ough prayer, worship, and ritual he or she surrenders themselves to God. Chanting and singing the praises of God are a substantial part of Bhakti yoga. Jnana yoga is known as the yoga of intellect. This path involves studying the sacred texts in which yoga is found including the Vedanta. The final path is raja yoga, the yoga of physical and mental control. Raja yoga, explained by both Lidell (1983) and Iyengar (1982), is made up of the eight limbed path outlined in Pantanjali's Yoga Sutras Raja yoga is of ten called the "royal road" and is the path most commonly seen in Western adaptations of yoga. The eight limbs are a progressive series of steps or disciplines, which purify the body and mind, ultimately leading a yogi to enlightenment. These eight limbs a re: yamas, niyamas, asanas, pranayama, pratyahara, dharana, dhyana, and Samadhi. Yamas and niyamas, the first two limbs, are the fundamental ethical precepts of yoga practice. They can be looked at as universal morality and personal observances. They are suggestions given on how we should deal with people around us and our attitude towards ourselves. The attitude we have towards things and people outside ourselves is yama The yamas include non violence, non lying, non stealing, moderation in all things, a nd non possessiveness. Niyamas, defined as "self purification by
YOGA MEANS UNION 6 discipline" are personal observances; they are things to strive for in a balanced, healthy life. They include purity, contentment, austerity, study of the sacred texts, and living with a cons tant awareness of the divine presence. The next two limbs, asanas and pranayama, are what make up the branch of hatha yoga, the most commonly known aspect for those unfamiliar with the other limbs of yoga. The asanas are the practice of physical postures. Pranayama is the measuring control and directing of the breath. Asanas and pranayama go hand in hand with each other. It is taught in the Yoga Sutras that the practices of asanas and pranayama together produce the actual physical sensation of heat, calle d tapas, or the inner fire of purification. It is taught that this heat is part of the process of purifying the nadis, or subtle nerve channels of the body. This allows a more healthful state to be experienced and allows the mind to become more calm in pre paration for meditation and the higher stages of the eight limbed path. Pratyahara means drawing back or retreat. In yoga, the term pratyahara implies withdrawal of the senses from attachment to external objects. It means the senses can stop living off t he external stimuli and one can become concentrated without being distracted by external elements. Next comes the limb of dharana, which means immovable concentration of the mind. The essential idea is to hold the concentration or focus of attention in one direction. The objective in dharana is to steady the mind by focusing its attention upon some stable entity to stop the mind from wandering. Finally, there is dhyana and Samadhi, the last two limbs. Dhyana means worship or profound and abstract religious meditation. It involves concentration upon a point of focus with the intention of knowing the truth about it. The concept holds that when one focuses their mind in concentration on an object, the mind is transformed into the shape
YOGA MEANS UNION 7 of that object. Hence, w hen one focuses on the divine they become more reflective of it and understand its true nature. The final stage in the eight limbed path of yoga is the attainment of Samadhi, which means "to bring together, to merge," referencing the bringing together or t he union of the individual self with the divine. In yogic philosophy, Samadhi references the complete stop of mind and intellect where only the experience of consciousness, truth, and joy remain. It can be likened to the state of nirvana in Buddhism. Hath a Yoga The focus of this study was on hatha yoga, the third and fourth limbs of the eight limbed path of raja yoga. Hatha yoga is the practice of asanas, the physical postures, with pranayama, breath control. Within hatha yoga there are various styles that have been developed by different teachers. Examples of these styles include Sivananda, Ashtanga Iyengar, and Bikram All of these, while varying in style, structure, and sometimes philosophy, are considered to be hatha yoga. The word hatha is derived fro m two ancient Sanskrit words Ha and Tha meaning the sun and the moon. According to traditional teachings of yoga, human bodies are miniature replicas of the solar system to which the earth belongs. Since the ultimate goal of hatha yoga, as of all yogas, i s to bring the self into harmony with Brahman (or creation) the physical and mental faculties must be so trained that they function with the same perfect rhythm and harmony as is observed in the solar system. Thus, hatha yoga is not about doing the most in tricate pose or holding a pose the longest, but about cultivating physical discipline that can provide a sensitive, resilient, controlled and balanced nervous mechanism that can handle the further stages of yoga practice.
YOGA MEANS UNION 8 Anyone can practice hatha yoga. A lthough the benefits of hatha yoga are starting to be observed in numerous empirical studies, it is quite difficult to explain the positive feelings that it brings unless someone has experienced it for himself or herself. The practice of moving the body in to postures has widespread benefits; of these the most underlying include improved health, strength, balance and flexibility. On a deeper level, the practice of asana (which means "staying" or "abiding" in Sanskrit) is used as a tool to calm the mind in or der to prepare for the more difficult practices of yoga. The challenge of the poses offers the practitioner the opportunity to explore and control their emotions, concentration, and the relationship between the body and mind. Asanas are meant to be practic ed with pranayama as they work together to create relaxation and balance. The slow, rhythmic, deep breathing allows the body to relax into a pose instead of tensing up and becoming fearful. It allows the body to get deeper into the stretch and further calm s the mind by giving it a point of further concentration. Lidell and Narayani (1983) explain how the yoga asanas exercise every part of the body, stretching and toning the muscles and joints, the spine and entire skeletal system. And they work not only on the body's frame but on the internal organs, glands and nerves, keeping all systems in radiant health. By releasing physical and mental tension, they also liberate vast resources of energy. The yogic breathing exercises called pranayama revitalize the bod y and help to control the mind, leaving the yoga practitioner feeling calm and refreshed after a session, while the practice of positive thinking and meditation that is accompanied by most hatha yoga teachings develops increased clarity, mental power and concentration. Some individuals practice hatha yoga as a way to keep their bodies fit, others come with a specific health concern such as headaches or back pain. Regardless of why one begins the practice of hatha yoga, many
YOGA MEANS UNION 9 people often receive more out of it then what they were expecting; for them, yoga becomes a life changing experience. Benefits of yoga As B.K.S. Iyengar, founder of Iyengar yoga, states, "Yoga teaches us to cure what need not be endured and endure what cannot be cured." Most hatha yoga classes emphasize a personal connection with the body and warn against comparison and competition with others. Hatha yoga is about the personal relationship one has with his or her body, not how one can "win" or progress the fastest. It is about becoming c omfortable with one's own body and emotions, and establishing a relationship with one's higher self. Because of these qualities of yoga, it is reasonable to suggest yoga may lead to positive changes in a person's life. Researchers have begun to empiricall y study the effects of hatha yoga on individuals, and have specifically looked at its effects on stress, depression, anxiety, general well being, and self esteem. Several studies so far, which will be discussed in further detail later in this thesis, have found that hatha yoga reduces stress depression, and anxiety (Chen et al., 2009; Gupta, N., Khera, S., Sharma, V., & Bijlani, R, 2006; Hartfiel, N., Havenhand, J., Khalsa, S., Clarke, G., & Krayer, A, 2011; Hewett, Z., Ransdell, L., Gao, Y., Petlichkoff, L., & Lucas, S, 2011; Javnbakht, M., Kenari, R. H., & Ghasemi, M, 2009; Joshi, A., & Sousa, A. D, 2012; Khalsa, S, B., & Cope, S, 2006). Hatha yoga also has been shown to lead to higher self esteem (Deshpande, S., Nagendra, H., & Nagarathna, R, 2009; Impet t, E., Daubenmier, J., & Hirschman, A, 2006) as well as greater awareness and comfort with the body. Due to this fact, it has been utilized to help people with eating disorders (Boudette, 2006; Daubenmier, 2005).
YOGA MEANS UNION 10 Empirical studies, many of which will be e xplained further within this thesis, have tested hatha yoga's effects on specific populations including children (Galantino, M. L., Galbavy, R., & Quinn, L, 2008; White, 2012), inmates (Rucker, 2005), sex offenders (Derezotes, 2000), people with drug addic tions (Marefat, M., Peymanzad, H., & Alikhajeh, Y, 2011), people with various physiological and psychological disor ders including epilepsy (Lavey et al., 2005; Yardi, 2001), elderly people (Chen et al. 2009) and people suffering from terminal diseases suc h as cancer (Cohen, L., Warneke, C., Fouladi, R., Rodriguez, A., & Chaoul Reich, A, 2004; Ulger, O., & Yagl, N.V, 2010). Stress Simply put, stress is an internal reaction to a disturbance. Anything that causes this internal reaction is defined as a stre ssor an external event or condition that affect s the organism (Bullard, 1980). Stressors can range from small disturbances, such as forgetting to turn a paper in on time, to highly emotional events, like a death in the family. There is a grain of truth i n every formulation of stress because all demands upon our adaptability evoke some form of stress. But we tend to forget that there would be no reason to use the single word "stress" to desc ribe such diverse circumstances as those mentioned above were ther e not something common to all of them. A v ariety of dissimilar situations ( emotional arousal, effort, fatigue, pain, fear, concentration, humiliation, loss of blood, and ev en great and unexpected success) are capable of producing stress; therefore, no sing le factor in itself can be pinpointed as the s ole cause (Goldberger & Breznitz 1993). There are many ways to measure stress but the primary modality is through self report due to the fact that many prominent stress theories emphasize intrapsychic cogni tive processes (e.g., appraisal, coping) and/or emotional states (e.g., anxiety,
YOGA MEANS UNION 11 depression) as central to their definitions of stress. Stress has been separated into the categories of stimulus oriented, response oriented, and interactional theories. Stimu lus oriented theories view stress as a potential residing within the stimulus provided by the organisms' environment. According to this approach, those aspects of the environment that increase demands upon or disorganize an individual impose stress upon hi m or her (Goldberger & Breznitz 1993 ). Response oriented theories look at the response of the individual or organism to the events of the environment so as to define the presence of stress. The pattern and amplitude of responses may be used as operational measures of stress and are often neurobiological, physiological, or psychological in origin (Goldberger & Breznitz 1993 ). Hans Selye, a scientist known as the father of stress research, developed the General Adaptation Syndrome (GAS) model in 1936. Sel ye argues that stress is a major cause of disease because chronic stress can lead to long term chemical changes. He also observed that the body responds to any external biological source of stress with a predictable biological pattern in an attempt to rest ore the body's internal homeostasis (Goldberger & Breznitz 1993). This process of the body's struggle to maintain balance is the central idea of the general adaptation syndrome. There are three distinct stages of the general adaptation syndrome (a respons e oriented model) including the alarm stage, the resistance stage, and the exhaustion stage (Goldberger & Breznitz 1993). The alarm stage is the body's initial reaction to stress. The body recognizes danger and prepares to deal with the threat. This rea ction is known as the "flight or fight response." In this response, the HPA axis, the nervous system, and the adrenal glands all activate. Additionally, the main stress hormones (cortisol, adrenaline, and noradrenaline) are also released; these provide ins tant energy to deal with the stressor.
YOGA MEANS UNION 12 Immediately following the alarm stage is the resistance stage. In this stage, homeostasis should begin restoring balance to the body and, ideally, create a period of recovery for repair and renewal. Stress hormones ma y return to normal levels, however, there may be reduced defenses and adaptive energy may still be left over. However, if the body continues in a period of chronic stress, the body cannot reach homeostasis and may reach the exhaustion stage. At this phase, stress has continued for some time and the body's ability to resist is lost because its adaptation energy supply has been depleted. This condition is referred to variously as overload, burnout, adrenal fatigue, maladaption or dysfunction. This stage of th e GAS is the most hazardous to health and what leads to the condition of chronic stress (Goldberger & Breznitz 1993). For individuals who are in consistently highly stressful situations such as abusive relationships there is no end to the cycle of stress, which leads to numerous health problems. The general adaptation syndrome does not need all three stages in order to develop and only the most severe stress leads rapidly to the stage of exhaustion. Most of the physical or mental exertions, infections, a nd other stressors that act upon us during a limited period produce changes corresponding only to the first and second stages. At first the stressors may alarm and upset us, but then we adapt to them (Goldberger & Breznitz 1993). However, it is important to understand how stress works and how having chronic stress can harm the body in very serious ways. Chronic stress has been connected to various diseases in numerous studies including peptic ulcers, high blood pressure, heart accidents, and nervous distur bances. For this reason, it is important to recognize when you are experiencing chronic stress and develop tools to reduce this stress so as to avoid the harmful effects on the body.
YOGA MEANS UNION 13 Yoga and Stress Reduction Yoga has been demonstrated by numerou s studi es to decrease stress. One study conducted by S mith, Hancock, Blake Mortimer, and Eckert (2007) compared yoga and relaxation treatment modalities at 10 and 16 weeks from the study baseline to determine if either would reduce stress, anxiety, blood pressure and improve quality of life. All participants were required to attend either hatha yoga classes (intervention group) or progressive muscle relaxation classes (active control group) lasting one hour per week for 10 weekly sessions. Data were received from 119 participants at the end of the 10 week intervention and 117 participants at the end of the six week follow up. Results found an improvement in both groups over time with a reduction in stress and anxiety scores and improvements in the SF 36 scores. Th e SF 36 is a health status measure related to quality of life. It consists of eight health concepts including physical functioning, role limitation due to physical health problems, bodily pain, general health, vitality, social functioning, role limitation due to emotional problems, and mental well being. The responses to each SF 36 domain are summed to provide eight scores, these scores are then transformed into a multi item scale that ranged from zero (poorer health) to 100 (good health). Overall, yoga wa s found to be as effective as muscle relaxation classes in reducing stress and anxiety and more effective than relaxation as demonstrated by an improvement in mental health of yoga participants at the end of the intervention. Another study conducted by He wet t, Ransdell, Gao, Petlichkoff, and Lucas (2011) assessed changes in levels of mindfulness, perceived stress, and physical fitness after participation in an eight week Bikram yoga program. Bikram yoga, founded by Bikram Choudhury, is a form of hatha yoga that incorporates the same series of 26
YOGA MEANS UNION 14 asanas for ev ery class and takes place in a heated room (about 105 degrees Fahrenheit, on average). Fifty one participants completed the eight week protocol (10 males and 41 fem ales aged 20 54 years). Data revealed that participation in an eight week Bikram yoga program increased overall mindfulness and lowered perceived stress. Yoga was also found to be beneficial in multiple populations that deal with higher amounts of stress including inmates people coping with a terminal disease, and people with severe psychiatric disorders. One study analyzed the effects of yoga on mood in 133 psychiatric inpatients at New Hampshire Hospital (Lavey, Sherman, Mueser, Osborne, Currier, & Wolfe, 2005). Researchers hypothesized tha t participation in hatha yoga would improve negative emotions among psychiatric inpatients, who often experience prominent negative emotions, cognitive difficulties, sensitivity to stress, and poor physical health. All information except psychiatric diagno sis was obtained using a self report questionnaire and changes in mood were evaluated with the Profile of Mood States (POMS) Factor analyses of the POMS resulted in the following factors: tension anxiety, depression dejection, anger hostility, fatigue ine rtia, confusion bewilderment, and vigor activity. Participants reported statistically significant improvements in all five of the negative emotion factors on the POMS after yoga, except vigor activity. To evaluate changes in mood for participants who were in more than one yoga session (they were allowed to attend as many as they wanted), researchers conducted a similar set of paired t tests that compared the POMS ratings before and after the last yoga class in which they participated. Results were identical to the previous in which there was a significant improvement in all factor s analyses except for the final one, vigor activity.
YOGA MEANS UNION 15 Ulger and Yagl (2010) conducted a study to investigate the effects of yoga on the quality of life in patients with breast cance r. Participants of this study consisted of twenty female breast cancer patients (age range between 30 50) who were referred to the yoga program as part of preventative/conservative rehabilitation. All participants had received phase I/II chemotherapy, had at least six months pass since their last chemotherapy treatment, and were medically supervised during the study. Eight sessions of a classical yoga program was given to participants twice a week. Each session lasted one hour and included warm up and 15 mi nutes of breathing exercises, 15 minutes of asanas, and 30 minutes of relaxation and meditation. Quality of life of participants was determined before and after treatment using the Turkish version of the Nottingham Health Profile (NHP). Participants' stres s, anxiety, and emotion levels were determined before and after treatment using the State Trait Anxiety Inventory. Results were that quality of life scores improved significantly, state and trait anxiety scores improved significantly, and participants' sat isfaction with yoga were significantly higher after the eight sessions. Cancer is an extremely stressful process that affects a person on numerous physical, mental, and emotional levels. Cancer patients often experience seve re anxiety, not only related to the fact that death may be impending, but due to the physical symptoms of chemotherapy including nausea, vomiting, and fatigue. Many of the participants in this study, though not undergoing chemotherapy at the time, were highly stressed and anxious about e xperiencing these symptoms again. With the therapeutic experiences of yoga, their anxiety and stress level s triggered by these symptoms decreased. Marefat, Peymanzad, and Alikhajeh (2011) investigated the effects of hatha yoga on addicts' depression and a nxiety in a rehabilitation period. The research was a semi
YOGA MEANS UNION 16 experimental investigation. Participants consisted of 24 individuals, randomly divided into two groups (the yo ga group and the control group, who were put on a waiting list and received no yoga pra ctice) with 12 clients in each gr oup Selected yoga sessions were performed for three, 60 minute sessions per week for five weeks. All primary session included breathing exercises, meditation, and relaxations. Participants took the Beck 2 depression invent ory and the Spielberger State Trait Anxiety Inventory befo re the classes began and after five weeks all took both questionnaires again. Results found that yoga caused a significant difference in depression levels of the experimental group in comparison to the control group in rehabilitation period. They also caused a significant difference in state anxiety level of the experimental group in comparison with the control group but no difference in trait anxiety for either group. These are only a few examples of studies that have shown yoga to be a useful practice for the reduction of stress. Given that chronic stress has such negative effects on the body it is important to use available tools in situations that may lead to this chronic stress. This is why yog a may be effective for particular groups or in various places where stress is prominent including the workplace, prisons or juvenile detention centers, mental health facilities, or for individuals suffering from debilitating diseases such as cancer. Yoga n ot only leads to a decrease in stress directly after the practice but also cultivates a mentality that provides coping abilities in everyday life. Self Esteem "What a man thinks of himself, that it is which determines, or rather indicates his fate," say s Henry David Thoreau. The broadest definition of self esteem refers to people's evaluations of themselves (Bosson & Swann, 2009) However, this definition only begins to scratch the surface of what self esteem is and how it affects our lives It is
YOGA MEANS UNION 17 one of the most important and yet most controversial constructs in psychology due to the fact that there are many disagreements regarding what it is and how its consequences ought to be assessed (Mruk, 1999) Research in the area of self esteem correlates high s elf esteem with such things as positive ego functioning, good personal adjustment, an internal sense of control, the likelihood of a favorable outcome for psychotherapy, and healthy adjustment to aging On the other hand, low self esteem has shown a correl ation with feelings of inadequacy, a sense of unworthiness, increased anxiety, depression, suicide, and certain mental health disorders (Mruk 1999). The most common approach to measuring self esteem is based on the assumption that it consists of a single general dimension that can be measured with a modest number of items. This assumption is demonstrated in the most commonly utilized measure of self esteem, Rosenberg's Sel f Esteem Scale (1965) Recently, however, it has become more common to divide self esteem into two components. Some examples of this two component approach include lovability (self liking) and competenc e (self competence), trait and state and explicit and implicit (Bosson & Swann 2009). A particularly important two component approach i s examining trait and state self esteem as it accounts for differences in self esteem at a baseline level (trait) as opposed to the level of self esteem on a moment to moment basis (state). It is possible for someone to have a high sense of self esteem ove rall but feel low self esteem in one particular moment, such as an embarrassing situation, a break up, or any type of traumatic event (Bosson & Swann, 2009) Research has shown people with high self esteem tend to have higher positive affect, a more posi tive outlook on life with increased openness to experience and possibilities, as well as higher autonomy (Bosson & Swann, 2009) People with higher
YOGA MEANS UNION 18 self esteem appear to be more independent, self directed, and are generally able to deal with difficult situ ations from a healthier perspective than those with low self esteem (Bosson & Swann, 2009) Additionally, people with high self esteem seem able to accept both positive and negative feedback about themselves more easily than those with low self esteem and those with high self esteem tend to focus more on self enhancement or growth related activities over self protection (Mruk, 1999) Contrastingly, l ow self esteem has been correlated with a number of highly negative characteristics including increased stres s, psychosocial dysfunction, anxiety, depression, substance abuse, antisocial behavior, and violence (Mruk, 1999) The negative association between self esteem and depression is so strong that some suggest conceptualizing self esteem and depression as end points of a bipolar continuum (Bosson & Swann, 2009) The literature on self esteem indicates that self esteem and self concepts are predictive of people's behaviors, thoughts, feelings, and life outcomes. In light of the debilitating predictive outcomes of low self esteem, it is critical to learn more about how they can be changed. Recent evidence has shown that self esteem can be improved via elaborate programs (DuBois & Flay, 2004; Haney & Durlak, 1998). Yoga and Self Esteem Yoga has been shown to incr ease self esteem in general populations and also with specific populations that tend to have low er self esteem, such as those with eating disorders. Researchers Deshpande, Nagendra, and Nagarathna (2009) conducted a study in which they observed the effects of an integrated approach of yoga on Gunas (personality) and self esteem in a randomized controlled trial. The Gita inventory is a standardized test that is based on the concept that there are three different levels of
YOGA MEANS UNION 19 human existence in which the mind is always in a dynamic equilibrium between three types of response patterns called Gunas. The three patterns are Sattva (gentle and controlled), Rajas (violent and uncontrolled), and Tamas (dull and uncontrolled). In an ideal situation of perfect health, an individual would have the freedom to go back and forth between these three patterns. In unhealthy individuals, either Rajas or Tamas will become dominant, and the individual becomes habituated to either of these response patterns. This study included 226 participants (of good health both sexes, and an age range of 18 71) who were randomly allocated into two groups of equal size. This study was a prospective, randomized, single blind control design to compare the efficacy of yoga with that of regular phys ical exercise as a control intervention of volunteers in a south Indian population. The experimental group was given yoga practices and the control group was given a physical exercise class for one hour daily. Both took these classes on an empty stomach be tween six and seven in the morning The classes were conducted six days a week for eight weeks and attendance was maintained by the teachers of both classes. The physical exercise group also received interactive lectures on healthy lifestyles. Assessments were conducted using the Gita Inventory of Personality (GIN) based on the concept of Gunas and also the Self Esteem Questionnaire. Results were that there was a significant reduction in the manifestation of the Ta mas type and a marginally significant incre ase in the manifesta tion of the Sattva type in the y oga group. The Rajas type did not change significantly in the yoga group. In the PE group, no significant changes were seen for any of the transitions. In the self esteem components, the yoga group showed significant increases in Global Self Esteem, Moral Self Esteem, and Body and Physical Appearance while the physical
YOGA MEANS UNION 20 exercise group only showed significant increases in the Competency subscale of self esteem. Impett, Daubenmier, and Hirschman (2006) exami ned the potential of yoga to buffer against the harmful effects of self objectification as well as to promote embodiment (body awareness and responsiveness) and well being. This study examined associations between yoga practice and well being, embodiment, a nd self objectification over a two month yoga immersion program at a community yoga studio in San Francisco, California. A n experience sampling method was used to collect repeated assessments of yoga practice, embodiment, self objectification, and well be ing. For each of six weekends, participants completed a short survey with five measures of well being (positive and negative affect, satisfaction with life, embodiment, and self objectification). Participants included 20 women and three men enrolled in a t wo month Anusara yoga immersion program. Results of this study suggest that mind body practices such as yoga may be powerful tools to decrease self objectification among women and increase embodiment and well being. After the yoga immersion, women in the s tudy reported they cared less about how their bodies appeared to others and more about how their bodies felt to themselves. Yoga cultivates a direct experience of the body and responsiveness to bodily sensations. Yoga practitioners learn to value their b ody's feedback and train in "listening" to the sensations of their bodies for guidance. Because of this communication and connection to the body, yoga may be an important tool for those suffering from poor physical self concept, self objectification, and e ating disorders. If individuals feel more positively connected to their body, they may be less likely to judge, compare, or harm their body. Jennifer Daubenmier (2005) conducted a study to address
YOGA MEANS UNION 21 objectification theory's postulate that physical activity p romotes a direct experience of the body and reduces self objectification and its consequences in women. There were two studies conducted to test this hypothesis. In the first study, three groups of women participated: yoga practitioners not taking aerobi c classes ( n = 43), women who participated in aerobic exercises but were not taking yoga classes ( n = 45), and a baseline comparison group who had not practiced yoga or aerobi cs in two years ( n = 51). Participants completed a survey that included questions of extent of participation in exercise, the Self Objectification Questionnaire, the Body Areas Satisfaction scale, the Eating Attitudes Test, the BAQ, and a seven item scale created to measure responsiveness to bodily sensations. Univariate analyses revea led that the yoga participants reported significantly greater body awareness, responsiveness, body satisfaction, and less self objectification than the aerobic and baseline comparison groups. The aerobic and baseline groups did not differ on these variable s, with the exception that the baseline group reported greater body satisfaction compared to the aerobic group. For disordered eating attitudes, the yoga group reported lower scores compared to the aerobics group. The baseline group reported similar scores as the yoga group and lower scores compared to the aerobic group. The purpose of study two was to test the relationships between body awareness, body responsiveness, self objectification, and disordered eating attitudes in a sample of female undergradua te students, since young women are usually more at risk for eating disorders and having discomfort with their bodies. Participants included 133 female undergraduate students. The same measures that were used in the previous study were used in this one. Res ults found that self objectification was positively related to disordered eating attitudes and negatively related to body responsiveness (but only
YOGA MEANS UNION 22 marginally related to body aware ness). In both studies one and two body awareness did not show any relations hip to disordered eating attitudes. Results of these two studies indicate that body responsiveness has important implications for self objectification and its consequences. These results are encouraging because they suggest that yoga may be a means to redu ce the internalization of a self objectified view in girls and women. These studies are encouraging and seem to suggest that an implementation of yoga programs can increase self esteem, even in individuals dealing with conditions that are associated with extremely low levels of self esteem. More research needs to be conducted in order to determine if yoga is the direct cause of the increase in self esteem or if other factors are equally influential. Self Compassion In the West, compassion is prominently conceptualized in terms of compassion for others. In Eastern traditions, however, it is considered equally important to offer compassion to oneself. Neff (2003) proposed that self compassion involves three main components: self kindness versus self judgmen t, a sense of common humanity versus isolati on, and mindfulness versus over identification. These components combine and mutually interact to create a self compassionate frame of mind. Self compassion can be extended towards the self both when suffering occ urs from external life circumstances and when suffering stems from one's own actions, failures, or personal inadequacies. The idea behind a self compassionate nature is that individuals with high self compassion are able to self soothe and comfort themselv es in times of hardship. The sense of common humanity central to self compassion involves recognizing that all humans are imperfect, that all people fail, make mistakes, and engage in unhealthy behaviors. Self compassion connects one's own flawed condition to the shared human
YOGA MEANS UNION 23 condition, so that one's own characteristics and experiences are considered from a broad, inclusive perspective. Much of the research on self compassion has been conducted using the Self Compassion Scale developed by Neff (2003) whic h consists of a 26 item self report scale composed of six subscales including self kindness, self judgment, common humanity, perceived isolation, mindfulness, and overidentification. Despite these subscales, most research done on self compassion has focuse d on overall self compassion scores rather than examining the various subcomponents of self compassion separately. One of the most consistent findings in the research literature is that greater self compassion (as reported on the SCS) is linked to lower an xiety and depression. Research has also found that self compassionate individuals tend to engage in less rumination and thought suppress ion and that they can face up to personal weaknesses and life challenges with fewer emotional overreactions. Self compas sion has been linked to greater feelings of social connectedness and life satisfaction as well as feelings of autonomy, competence, and relatedness ( Neff, 2009 ). Some people express concerns that a possible downside of self compassion may be that it leads to a lack of motivation and an increase of passivity and self indulgence. They believe it may create an individual that consistently behaves in a negative way but will simply forgive themselves later. The research conducted within the construct of self co mpassion, however, reveals this to be inaccurate. In fact, self compassion is associated with greater personal initiative to make positive changes in one's life (Neff, Rude, & Kirkpatrick, 2007). Self compassionate individuals are motivated to achieve as m uch as any other, but this goal is driven by the compassionate desire to maximize one's potential and well being, rather than the desire to bolster one's self image.
YOGA MEANS UNION 24 Because self compassionate individuals are much less likely to punish themselves when they fail, they are more able to learn, grow, and take on new challenges. One study conducted by Magnus (2007) examined this idea by looking at women's goals for exercising related to self compassion. Results indicated that women with higher levels of self c ompassion had greater intrinsic rather than extrinsic motivation to exercise, and their goals for exercising were less related to ego concerns. Women with higher levels of self compassion also reported feeling more comfortable with their bodies and had les s anxiety regarding social evaluations of their physiques. This relates to the benefits of yoga on self compassion as yoga has been shown to increase feelings of both self esteem and self compassion. Individuals may begin a practice of yoga due to extrinsi c motivation (i.e. to get a "better" body that is more fit) but when their self compassion is developed through the practice, they will find meaning in yoga from a more intrinsic perspective, and therefore will be motivated to continue the practice for the mselves, rather than for what others think of them. Many in the research field have noted the similarities between self compassion and self esteem but observe a few major differences. It is theorized that while self compassion is associated with many of the benefits of high self esteem, it has fewer of the downsides associated with self esteem pursuit (Neff, 2003). Research indicates that people sometimes engage in dysfunctional behaviors in order to maintain a high sense of self worth, while those develo ping a sense of self compassion are less likely to engage in these types of behaviors. Examples of these dysfunctional behaviors include narcissistic tendencies, a maladaptive pattern, trivialization of personal failings or blaming them on external causes, or becoming angry towards those who threaten one's ego. Granted, it
YOGA MEANS UNION 25 can be argued that this is a false form of self esteem to begin with and if an individual truly had a high self esteem they would not be engaged in these types of behaviors. It has been shown that self esteem is often dependent on particular outcomes, many of them external, and that it can fluctuate according to particular circumstances. Self compassion is relevant, therefore, precisely when self esteem tends to falter when one fails or f eels inadequate. Thus, self compassion provides a way of dealing with negative life experiences in a way that self esteem cannot provide. This is not to say that self esteem does not have any benefits; in fact, it provides many benefits to the individual a nd is a very important concept to examine. However, it does suggest that self esteem and self compassion can work together in order to create a more balanced, happier individual. Therefore, if yoga can be shown to benefit both of these qualities, it is qui te a useful practice indeed. Yoga and Self Compassion Research demonstrates that self compassion can be enhanced in the short and long term (Gilbert P., & Proctor, S, 2006; Leary, M. R., Tate, E. B., Adams, C. E., Allen, A. B., & Hancock, J, 2007; Nef f, Kirkpatrick, & Rude, 2007) and suggests that programs designed to increase self compassion have some chance of success. Because self compassion is related to mindfulness, there is increasing interest in mindfulness based interventions for their ability to reduce stress and improve mental health (Baer, 2003). Yoga incorporates mindfulness in its practice as well as having many other benefits and therefore it should be correlated with increased self compassion in a significant way. That being said, not m uch research has been done to examine the effects of yoga specifically on self compassion. Only one study was found that examined the relationship between yoga and self compassion. This study was conducted by
YOGA MEANS UNION 26 researchers Gard, Brach, Holzel, Noggle, Conboy and Lazar (2012) who investigated the effects of a yoga based program on quality of life, perceived stress, mindfulness, and self compassion in young adults. T he Semester Initiative (SI) a four month yoga based residential program developed at the Kripa lu Center for Yoga and Heath, was used to test the hypothesis that participation in the SI is predictive of increases in quality of life, mindfulness, and self compassion, with decreases in perceived stress. Researchers administered questionnaires measurin g quality of life, perceived stress, mindfulness, and self compassion to SI participants and demographically matched controls before and after the program period. One hundred and one participants were enrolled in the study: 53 in the SI program and 48 in the control group, which were matched for age, gender, and education. For five out of the eight variables for which ANCOVA assumptions were met, ANCOVAs and the t tests on gain scores led to the same conclusion, namely that participation in SI significantl y improved scores on all measures Results showed that participation in the yoga program significantly predicted increase in quality of life, mindfulness, and self compassion, along with decreases in perceived stress. They also found that mindfulness and s elf compassion mediate the effects of participation in the SI on quality of life and perceived stress. The current study sought to add additional research to the connection between yoga and self compassion. Given the numerous benefits of self compassion, if it is shown that yoga can increase it, steps can be taken to carry out its application in various settings. Yoga can be implemented for individuals who are lacking in self compassion and would benefit from developing this quality.
YOGA MEANS UNION 27 The Current Study The purpose of this study was to investigate the associations of hatha yoga with the variables of perceived stress, self esteem, and self compassion. More specifically, this study sought to determine the correlation between length of hatha yoga experien ce and these three variables. It was hypothesized that there would be a positive correlation between length of hatha yoga experience (in months) and the variables of self esteem and self compassion such that the longer an individual has been practicing hat ha yoga, the higher his or her self esteem and self compas sion scores would be It was additionally hypothesized that there would be a negative correlation between length of hatha yoga experience and perceived stress such that the longer an individual has been practicing hatha yoga, the lower his or her perceived stress score would be. This study also included short response questions that allowed participants to give a contextual, personal voice to the ways in which yoga has played a role in his or her lif e. Method Participants Participants were drawn from se ven popular and consistently frequented yoga forums: Yoga Forums, ABC of Yoga Forum, Health Forums, Ashtanga Yoga Forum, Places to Yoga Forum, United Yogis, and World Yoga Network. Participants self se lected to take the survey and were given no rewards for participating. There were 62 total participants ( n = 62) with 11 males and 41 females (10 did not indicate their gender). Participants were overwhelmingly white, female, employed, and had an education level of at least a B.A. degree. All participant responses were anonymous and all participants gave consent before participating in the study.
YOGA MEANS UNION 28 Materials The only material used in this study was a survey both designed and distributed online. The survey was designed on a program called Survey Monkey. For the complete copy of the survey as it was seen by participants, see Appendix A. Survey measures included: Cohen Perceived Stress Scale. The Cohe n Perceived Stress Scale (Cohen, 1983) is one of the most w idely used psychological instruments for measuring the perception of stress in an individual's life. It is a ten item measure rated on a five point scale from 0 ( never ) to 4 ( very often ). In order to create uniformity in the survey, numbers on the scale we re changed from 0 4 to 1 5 with 1 being never and 5 being very often The questions in this scale address feelings and thoughts of the participant during the last month. An example of a question on this scale is, "in the last month, how often have you felt difficulties were piling up so high that you could not overcome them?" The highest possible score was 50, indicating a very high level of perceived stress, while the lowest possible score was 10 indicating a low level or absence of perceived stress. Ros enberg Self Esteem Scale. The Rosenbe rg Self Esteem Scale (Rosenberg, 1965) is one of the most widely used scales for measuring self esteem. It is a ten item measure using a four point Likert scale from strongly agree to strongly disagree. An example of a question on this scale is, "I feel that I have a number of good qualities." The highest score possible was a 40, indicating a very high self esteem, and the lowest score possible was a 10 indicating a very low self esteem. To create uniformity in the sur vey, the scale was slightly modified in that numbers were added for each answer (1 for strongly disagree 2 for disagree 3 for agree and 4 for strongly agree ) and the order of the answers was reversed with strongly disagree being 1 to strongly agree bein g 4.
YOGA MEANS UNION 29 Self Compassion Scale Short Form. The Self Compassion Scale Short Form is based off of the regular Self Compassion scale developed by Kristin Neff (Neff, 2003). The original scale is 26 items but the short form uses 12 items and has a near perfect correlation (r 0.97) with the long scale when examining total scores ( Raes, F., Pommier, E., Neff, K., & Van Gucht, D, 2010 ). The twelve item measure uses a five point Likert scale with answers ranging from 1 ( almost never ) to 5 ( almost always ). The hig hest possible score was a 60, indicating high self compassion while the lowest score was a 12 indicating low self compassion. An example of a question on this scale is, "when I'm going through a hard time, I give myself the caring and tenderness I need." Yoga practice questions. Four questions were created in order to assess details of yoga practice. Questions included: "How long have you been practicing yoga?," (in years and months), "How many sessions do you have per week?," "How many minutes per week do you attend yoga classes?," and "How many minutes per week do you practice yoga independently?" Yoga short response questions. Seven short response questions were created and included within the survey in order to provide a deeper context to the study an d gain qualitative information to support the quantitative data found. Questions included: "What style(s) of yoga do you practice?," "What factor(s) made you decide to begin your yoga practice?," "How important is yoga in your life (answers range from not at all important, somewhat important, very important, and extremely important)?," Why does yoga hold this level of importance in your life (based on your answer to the previous question)?," "What physical changes, if any, have you experienced as a result o f your yoga practice?," "What emotional changes, if any, have you experienced as a result of
YOGA MEANS UNION 30 your yoga practice?," and finally, "Please share anything else regarding your yoga practice that you wish to." Demographic questions. Ten basic demographic quest ions were included in this survey including age, month and year of birth, sex, race, ethnicity, marital status, employment status, highest level of education completed, approximate total household income, and religious affiliation. All answers to these que stions were write in rather than multiple choice questions in order to not limit the answers participants could provide. Procedure A message containing detailed information on the nature of the study, some details of the survey, a nd a link to the actual survey was provided for each forum post. See Appendix B for the full message posted to the yoga forums. If people chose to participate in the study, they clicked the link to the survey and were taken to an informed consent page. If they gave consent, they completed the survey online including all measures and short response questions. Participants could skip any of the questions they wanted and were able to leave the survey at any time. Once all data were collected, all scores were summed, and results were analyzed. Results Overall Descriptive Statistics Refer to Table 1 for a complete report of the means and standard deviations of variables, including total yoga months, total perceived stress scores, total self esteem scores, and total self compassion sc ores. Overall, participants in this study had relatively low perceived stress scores and relatively high self esteem and self compassion scores. Additionally, the study had a very high range of total months spent
YOGA MEANS UNION 31 practicing hatha yoga (nine years average) with participants ranging from one month experience to 546 months (45 years) experience. Participants in this study were self selected and were overwhelmingly female (79%), Caucasian (80%,), employed full time (68%), and had a B.A. degree or higher (73%). Yoga and All Outcomes Despite a high range of hatha yoga experience, average low scores of perceived stress, and average high scores in self esteem and self compassion, there was no significant correlation between length of hatha yoga experience and any of the variables. A Pearson Correlation test was run between total yoga months (TYM) and total perceived stress scores (PST) and there was no positive correlation found [ r (55) = 0.07, p = 0.592]. A Pearson Correlation test was run between TYM and total self esteem scores (SET) and there was no positive correlation found [ r (55) = 0.04, p =0.772]. Finally, a Pearson Correlation test was run between TYM and total self compassion scores (SCT); again, there was no positive correlation found [ r (55) = 0.012, p =0.930]. Intercorrelations Between Outcomes Despite the lack of correlation between hatha yoga and the three variables, there were significant correlations found between the variables themselves, suggesting that perceived stress, self esteem, and self c ompassion are connected. There was a significant negative correlation between perceived stress and self esteem scores [ r (60) = 0.536, p =.0001] indicating that as perceived stress scores are lower, self esteem scores are higher. Additionally, there was a s ignificant negative correlation between perceived stress and self compassion scores [ r (55) =0.646, p =.0001] demonstrating that as perceived stress scores are lower, self compassion scores are higher. Finally, there was a significant positive correlation b etween self esteem and self compassion scores [ r (55)
YOGA MEANS UNION 32 =0.662, p =.0001], which shows that as self esteem scores are higher, self compassion scores are also higher. Free Responses There were seven short response questions created at the end of the survey in order to get a better idea of how yoga improved participants' lives on physical, mental, and emotional levels. Because this qualitative data was not incorporated within the correlational aspect of the study, it was not formally coded. However, percentages were calculated based on frequency of participants' responses to these questions. For the percentages gathered, please see Table 2. Yoga style, rate of importance of yoga, and "other" question were not included in Table 2. Table 2 concentrates on percen tages of why people began yoga (physical benefits, emotional benefits, or other), what physical benefits they experienced (strength, flexibility, resolution of specific physical issue, or other), as well as what emotional benefits they experienced (decreas ed stress, increased self esteem, increased self compassion, and other). This table also includes sample responses of some of the more typical or common responses to get a sense of how this data was coded and percentages calculated. Out of the 62 participa nts that took the survey, only 52 completed the short response questions so percentages were calculated out of 52 rather than 62. Discussion None of the hypotheses presented in the introduction were supported by the data. No correlation was found between length of hatha yoga experience and levels of perceived stress, self esteem, or self compassion. There are several possibilities as to why significance was not attained.
YOGA MEANS UNION 33 One possibility relates to the demographic variability and the fact that participant s were able to self select into the survey. It may be that people who would decide to take time out of their day (or even have free time available in their day) to frequent a yoga forum and complete a somewhat lengthy survey might already have low levels o f stress and high levels of self esteem and self compassion regardless of whether or not they have been practicing hatha yoga for a month or 45 years. Additionally, a majority of the participants who took the survey were white, employed (or students), midd le to upper middle class, and well educated. Given these characteristics of privilege, they may have had more already had lower levels of stress and high levels of self esteem and self compassion. Yet another possibility to explain the lack of significant findings could have been related to the measures of the survey. For convenience, all the utilized measures were very short: ten questions for both the Cohen Perceived Stress Scale and Rosenberg Self Esteem Scale and twelve questions for the Self Compassio n Scale short form. While these measures have been demonstrated to adequately measure the variables, it is possible that a longer, more detailed scale may have resulted in a significant correlation. This may be particularly true with the self compassion sc ale, in which the short form was used, although research found that the short form represents a reliable and valid alternative to the long form (Raes et al., 2010). The fact that this survey was distributed via yoga forums may have also contributed to a l ack of significant results. Since the survey was taken by a self selected sample, there was no way to know what background influences or situations may have influenced the participant's answers. Future studies may be able to find a connection between yoga and these variables if a longitudinal, experimental design was created in
YOGA MEANS UNION 34 which participants take part in hatha yoga classes over a long period of time and measured weekly or monthly on their perceived stress, self esteem, and self compassion. A control gr oup would be beneficial as it would allow for comparison between a group that did not practice hatha yoga whatsoever and a group that did. Despite the lack of significant results found from this study, it is still reasonable to suggest that hatha yoga does influence these variables based on research that has already been conducted on yoga and stress ( Smith, Hancock, Blake Mortimer, & Eckert 2007; Hewett, Ransdell, Gao, Petlichkoff, & Lucas ; Ulge r & Yagl, 2010 ; Mar efat, Peymanzad, and Alikhajeh, 2011 ), yoga and self esteem ( Des hpande, Nagendra, & Nagarathna, 2009 ; I mpett, Daubenmier, & Hirschman, 2006 ; Jennifer Daubenmier, 2005 ), as well as yoga and self compassion ( Gard, Brach, H olzel, Noggle, Conboy, & Lazar, 2012). An important aspect of this study was t he inclusion of qualitative questions. These questions allowed participants to provide a personal context of their experiences with hatha yoga. Fifty two out of the 62 total participants completed all of the short response questions. None of the questions asked specifically about the variables; however, 100% of participants referenced at least one of th ese variables in their answers. Many participants asserted that a yoga practice has helped them on emotional, mental, and physical levels and explain that yo ga has provided more confidence, more patience, more self love and love for others, and a calmer disposition that can better handle stress. Seventy three percent of participants asserted that yoga caused them decreased stress. One participant stated that "[yoga] teaches me how to manage stress when it's easy on the mat, so that I can handle the stresses of life with confidence while off the
YOGA MEANS UNION 35 mat." Thirty six percent mentioned calmness as an important asset to their yoga practice. When asked what emotional b enefits yoga has given them, if any, some answers included (related to stress), "general calmness," "better at coping with stress," "my temper isn't as explosive and I tend to be more calm on a daily basis," "less reactionary," "more patient," and one part icipant stated it has helped them "move away from emotional extremes." Major causes of stress include physical illnesses, whether they are chronic pain or a debilitating disease. This was incorporated into the survey in a question that asked, "what physic al benefits has yoga given you, if any?" Many of the participants mentioned obvious physical benefits such as increased strength (58%) and flexibility (44%) but it was surprising how many people mentioned a specific illness or injury (40%) that yoga has he lped them to deal with. One participant indicated that, due to yoga, they have experienced "no more migraines, carpal tunnel, and IBS" while another stated "elimination of 8.5 years of chronic back pain, no sinus infection, bronchitis or asthma since 2007, elimination of stress related stomach pain," and a few participants mentioned a reduction in chronic back and/or shoulder pain. Improvement of self esteem as a result of yoga practice was not mentioned as frequently as stress reduction but 15% of partici pants stated that yoga helped them improve their self esteem. Participants gave various answers related to this including, "yoga has changed the way I view myself and others. I am more accepting, less judgmental," "my self esteem is higher," "confidence," and one participant explained, "I used to be a combination of depressed, angry, judgmental, low esteem, stubborn my self esteem has improved and I no longer think I am a terrible person/friend/daughter."
YOGA MEANS UNION 36 Twenty nine percent of participants referenced impr oved self compassion in their answers. Only a few used the word "self compassion" directly, but many answered in ways that relate to Neff's definition of self compassion using various components (Neff, 2003). One participant cited yoga as important to them because it was "a gift to myself, every time I practice" while another stated yoga "offers an excellent set of tools for self care and development, compassion and community." Others said of yoga, "it is teaching me how to be kinder and more patient with m yself," "developed a lot of self compassion and the ability to laugh at my own weaknesses and failures," "lack of judgment towards myself and others.radical and complete acceptance for myself, my flaws, and the reality of my completeness," "much more awar e of my own feelings, accepting of who I am," "self love," "teaching me to take better care of myself" and "more patient with myself that negative tape in my head has gotten quieter." Yoga seemed to be indicative of much more self compassionate feelings t han those of self esteem. This may suggest that yoga is able to give people a sense of self care, not just feeling good about themselves, but feeling they are worthy of being taken care of. One of the questions in the short response section sought to det ermine what factors brought individuals to their practice. Sixty three percent of participants cited physical benefits as their initial interest in yoga (a specific injury, wanting more exercise), but stated that it became more than that and the "more than is the reason they have continued with the practice for so long. For the question regarding the importance of yoga, which was given on a Likert scale with four being most important and one being not at all important, 69% participants gave a four, 25% gav e a three, and 10% gave a two. No one selected that yoga was "not at all important" although this may
YOGA MEANS UNION 37 be because those who self selected to take the survey (and those who frequent a yoga forum in general) were those who already felt yoga was important to t hem. While all the feedback I got from participants' answers were wonderful and informative, there were two individuals who shared personal details in which yoga has contributed to their lives in an extremely transformative way. I would like to share the se stories as I feel they are important and speak to the possibility of yoga as beneficial in settings where high stress levels are abundant and self compassion and self esteem may be low as many studies have demonstrated thus far. "As somebody with extre mely severe anxiety and depression, and weight related struggles, yoga has become a safe haven for me. I am now a yoga alliance registered hatha instructor, and teach practice to people with disabilities. It is soothing for me to lend others the kind of pe ace that has been so difficult for me to achieve on my own." "There was a time in my life where suicidal ideation was a normal occurrence. Yoga has been vital to my ability to cope and recover from a rocky childhood. Coping with alcoholic family members an d a sexual assault requires more than just yoga but it has been an extremely healing factor." Many of the qualitative responses suggest that yoga has a very positive influence on people, especially in the areas of stress, self esteem, and self compassion They show that yoga benefits people on physical, mental, emotional, and even spiritual levels.
YOGA MEANS UNION 38 While these responses do not have generalizability nor do they prove empirically that yoga is beneficial, they are still insightful and important to consider. Additionally, it is reasonable to suggest that the scales, which were provided before the short response questions, may have primed participants. This priming may have been why many of the participants mentioned these three specific benefits as improving d ue to their yoga practice. Though this study did not find support for the hypothesis, there was significance found between the variables, indicating that low perceived stress, self esteem, and self compassion are connected in an important way. If yoga can be proved through empirical research to benefit even one of these factors, it is not a far stretch to say that it can benefit the others, due to their correlation and connection which has been demonstrated through my research. This study showed no signif icant correlation between length of hatha yoga experience and perceived stress, self esteem, and self compassion. However, it did find a significant negative correlation between perceived stress and self esteem and between perceived stress and self compass ion. There was also a significant positive correlation found between self esteem and self compassion. Though the hypothesis was not supported, there is still a real possibility that hatha yoga is correlated with these variables due to past research and als o due to qualitative responses from participants. It would be beneficial to conduct future research on this subject, preferably through an experimental, longitudinal design, which utilizes a control group. Additionally, one that has a larger and more diver se sample size that is collected in a different method than through a yoga forum would be beneficial. Preferably, this design would recruit individuals who have no experience with hatha yoga and introduce it into their lives in
YOGA MEANS UNION 39 order to gauge the changes b etween groups over a lengthy period of time. It would also be beneficial to observe hatha yoga in different settings, particularly high stress settings, as many other studies have done. Implications in these experiments include that yoga could be used as a supplemental therapy or practice for individuals in high stress situations as well as for the general population.
YOGA MEANS UNION 40 References Baer, R. A. (2003). Mindfulness training as a clinical intervention: A conceptual and em pirical review. Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice, 10, 125 143. Bosson, J., & Swann, W. (2009). Self Esteem. Handbook of Individual Differences in Social Behavior (pp. 527 546). New York: The Guilford Press. Boudette, R. (2006). How can the Practice of Yoga be Helpful in Recovery from an Eating Disorder?. Eating Disorders 14 167 170. Bullard, P.D. (1980). Coping with stress: a psychological survival manual Portland, Or.: ProSeminar Press Chen, K., Chen, M., Chao, H., Hung, H., Lin, H., & Li, C. (2009). Sleep quality, depression state, and health status of older adults after silver yoga exercises: Cluster randomized trial. International Journal of Nursing Studies 46 154 163. Cohen, S., Kamarck, T., and Mermelstein, R. (1983). A global me asure of perceived stress. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 24, 386 396. Cohen, L., Warneke, C., Fouladi, R., Rodriguez, A., & Chaoul Reich, A. (2004). Psychological Adjustment and Sleep Quality in a Randomized Trial of the Effects of a Tibetan Yoga Intervention in Patients with Lymphoma. American Cancer Society 100 2253 2260. Daubenmier, J. (2005). The Relationship of Yoga, Body Awareness, and Body Responsiveness to Self Objectification and Disordered Eating. Psychology of Women Quarterly 29 207 219. Derezotes, D. (2000). Evaluation of Yoga and Meditation Trainings with Adolescent Sex Offenders. Child and Adolescent Social Work Journal 17 97 113. Deshpande S., Nagendra H., & Nagarathna R. (2009). A randomized control trial of
YOGA MEANS UNION 41 the effect of yoga on Gunas (personality) and Self esteem in normal healthy volunteers. Int J Yoga 2 13 21. DuBois, D. L., & Flay, B. R. (2004). The healthy pursuit of self esteem: Comment on and alternative to the Crocker and Park (2004) formulation. Psychological Bulletin, 130, 415 420. Dukes, P. (1960). The yoga of health, youth, and joy; hatha yoga adapted to the West. New York: Harper. Edwards, D., Edwards, S., & Basson, C. (2004). Psychological Well Being and Physical Self Esteem in Sport and Exercise. Inter national journal of mental health promotion 6 25 32. Frost, J., & McKelvie, S. (2005). The Relationship of Self Esteem and Body Satisfaction to Exercise Activity for Male and Female Elementary School, High School, and University Students. The Online Jou rnal of Sport Psychology 7 36 49. Galantino M. L., Galbavy, R., & Quinn, L. (2008). Therapeutic Effects of Yoga for Children: A Systematic Review of the Literature. Pediatric Physical Therapy 1 66 80. Gard, T., Brach, N., Holzel, B., Noggle, J., Con boy, L., & Lazar, S. (2012). Effects of a yoga based intervention for young adults on quality of life and perceived stress: The potential mediating roles of mindfulness and self compassion. The Journal of Positive Psychology 7 165 175. Gilbert, P., & Pr octor, S. (2006). Compassionate mind training for people with high shame and self criticism: Overview and pilot study of a group therapy approach. Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy, 13, 353 379.
YOGA MEANS UNION 42 Goldberger, L., & Breznitz, S. (1993). Handbook of Stres s: Theoretical and Clinical Aspects (Second Edition ed.). New York: The Free Press. Gupta, N., Khera, S., Sharma, V., & Bijlani, R. (2006). Effect of Yoga Based Lifestyle Intervention on State and Trait Anxiety. Indian J Physiol Pharmacol 50 41 47. Han ey, P., & Durlak, J. A. (1998). Changing self esteem in children and adolescents: A meta analytic review. Journal of Clinical Child Psychology, 27, 423 433. Hartfiel, N., Havenhand, J., Khalsa, S., Clarke, G., & Krayer, A. (2011). The effectiveness of yog a for the improvement of well being and resilience to stress in the workplace. Scand J Work Environ Health 37 70 76. Hewett, Z., Ransdell, L., Gao, Y., Petlichkoff, L., & Lucas, S. (2011). An Examination of the Effectiveness of an 8 Week Bikram Yoga Pro gram on Mindfulness, Perceived Stress, and Physical Fitness. J Exerc Sci Fit 9 87 92. Impett, E., Daubenmier, J., & Hirschman, A. (2006). Minding the Body: Yoga, Embodiment, and Well Being. Sexuality Research & Social Policy 3 39 48. Iyengar, B. K. ( 1982). The concise light on yoga: yoga dipika New York: Schocken Books. Javnbakht, M., Kenari, R. H., & Ghasemi, M. (2009). Effects of yoga on depression and anxiety of women. Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice 15 102 104. Joshi A., & Sousa A. D. (2012). Yoga in the management of anxiety disorders. Sri Lanka Journal of Psychiatry 3 3 9. Khalsa S. B., & Cope, S. (2006). Effects of a yoga lifestyle intervention on performance related characteristics of musicians: A preliminary study. Med S ci Monitor 12 325 331. Lavey, R., Sherman, T., Mueser, K., Osborne, D., Currier, M., & Wolfe, R. (2005). The
YOGA MEANS UNION 43 Effects of Yoga on Mood in Psychiatric Inpatients. Psychiatric Rehabilitation Journal 28 399 402. Leary, M.R., Tate, E. B., Adams, C. E., All en, A. B., & Hancock, J. (2007). Self compassion and reactions to unpleasant self relevant events: The implications of treating oneself kindly. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 92, 887 904. Lidell, L., Rabinovitch, N., & Rabinovitch, G. (1983 ). The Sivananda companion to y oga New York: Simon and Schuster. Magnus, C. M. (2007). Does self compassion matter beyond self esteem for women's self determined motives to exercise and exercise outcomes? Unpublished master's thesis, University of Saskat chewan, Saskatoon, Canada. Marefat, M., Peymanzad, H., & Alikhajeh, Y. (2011). The Study of the Effects of Yoga Exercises on Addicts' Depression and Anxiety in Rehabilitation Period. Social and Behavioral Sciences 30 1494 1498. Mruk, C. J. (1999). Self esteem: research, theory, and practice (2nd ed.). New York: Springer Pub. Co. Neff, K. D. (2003a). Development and validation of a scale to measure self compassion. Self and Identity, 2, 223 250. Neff, K. D., Kirkpatrick, K., & Rude, S. S. (2007). Self c ompassion and its link to adaptive psychological functioning. Journal of Research in Personality, 41 139 154. Neff, K. (2009). Self Esteem. Handbook of Individual Differences in Social Behavior (pp. 561 573). New York: The Guilford Press.
YOGA MEANS UNION 44 Raes, F., Po mmier, E., Neff, K., & Van Gucht, D. (2011). Construction and Factorial Validation of a Short Form of the Self Compassion Scale. Clin. Psychol. Psychother, 18, 250 255. Rosenberg, M. (1965). Society and the adolescent self image Princeton, NJ: Princeton U niversity Press. Rucker, L. (2005). Yoga and restorative justice in prison: An experience of "response ability to harms." Contemporary Justice Review: Issues in Criminal, Socia l, and Restorative Justice, 8 107 120. Smith, C., Hancock, H., Blake Mortimer, J., & Eckert, K. (2007). A randomised comparative trial of yoga and relaxation to reduce stress and anxiety. Complementary Therapies in Medicine 15 77 83. Ulger O., & Yagl N. V. (2010). Effects of yoga on the quality of life in cancer patients. Compl ementary Therapies in Clinical Practice 16 60 63. White, L. (2012). Reducing Stress in School age Girls Through Mindful Yoga. Journal of Pediatric Health Care 26 45 56. Yardi, N. (2001). Yoga for control of epilepsy. Seizure 10 7 12.
YOGA MEANS UNION 45 Table 1 Means and Standard Deviations of Total Yoga Months, Perceived stress total scores, Self esteem total scores, and Self compassion total scores Variable Mean (SD) N Total Yoga Months 111.8 (121) 55 Perceived Stress Total 22.02 (5.6) 62 Self Esteem Total 33.4 (5.01) 60 Self Compassion Total 44.6 (8.37) 55
YOGA MEANS UNION 46 Table 2 Percentages of common responses of qualitative questions on survey Label % of participants Sample responses Started yoga for 63% "Chronic back pain" physical benefits "To get in better shape" Started yoga for 48% "Depression and stress" emotional benefits "Grieving the loss of my parents" Started yoga for 13% "Coincidence" other reasons "A friend introduced me" Improved strength 58% "Stronger" "Increased stamina" Improved flexibility 44% "I am more flexible" "Increased flexibility" Resolution of specific 40% "Back pain GONE!!!" physical issue "Re lief from migraine" Other physical benefits 44% "Body awareness" "Inspired me to eat be tter" Decreased stress 73% "Better at coping with stress" "Calmerable to control my temper" Increased self este em 15% "More confident" "My self esteem is higher" Increased self compassion 29% "Teaching me how to be kinder and more patient with myself" "Lack of judgment towards myself" Other emotional benefits 38% "More introspection" "Intense inspiration" "I am happier and laugh more easily"
YOGA MEANS UNION 47 Appendix A
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YOGA MEANS UNION 56 Appendix B Hello! I hope everyone is doing we ll today My name is Mauricette Jorgenson and I am a fourth year Psychology student at New College of Florida, an undergraduate university. One of the requirements to graduate at my school is a senior thesis project. My thesis is about yoga, as you may h ave already guessed! Specifically, I am exploring the length of yoga practice in relation to general well being as well as how yoga has changed people's lives on a personal level. In order to collect data, I have created a survey that I hope you will be wi lling to take! This survey should take no more than 10 15 minutes of your time. It is confidential, anonymous, and will only be used for my thesis project. Please only take this survey if you have practiced yoga for at least a month and you practice con sistently (at least one class or home practice a week). Please do not take this survey if you have never practiced yoga before or you practice very infrequently. Here is the link for the survey: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/ZVZB2JW I have personally been practicing hatha yoga for two years now and it has created so much positive change in my life I would be so appreciative if anyone would be willing to take some time out of their busy schedules and complete this survey. If you have any questions about the survey, my project, or anything else please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org Thank you so much for your time!