The Effects of Yoga Practice on Psychological Well-Being

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Presented at the American College of Sports Medicine Conference, 2007, New Orleans

Statler T.A., Wheeler A., Siegel S.R., California State University, San Bernardino, San Bernardino, CA.

Yoga is primarily used and interpreted as a physical activity in the Western world. However, the purpose of yoga in the East is different. There, yoga is employed as a technique to focus the mind, to help people live their lives with clarity and a positive outlook, and also to reduce their anxiety (Desikachar, 1984). The purpose of this study was to determine whether concentration and motivation improved, and anxiety decreased over the course of a 10-week university quarter as a result of participation in a regular yoga class.

A sample of 84, predominantly female (93%) college students were enrolled in 4 Hatha yoga classes at a California university. The average age of the students was 23.6 + 9.9 years, and most students had at least 3 months of consistent yoga experience prior to the class. The students were 45% Hispanic, 35% White, 7% African American, 2% Asian American, and 7%, not reported. The TAIS (Test of Attentional and Interpersonal Style), STAI (State-Trait Anxiety Inventory), and AMSSE (Achievement Motivation Scale for a Supporting Environment) instruments were administered initially on the 2nd week of class and then again on the 9th week to assess concentration/ attention, motivation, and anxiety, respectively. A paired sample 2-tailed t-test was used to determine change in psychological indices over the term.

Concentration/attention improved overall (p < 0.001) with yoga students believing themselves better able to focus on appropriate tasks and filter extraneous information. Motivation to achieve success improved (p < 0.001), and motivation to avoid failure decreased (p< 0.001), reflecting a greater likelihood to strive for success in challenging situations. State anxiety did not change between T1 and T2, but trait anxiety decreased (p < 0.001) over the 8 weeks of assessment.

Students in 4 college yoga classes showed an improvement in concentration, decreased trait anxiety, and improved motivation for success between a pre and post test assessment of these characteristics. Future research should further examine the long-term psychosocial benefits of engaging in yoga.

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