Presented at the International Association of Yoga Therapy Sytar Conference, 2007, Los Angeles, CA
A. Wheeler, Ph.D.
Department of Kinesiology, California State University, San Bernardino, California
Keywords: Yoga, Personality, Relaxation Response
Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras tell us that we tend to participate in behaviors that reinforce old habits (samskaras) instead of choosing behaviors that could assist us in healing. As yoga therapists/ teachers we see that high-strung students are often drawn towards a vigorous practice and that lethargic students often prefer a more gentle practice.
The purpose of this research is to empirically test which type of personalities are drawn to which types of yoga classes. Further, the purpose is to test the relaxation response for each type of personality in vigorous versus gentle yoga classes.
The number of study participants was 61. Each student was asked to respond to a series of words about how they would describe his or her personality. For example, words included: driven, assertive and motivated versus laid-back and go with the flow of life. The students were then asked to describe the type of yoga practice they preferred. For example, a bramhana practice including sun-salutations, back-bending and standing postures or a langhana practice including poses on the floor for low back and hips. Finally, the students were given a valid and reliable questionnaire pertaining to affective relaxation response before and after a bramhana and a langhana yoga class. The SPSS statistical analysis package was used to run pre- and post t-tests on the data.
Results showed that the students who described themselves as driven preferred a heated yoga practice 2:1 (reinforcing old samskaras). Similarly, more laid-back students preferred a more gentle practice. Both types of students reported a relaxation response after both the bramhana and langhana practices. However, both types of students were significantly more relaxed after the langhana practice (when compared to the bramhana practice).
The results of the study suggest that students do in fact tend to choose a yoga class that matches their personality. However, if the goal of yoga is to achieve maximum relaxation response, then all types of students would find a gentle langhana class more effective.