SWAN RESEARCH INSTITUTE
TITLE: YOGA STUDIES AND PSYCHOLOGICAL WELLBEING
RESEARCHER: John Thomas (Sannyasi Dharmadeva) M.A., M.Psych,
Quality Assurance Officer and Lecturer in Yoga Psychology,
Satyananda Yoga Academy
1. Research question
Specific research aims:
The study will examine improvements in psychological wellbeing associated with participation in an intensive Yoga programme involving theory and practice (Yoga Studies at Satyananda Yoga Academy).
2. Significance of the research
The practice of Yoga has long been associated with improvements in psychological wellbeing. Although there has been much research into specific therapeutic benefits of Yoga practices, there has been little attention to the broader, wholistic effects of Yoga, as conceived as psychological wellbeing.
Bhushan (1998) explored the effect of participation in an intensive Yoga course (four month residential Certificate course in Satyananda Yoga) conducted at Bihar Yoga Bharati in India, on measures of psychological wellbeing. He contended that an intensive residential Yogic experience produced improvements in wellbeing as a result of the adoption of a Yogic lifestyle, living a self-disciplined life of regulated daily activities and yogic practices. During the intensive Yoga course, in an ashram setting, students lived this lifestyle.
However, in measuring wellbeing, he used only “negative” measures, ie scores on anxiety, depression and other psychiatric symptoms.
The proposed research aims, in part to replicate Bhushan’s study for the Australian equivalent of
the Certificate course (five month Yogic Studies 1a course at Satyananda Yoga Academy). This course begins with a two week intensive residential experience, followed by a programme of home study and a schedule of daily home Yoga practice. The effect of this course on wellbeing will be compared with a control group, a less intensive exposure to Satyananda yoga in the form of a weekly class.
The proposed study plans to extend the scope of the Indian investigation to the effects of further intensive Satyananda Yoga study (subsequent six month Yogic Studies 1b and 12 month Yogic studies 2a and 2b courses).
In addition to the “negative” measures used by Bhushan, the proposed study will also use “positive” indices of psychological wellbeing.
3. Theoretical and value basis for research question
Measures of psychological wellbeing
(Ryff and Keyes 1995) have proposed a theoretical model of well-being, which encompasses six distinct dimensions of wellness: 'autonomy', 'environment', 'mastery', 'personal growth', 'positive relation with others', 'purpose in life', and 'self-acceptance'.
“Positive” measures of psychological wellbeing rely heavily on self-report. Diener (1997) defines
this “subjective wellbeing” as referring to “how people evaluate their lives, and including variables such as life satisfaction and marital satisfaction, lack of depression and anxiety, and positive moods and emotions”. He sees the three primary components as satisfaction, pleasant affect, and
low levels of unpleasant affect. Each of these components contributes to a global sense of
wellbeing, and each in turn can be broken down into subdivisions. He has developed a five-item scale for measuring “Satisfaction with Life” (Diener, 1985)
As our control over our external environment is limited, Pallant (2000) has argued that perceived control over one’s internal states (thoughts, feelings and physical reactions) may be critical for a sense of wellbeing and have a further benefit of moderating the effect of adverse life events. She has developed a scale to measure this dimension, using categories of “competence beliefs” and “control beliefs”.
An extensive research project at Deakin University has produced Australian measures of “quality of life”. This has conceptualised wellbeing as “both objective and subjective, each being the aggregate of seven domains: material wellbeing, health, productivity, intimacy, safety, community and emotional wellbeing. From this research, a “Personal Wellbeing Index” has been developed. (Cummins, 2002).
It is proposed to use these three scales as measures of psychological wellbeing.
Effect of Yoga on Wellbeing
Yoga is one intervention mentioned by Pallant (2000), along with biofeedback, relaxation training and meditation, as being directed at increasing control over one’s physical reactions. However, Yoga, while often initially undertaken as a physical practice, can extend to deeper levels of experience.
The integral Yoga tradition of Satyananda Yoga takes a wholistic approach to health, viewing body, mind and spirit as integral and interdependent parts. (Bhushan 1998) describes Yoga as “both a philosophy of life and a science of human personality. When the life philosophy starts manifesting in one’s behaviour and interactions, life becomes spiritually oriented and ultimately results in a healthy and harmonious personality.” Yoga becomes a lifestyle that includes diet, sleep, relaxation, physical exercises (asanas), breathing practices (pranayama), meditation, and daily work (karma yoga). It involves attitude and behaviour change.
The Yoga Studies courses are designed to instil lifestyle change through the establishment of a regular daily Yoga Practice routine, supplemented by cognitive learning. As Yoga methods work in a subtle manner, they require regular practice to effect noticeable change. Such lifestyle change is optimally achieved by participation in an intensive course such as Yoga Studies, but also by extended stay at a Yoga centre or ashram. The practices aim to enhance self-awareness and the capacity to “witness” one’s thoughts, feelings and actions with acceptance and non-attachment. It
is hypothesised that this can lead, somewhat paradoxically, to a sense of perceived control of one’s internal states, as measured by Pallant’s (2000) scale.
It is further hypothesised that this change in perceived control of internal states will be associated with an increased sense of psychological wellbeing, as measured by decreased scores on anxiety and psychiatric symptoms, and increased scores on satisfaction and quality of life. According to Pallant’s (2000) theory, perceived internal control may have a “buffering” effect on the impact of adverse life events, which may otherwise reduce life satisfaction scores.
The independent variable will be membership of one of the groups: Yoga Studies1A, Yoga Studies 1B, Yoga Studies 2A or a weekly Satyananda Yoga class (all commencing in first semester 2004). The dependent variables will be scores on scales measuring: quality of life, satisfaction with life, perceived control of internal states, anxiety and psychiatric symptoms.
The proposed study will use both a cross-sectional and longitudinal approach.
o The initial data collection will compare the three Yoga studies groups at the
commencement of their courses with each other and with the control group
o Scores for all groups will be compared to population norms for the measures used.
Correlations of scores on the dependent measures will be explored for each group with respect to age, education level and number of years of Yoga practice. Those entering Yoga Studies 1A will be compared to those commencing the courses that follow Yoga Studies 1A. (YS1B and YS2A).
Before and after study
If the YS1A and weekly Yoga groups are sufficiently similar in their scores on initial testing, a group design, using “before and after” measures will be implemented, even if this entails a “non-
equivalent group design”. Measures will be repeated at the end of the courses. However, small
sample size and small effect magnitude may limit the utility of a group design.
A complementary single-subject design will track changes in a sample of subjects beginning their Yoga Studies 1A course in January 2003, with repeated measures on the perceived control of internal states, satisfaction with life, and anxiety scales. This sample will be followed into further Yoga studies courses (YS1B, YS2A and YS2B) with the same measures, repeated at the end of each course. If possible, repeated measures will also be obtained form those YS1A students not continuing with Yoga Studies, at the same time intervals.
; Yoga Studies course: Satyananda Yoga Academy, Mangrove, NSW. In distinction to the Indian
courses which are fully residential, the Australian courses commence with a two-week
residential period followed by a schedule of home study and practice, recorded by logbook.
; Weekly Satyananda Yoga class: conducted at Newcastle Yoga Centre
; All students enrolled in YS1A, YS1B groups at Mangrove campus of SYA in January 2004
intake, all students enrolled in YS2A at Mangrove campus of SYA in February 2004 intake ; Intermediate Yoga class at Newcastle Yoga Centre, enrolled for 1st term 2004
5. Ethical issues
The major ethical issue relates to the collection of clinical information on participants and the potential uses of this information. As the Yoga studies courses are the first stages of the Diploma in Satyananda Yoga teaching, the vocational qualification required for Satyananda Yoga teaching, the use of the data from the Brief Symptom Inventory for screening purposes may be raised. It could be used to screen out those with significant psychiatric symptoms from entering the later teacher training courses.
While psychological screening may be considered as an option in the future for the Academy and this research might provide some relevant information for this decision, the findings of this research for individual subjects will be kept confidential. Only group data will be reported. Individual records will be coded only with an identifying number, with the identifying code kept in confidential storage by the researcher. Identifying information will be destroyed once data collection has concluded.
Informed consent is the other major ethical issue. Attached is a sample consent form, prepared following the SRI guidelines for consent forms, outlining the information given to prospective participants.
Comparison of means using Student’s t test for all pairs of groups
Pearson r correlation coefficient for scores on satisfaction with life and perceived control against years of Yoga practice and years living in a Yoga centre
Before and after study:
Comparison of means using Student’s t test on “before” and “after” groups, analysis of variance
Comparison of means using Student’s t test on “before” and “after” groups, analysis of variance (ANOVA)
6. Time Schedule
Initial data collection: January to February 2004: YS1A, weekly Yoga group, weekly non-Yoga group
Initial analysis: February –March 2004
Initial report: April 2004
Before and after study:
Subsequent data collection: April to June 2004
Further data analysis: July 2004
Subsequent report: August 2002
Subsequent data collection and analysis: December 2004, June 2005, December 2005 Final report: February 2006
Beck, A. (1967). Depression: Clinical, experimental and theoretical aspects. New York, Hoeber.
Bhushan, L. (1998). "Yogic Lifestyle and Psychological Wellbeing." Yoga Sivananda Math,
Munger, India May 1998
Cummins, R (2002) Welcome the Personal Wellbeing Index, School of Psychology
website, Deakin University
Derogatis, L. (1993). Brief Symptom Inventory. Minneapolis, National Computer Systems.
Diener, E (1997) Recent Findings on Subjective Well-being Indian Journal of Clinical Psychology
Pallant, J. (2000). "Development and Validation of a Scale to Measure Perceived Control of
Internal States." Journal of Personality Assessment 75(2): 308-337.
Ryff, C. D. and C. L. Keyes (1995). "The structure of psychological well-being revisited." J Pers
Soc Psychol 69(4): 719-27.
Speilberger, C. (1983). Manual for the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI). Palo Alto, Consulting
Swan Research Institute
300 Mangrove Creek Rd
MANGROVE CREEK NSW 2250
Email: Dharmadeva@satyananda.net th13 July 2003