Breath Awareness in Crocodile

The following was published August 30th, 2016 in the Psychology and Education Journal.

Depression and Anxiety Decline after Participation in a Semester Long Yoga Class

Jeremy E. C. Genovese & Kristine Fondran

Cleveland State University

      Students at large Midwestern University completed the short form of the Depression, Anxiety and Stress Scale (DASS 21) at the beginning and end of a semester long yoga class. The class was taught by an experienced yoga instructor and included physical postures (asana), breathing practice (pranayama), and meditation (including yoga nidra). The classes met twice a week over a 16 week semester and each class lasted for 50 minutes. The participants showed statistically significant declines in depression, and anxiety. Stress also decreased, but the results were not statistically significant.

 

We originally intended this study as a comparative test of the effects of yoga practice on depression, anxiety, and stress. We had hoped to compare students in yoga classes with wait list controls and other, non-yoga, exercise classes. Unfortunately, we only received one response from the course wait list and only eight responses from students in non-yoga exercise classes. Fully recognizing the limitations of the remaining data, we felt these exploratory results were sufficiently interesting to report to the research community. It is our hope that these findings will encourage others to study the psychological benefits of yoga.

Methods

Participants

Sixty one students, enrolled in three sections of an elective yoga class offered by a large urban university, participated in this study. Participants ranged in age from 18 to 67. Fifty of the participants were female and eleven were male. In this sample, 47 participants identified as White, 5 as Hispanic or Latino, 4 as Black or African American, 3 as Asian or Asian American 1 as Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander, and 1 as American Indian or Alaska Native. Thirty one of the participants had no previous yoga experience, 4 did not respond to the question, while 26 had yoga experience ranging from 6 months to 12 years.

Instrument

Students were asked to provide demographic information and to complete the short form of the Depression, Anxiety and Stress Scale (DASS 21) on the first day of class, prior to any instruction, and again during the last week of class. The DASS 21 is a widely used 21 item self-report instrument that measures depression, anxiety, and stress. The DASS 21 has shown good psychometric properties and can be used for both clinical and non-clinical populations (Antony, et al., 1998). The DASS 21 asks participants to reference their answers to the previous week, thus, it is useful for tracking change over time.

Class

All yoga classes were taught by the same experienced teacher, trained in the Bihar School of yoga. The yoga classes included physical postures (asana), breathing practice (pranayama), and meditation (including yoga nidra). The classes met twice a week over a 16 week semester and each class lasted for 50 minutes. Students were encouraged to practice outside of class.

Analysis                                                                                     

The data were analyzed using Simstat. Because of the limitations of the data, we chose to use a more conservative nonparametric approach. Pre-class and post-class scores on the three scales of the DASS 21 were compared using the Wilcoxon matched-pairs signed test.

Results

Levels of depression, anxiety, and stress, as measured by the DASS 21, fell after one semester of yoga, however only two of these declines (depression and anxiety) were statistically significant (see Table 1).

Table 1.

Summary of Reported Depression, Anxiety, and Stress Before and After a 16 Week Yoga Class

 

Before Yoga Class

After Yoga Class

Variable

Mean

SD

α

Mean

SD

α

p

Depression

2.77

3.17

.84

1.30

1.50

.64

.00

Anxiety

4.07

4.21

.47

2.55

2.91

.75

.02

Stress

6.17

4.48

.85

4.73

3.89

.84

.08

Note: α = Cronbach’s α. Wilcoxon matched-pairs test.

Discussion

The results reported here are limited because of the lack of a control group. The declines in depression, anxiety, and stress might be explained by some factor other than yoga. However, for university students, depression, anxiety, and stress are known to increase over the course of semester (Andrews, & Wilding, 2004; Jemmott, & Magloire, 1988), and it is noteworthy that participants in this study experienced decreases. At minimum, these results suggest that yoga is promising area for future research.

 

References

Andrews, B., & Wilding, J. M. (2004). The relation of depression and anxiety to life‐stress and achievement in students. British Journal of Psychology, 95(4), 509-521.

Antony, M. M., Bieling, P. J., Cox, B. J., Enns, M. W., & Swinson, R. P. (1998). Psychometric properties of the 42-item and 21-item versions of the Depression Anxiety Stress Scales in clinical groups and a community sample. Psychological assessment, 10(2), 176 -181.

Jemmott, J. B., & Magloire, K. (1988). Academic stress, social support, and secretory immunoglobulin A. Journal of personality and social psychology, 55(5), 803 – 810.

Author Note: 

Jeremy E.C. Genovese is Associated Professor of Human Development, Department of Curriculum and Foundations, College of Education and Human Services, Cleveland State University.

Kristine M. Fondran is a part-time lecturer, Department of Health and Human Performance, College of Education and Human Services, Cleveland State University.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Jeremy Genovese, JH 367, Department of Curriculum and Foundations, Cleveland State University, College of Education and Human Services, 2121 Euclid Avenue, Cleveland, Ohio, 44122.

Email: j.genovese@csuohio.edu

Yoga Nidra-Just about everyone's favorite!