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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!

 

Bharmari Pranayama

Another semester has started at Cleveland State University and once again I am blessed with the opportunity to teach yoga to students, faculty and staff. This may  well be my most prolific semester yet, as I will be teaching four yoga courses and an additional two staff and faculty yoga sessions.By the the end of the semester I will have played a part in lowering the physical, mental and emotional stress of more than 120 students, faculty and staff theoretically making the university a more peaceful and happy place to be. Good karma for all!

At the beginning of every semester I encourage the student to practice as much as possible outside of class, but I remind them that it doesn’t mean, “as long as possible.” When it comes to taking on home yoga practice or any kind of physical practice or exercise, it is best to aim for frequency over duration.

How many times have you started out an exercise program with the intent to workout 5 days a week for 1-2 hours at a time? Sure, an hour on the elliptical, followed by 45 minutes of lifting and 15 minutes of core work sounds good on January 2, but is it sustainable? Most of us have already experienced something similar and know that it certainly is not. It always amazes me how I can be so motivated and committed in the beginning, just to completely get thwarted shortly thereafter!

My yoga teacher, Swami Atmarupa Saraswati, tells a story about a student of hers who was frustrated on not being able to practice regularly and develop a “home practice” outside of class. After finding out what a busy and full life her student lead my teacher told her to choose the same time each day and practice one round of “toe bending.”

Toe Bending

Anyone reading this who is familiar with this style of yoga knows that we often start with this simple practice as it is a part of the Pawanmuktasana (anti-rhuematics/joint mobility) movements in the Bihar School of Yoga.

As you can probably guess by the name as well as the picture above, the practice is quite easy to execute.

Upon hearing his the student immediately said “Toe bending, that’s it? I can do more than that.”

But my teacher told her, “No, just practice 10 repetitions of toe bending every day.”

Not quite convinced this simple directive was the answer, but willing to give it a try, the student rolled up her mat and went on her way.

A few weeks later, the student was back at the yoga studio for class. Before the start of class the student came up to my teacher with a big smile on her face. My teacher asked “So, how did the “toe bending” go for you?”

The student, continuing to smile, said something like this:

“I decided to practice yoga before bed. The first day I did toe bending like you said and then got into bed to read a book.

The second day, I practiced toe bending again, but this time I figured since I am sitting here on my mat that I might as well throw in a few repetitions of ankle bending. By the end of the second week I was up to 15-20 minutes almost everyday!

What I realized is that by setting the bar relatively low in relation to what I thought I “should” do for a yoga practice I wasn’t overwhelmed with how much time it would take and was able to be consistent. Which is exactly what I hoped to accomplish.”

The moral of the story is threefold; frequency is more important than duration when trying to establish a routine, getting start is often half the battle, and it is quite possible that you just might surprise yourself by reaching your goal.

So if you are thinking that you would like to get some kind of exercise routine or home yoga practice going set yourself up for success.  Start by picking a time of day when you know you will be at the same place at the same time. Immediately after waking or before bed are generally good suggestions for most people.

Depending on your individual goal consider beginning with a short walk around the neighborhood, maybe three rounds of sun salutation, 10 push-ups, one round of toe bending, 20 sit ups, etc. depending on your overall goal. Be honest with yourself from the very beginning. While you most likely CAN do more of this, that, or the other, doesn’t mean you WILL be able to keep it up.

Next week is the starts of the third week of Fall semester.  Knowing that I have to hold the energy of the multiple classes full of beginner students, it is important for me to keep up with my own practice to be authentic in my teaching and to facilitate a positive experience.  So far, a 20-minute practice upon waking seems to be working with a bonus meditation in the evening if the stars align. Setting myself up for success by keeping it simple.

After all these years it is really sinking in that frequency is really more important than duration when it comes to yoga.

Of course, until I am thwarted….

Thunderbolt Lake

 

For the last 8 weeks I have spent more time in planes and abroad then ever!  Here is a quick run down of my recent travels:

8 May-Trevisio, Italy

No sooner did I finish classes at Cleveland State University at the beginning of May, I was off to the Rollerblade annual sales meeting in Treviso, Italy. Sales meetings are always exciting as we get a preview of the product line and  brand initiatives for the coming year while having the opportunity to meet with people from around the world who are committed to growing the sport as well as the Rollerblade market share.

Presenting at 2017 Sales Meeting

Presenting at 2017 Sales Meeting

RB 2017 Sales meeting Rico Indo

Met Rico from Indonesia and is lovely wife and skating son!

Authentic and delicious pizza dinner varous RB team members

Authentic and delicious pizza dinner with various RB team members

13 May-Portoroz, Slovenia

How could I go to Italy and be so close to my skating friend Frank Pirc and his wife Wilma without a stop in Portoroz, Slovenia?  Portoroz was just a short roll away (about 2 hours by car) so I couldn’t pass up the chance to spend some time with my friends by their beautiful seaside home as well as go for a skate to the old Venetian city of Piran with Frank.  The ICP did its first certification in Slovenia in 2000 and I reconnected with my long, lost, love and husband Greg in Portoroz in 2003, so this place certainly holds a place in my heart.

May 2016 Piran

Favorite Place to Skate in Slovenia

Frank Piran May 2016

Skating with Frank in Piran

 

17 May-Dubai, United Arab Emirates

With a horrible infection caught on my way to Europe ramping up during my stay by the time I made it home to Cleveland I was so very sick! However, with no rest for the weary in sight, I had  one night in my own bed and quick trip to the doctor before I was off and flying again. This time to Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

Armed with A LOT of meds and a “positive attitude” (attitude really is everything) I would hopefully be ready to conduct a Level 1 Certification Program there within 2 days time.  Well thanks to the meds, my attitude, a great UAE host (Certified Instructor Andreja Marolt) and my new friend “Tylenol PM” I was just about fully recovered and ready to roll by the start of the program!

We had a very diverse group made up of participants from Oman, Philippines, Slovenia, Syria, and Venezuela!  So much fun working with everyone there and as well as helping program host Andreja Marolt with ways to best promote skating and the Rollerblade brand in the country and Middle East region.

 

Dubai Theory

Dubai Level 1 Theory

Lunch in Dubai

Program lunch break

Skating with Joy!

Skating with Joy!  Dubia, UAE

26 May Chicago Illinois

Landed, slept, and off to Chicago the next day for a poster presentation at the Association Psychological Science Convention.  My colleague from Cleveland State and I presented our latest yoga study.  It was an honor to be at the convention and to have the opportunity to continue to be involved with on the science side of yoga.  Taking into account all the travel, sickness, etc. I was reminded of the importance of spending more time on the practical side of yoga.  Lots of Yoga Nidras being done to keep my slept deficit due to all the time changing, to a minimal.

Yoga Study Presentation

Yoga Study Presentation

Balcony View

Balcony View

28 May-27 June  Ohio USA

Home for a whole month!

Taught a lot of ice hockey lessons and spent time helping my daughter finish up the school year and get organized for summer activities-summer reading, swimming, softball, etc.

Celebrated Memorial Day with my favorite US Coast Guard veteran, went up to the Lake Erie Islands for a last minute visit that included going to a party on the famous “Ship House”-The Benson Ford , cheered on the Cleveland Cavaliers for their last game ( I have deep seeded issues with being let down by Cleveland Sports–this is a topic for another blog post!) and joined in the 1.3 million people celebration parade-Wow, what a season for the Cavs!  Was thankful for the abundance in my life, enjoyed the emerging summer warmer and generally rested up for upcoming back to back trips.

Memorial Day 2016

Memorial Day 2016

Watching "Balanced" daughter

“Well-Balanced” daughter

 

Go Cavs!

Go Cavs!

Enjoying Island Life

Enjoying Island Life on South Bass Put in Bay

Impromptu Deck Yoga Session

Impromptu Deck Yoga Session

South Bass Ship House

South Bass Ship House

1 in over a million Celebrating

1 in over a million Celebrating

Who knew she was good at softball?!

First Year on Softball-Who knew she’d be good at this sport too!

27 June-July 7 Singapore 

Concluded my daughters weekend birthday celebration and was off on an evening flight through San Fransisco and on to a 16 hour flight to Singapore (one of the longest flights in the world!)  for certifications and  related programing.

Although I like to think of myself as a person who has a balanced life, apparently  the  universe is telling me otherwise  because 4 hours into my flight to Singapore (my 15th trip there since 2000!) I came down with conjunctivitis-not only in one, but in both eyes!  Landed at 6:00am,  in line at a doctors office by 8:00am and by 9:00am and only with $67 USD spent (Can the uS learn from Singapore’s medical pricing structure??) I was off with multiple meds to tackle the eye goop and the day!

Professional development workshops, Sled Dogs Snowskates Ambassador program as well as two certifications and a fitness workshop, not to mention my birthday and man, many late nights with a great international group of friends rounded out my 9 days in Singapore.

2016-06-29 09.17.19

Masked the minute I walked into the clinic!

SG friends daughter helping with Candles

SG friends daughter helping blow out birthday candles

International Birthday!

International Birthday Party!  Australia, China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Singapore, Spain  and the USA in the house!

Happy B-day to Kris

Happy B-day to Kris

 

With a Few Level 2 Candidates!

With a Few Level 2 Candidates!

 

SG July 2016 Group

SG July 2016 Group

 

July 7-July 11 Ohio, USA

Home in just enough time for a swim meet, to re-pack, get the house in order and to get my daughter ready  and off for a one week sleep away camp!  Not one photo taken to capture these days!  Other than the aforementioned, I was pretty much dead to the world and breaking all “rules of travel” as I slept mostly all day thus wide awake by 2am on most. Which as ridiculous as that was it was really perfect because 2am in Cleveland is 8am in Spain! Spain here I come!

July 12-July 21 Spain

Off and skating in Burgos!  From a ICP Level 2 program, “Working with Children” workshop,  a visit to Madrid’s SnowZone to promote Sled Dogs Snowskates and a local Burgos night skate, Spain was all about skating.

This is the first certification related trip EVER where I was joined by my husband Greg. He was a great sport throughout all the skating programming and became an expert navigating the streets and highlights of the city of Burgos when he was on his own.  He even joined in and skated a 1.5 hour night skate! For someone, who in 14 years of marriage has been out on inline skates for about 15 minutes, to skate unscatheed through the streets of Burgos, Spain with Backfliphouse skate club for over 1.5 hours, was truly impressive!

A huge thanks to ICP Examiner and ICP Country director for Spain, Natalia Santamaria, for making the long weekend of programming such a great success and for the wonderful hospitality. Muchos gracias also to her husband ICP Instructor Antonio Rico for shuttling us to skating venues and for keeping us well fed with wonderful homemade Spanish meals!

At the end of the skating programming we made two short trips to Natalia’s family’s village where we attended a village celebration in honor of the Virgin Mary and had dinner at the family’s “bodega”.  There we were treated to authentic Spanish fare and drank homemade red wine. Experiencing local life like this was very unique and not something that an average visitor to Spain experiences. Very fortunate to have this opportunity.

The trip was bookended by two lovely days in Madrid that included lots of sun, many kms of walking and great local food.

Another amazing trip in the books. Can’t believe this is my life!

Beautiful Burgos

Beautiful Burgos, Spain

Great Level 2 Groupo!

Great Level 2 Groupo!

Children's Workshop

Children’s Workshop

 

View from a Village

View from a Village

Natlaia's Families Bodaga

Natlaia’s Families Bodaga

 

Ritero Park Madrid

Ritero Park, Madrid

paella

Paella y Sangria

 July 21st Cleveland, OH USA

Home. Always in awe of air travel and feeling blessed to arrive home safe and sound.

Until the next travel adventure….

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IMG_2905

Never. Forever. Always.

Three words that I have said countless times before in my life only to eventually prove them untrue.

When people say things to me like  “I would never do ______, ” or “I will always do_______.”, etc…”  I just smile to myself and think “Let see how that goes for you!”

But when it comes to Yoga Nidra I would like to believe that “I will NEVER stop doing Yoga Nidra. I will FOREVER continue to practice daily. And ALWAYS sing it’s praises.” but I know I am probably kidding myself as well.

If you have been following this blog you would know that I have been shouting from the roof tops about Yoga Nidra and recently been practicing it daily.  In fact today is my 75th day of practice in a row!  While not all attempts have been stellar-which holds true for any one practicing meditation regularly,  a majority of the practices have been done with 100% effort and sincerity and I truly believe my physical, emotional and mental health has improved because of it.

Now that the semester is winding down at  Cleveland State University, where I teach 9 hours per week of yoga (in only 2 days) and has served as my original “30 Yoga Nidras in 30 Days” inspiration, I have begun to reflect on my efforts as proponent and practitioner of this meditation practice.

Beyond a doubt it has gotten me through teaching so many hours a week of yoga which might otherwise lead to burn out. The truth is there hasn’t been one day, seriously not one day, where I have NOT wanted to go in to teach.  Those who teach anything will know that there are just some days your heart and mind aren’t into it…but for me, with less then 3 weeks to go this semester, that hasn’t been the case.

In addition, there have recently been a few unforeseeable family related stressors that would throw anyone for a loop and somehow my head has managed to stay attached.  Again, thank you Yoga Nidra.

When it comes to my students at Cleveland State, although I haven’t managed to inspired all of them to take my lead and practice daily (2 have officially taken the challenge!),  every week more and more students tell me how they are finding time to incorporated this practices into their lives when possible.  😉

To have had the opportunity to introduce about 100 students this semester to this meditation tool and to influence them to use it regularly is truly a blessing. There are now 100 more people in this crazy stressed out world that have a tool to use that has a reduces sleep deprivation, lessens stress and anxiety, positively influences ones personality, etc.

A Yoga Nidra success story.

Even though previously unfulfilled grand proclamations have shown me that  I will probably NEVER be able to keep up my dedication to Yoga Nidra FOREVER and ALWAYS.

I know I will certainly try.

I Love Yoga Nidra

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Paramahamsa Satyananda Saraswati & Paramahamsa Niranjanananda Saraswati

On July 12th at the Atma Center, where I study and teach yoga, we celebrated Guru Poornima. Guru (teacher) Poornima (full moon) is considered a very auspicious time for Hindus and yoga aspirants.  It falls in the months of June or July during the full moon and is a time for us to give thanks to our teachers (not just in yoga but in life) for their enlightened teachings by which the darkness of our ignorance is dispelled.

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Traditionally, a Puju (prayer ritual) and Havan (fire ritual) are performed.  Offerings such as lit candles, flowers, or fruit are placed in front and around the pictures for the puja and mantra chanting, kirtan (call and response chanting), etc.take place to assist in making the connection between teacher and student.   For our celebration, and to keep compliant with the city’s fire code, we conducted  a flower Havan instead of a fire Havan  where we offered our gratitude for the untiring work of the guru.

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My Teacher of 15 years and owner of the Atma Center, Swami Atmarupa Saraswati.

Guru Poornima serves as an opportunity to reset our course as yoga aspirants.   Offering thanks to all our teachers during Guru Poornima reminds us that we are not alone on this journey.  There are teachers all around.  We just need to be ready to receive.

So thank you to all my teachers, near and far, in yoga and in life.  May I be open to your teachings and guidance and allow it to strengthen my own inner light, “or guru within” so that I may have the chance to awaken that light in others.

Hari Om Tat Sat

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With my friend and fellow teacher Sue following the celebration.

 

Photos Courtesy of Judy Evans (Jyostna)