Yoga Experience as a Predictor of Psychological Wellness in Women over 45 Years

Article excerpt

Byline: N. Moliver, E. Mika, M. Chartrand, R. Haussmann, SBS. Khalsa

Background: Although high levels of subjective well-being (SWB) are common in old age, a subset of older individuals is disproportionately vulnerable to negative affect. Yoga has been shown to have many short-term benefits, but researchers have not determined whether a long-term or frequent yoga practice increasingly protects older women from low levels of psychological well-being. Aims: The purpose of this study was to examine the extent to which psychological attitudes, transcendence, mental mastery, and subjective vitality in a sample of female yoga practitioners over 45 years varied according to the length and frequency of yoga practice. Materials and Methods: We administered online surveys to a non-probability sample of 211 female yoga practitioners 45 to 80. We used weighted least squares regression analyses to evaluate the relationship of extent of yoga experience to the outcome variables after accounting for age and lifestyle factors. Results: Participants had practiced yoga for as long as 50 years and for up to 28 h per week. There were significant positive relationships between yoga experience and all outcome variables. These significant relationships remained after accounting for age and lifestyle factors. When we computed yoga experience in terms of total calendar years, without accounting for hours of practice, significant relationships did not remain. Transcendence of the ordinary was the most strongly associated with current yoga practice frequency, and positive psychological attitudes were the most strongly associated with total lifetime hours of practice. Conclusions: Among a non-probability sample of female yoga practitioners between 45 and 80 years, increased yoga experience predicted increased levels of psychological well-being. Results showed a dose-response effect, with yoga experience exercising an increasingly protective effect against low levels of SWB and vitality.

Introduction

Wellness practices are believed to trigger self-healing mechanisms and intrinsic adaptogenic responses. [sup][1] According to the theory of salutogenesis, the regular engagement in wellness practices, or salutary behaviors, creates steady improvements in physical and psychological health. [sup][1],[2] From the perspective of this theory, there is not an upper limit to the level of health that an individual can attain.

Well-being is not defined as the absence of problems. [sup][3],[4],[5],[6],[7],[8] Positive well-being is not the polar opposite of negative mood, and the inverse correlation between the two constructs is somewhat weak. [sup][9],[10] In the worldview of humanist and positive psychology, one cannot create a life worth living by focusing entirely on alleviating disease and discomfort. [sup][11] The most serious psychopathologies are believed to result from an absence of strengths, rather than from symptoms such as depression and anxiety. [sup][3] Although wellness practices protect against pathology, [sup][1],[3],[12] a major and perhaps underrepresented purpose of lifestyle-based wellness choices is to maximize positive experiences such as joy, vitality, serenity, happiness, self-actualization, and other qualities that make life worth living. [sup][13]

Yoga is an ancient set of integrated mental and physical practices designed to foster the long-term experience of positive psychological states, including transcendence of the ordinary, spirituality, self-awareness, and inner peace. [sup][14],[15] Historically, yoga has been practiced primarily not as a remedy for defined pathologies, but as a practice to enhance lifelong physical and spiritual well-being. Research studies have shown that yoga can provide a wide range of psychological benefits, [sup][16],[17] both in reducing negative affect [sup][18],[19],[20] and in fostering positive wellness. [sup][21],[22],[23],[24],[25],[26]

Enduring well-being does not emerge in a brief time period in response to specific events. …