Academic journal article International Journal of Yoga

Improvements in Well-Being and Vagal Tone Following a Yogic Breathing-Based Life Skills Workshop in Young Adults: Two Open-Trial Pilot Studies

Academic journal article International Journal of Yoga

Improvements in Well-Being and Vagal Tone Following a Yogic Breathing-Based Life Skills Workshop in Young Adults: Two Open-Trial Pilot Studies

Article excerpt

Byline: Michael. Goldstein, Gregory. Lewis, Ronnie. Newman, Janice. Brown, Georgiy. Bobashev, Lisa. Kilpatrick, Emma. Seppala, Diana. Fishbein, Sreelatha. Meleth

Background: While efficacy of Sudarshan Kriya Yoga (SKY) has been demonstrated in a number of prior studies, little is known about the effects of SKY taught as part of the Your Enlightened Side (YES+) workshop designed for college students and other young adults. Aims: This study aimed to assess the effects of YES+, a yogic breathing-based life skills workshop, on multiple measures of well-being and physiological stress response. Materials and Methods: Two nonrandomized open-trial pilot studies were conducted with a total of 74 young adults (age 25.4 [+ or -] 6.6 years; 55% female). Study 1 collected a variety of self-report questionnaires at baseline, postworkshop, and 1-month follow-up. Study 2 collected self-report questionnaires in addition to electrocardiography with a stationary cycling challenge at baseline and 1-month follow-up. Results: Study 1: Improvements in self-reported depression (P's ≤ 0.010), perceived stress (P's ≤ 0.002), life satisfaction (P's ≤ 0.002), social connectedness (P's ≤ 0.004), and gratitude (P's ≤ 0.090) were observed at postworkshop and 1-month after workshop relative to baseline. Study 2: Improvements in self-reported emotion regulation were observed at 1-month follow-up relative to baseline (P = 0.019). Positive and Negative Affect Schedule-Expanded Form positive affect increased (P = 0.021), while fatigue and sadness decreased (P's ≤ 0.005). During the stationary cycling challenge, rate to recovery of electrocardiography inter-beat interval also increased from baseline to 1-month follow-up (P = 0.077). Conclusions: These findings suggest that a life skills workshop integrating yogic breathing techniques may provide self-empowering tools for enhancing well-being in young adults. Future research is indicated to further explore these effects, particularly in regards to vagal tone and other aspects of stress physiology.


The transition from adolescence to adulthood, particularly for college students, is accompanied by several major life changes and challenges. For many individuals, this is a period when one moves away from home, begins interacting with different peer groups, and has greater financial and academic responsibilities. The emotional stress associated with these changes is correlated with less time devoted to sleep,[sup][1] increased alcohol intake,[sup][2] reduced academic performance,[sup][2],[3] and increased rates of anxiety disorders and/or depression.[sup][4]

Your Enlightened Side (plus more) (YES+) is a life skills workshop with a strong emphasis on breathing practices for reducing stress and increasing well-being. Additional stress management tools including meditation, yoga, and interpersonal exercises that impart social and emotional learning skills and stress reduction strategies complement the breathing techniques.

The central practice taught in YES+ is a unique rhythmical breathing technique called Sudarshan Kriya.[sup][5] It is taught along with two preparatory breathing practices: An advanced form of Ujjayi breathing (breathing against airway resistance) and bhastrika (forceful nasal breathing). Collectively, these three breathing practices are referred to as Sudarshan Kriya Yoga (SKY).

Prior literature has demonstrated significant improvements in psychological and physiological outcomes of SKY in adults, including decreases in subjective stress,[sup][6] clinical and subclinical depression and anxiety,[sup][6],[7],[8] posttraumatic stress symptoms,[sup][9],[10],[11] impulsivity,[sup][12] and tobacco use,[sup][13] as well as increases in calm, mental focus,[sup][14] emotion regulation,[sup][15],[16] and overall well-being.[sup][6],[17]

However, little is known about the effects of SKY specifically taught in the YES+ workshop format designed for college students. …

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