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Stephanie Durnford, L. Mickey Fenzel, Ph.D.

Satisfaction of Yoga Practice: A Pilot Study

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Researchers and practitioners, within both clinical mental health and yoga communities, are beginning to understand ways in which yoga and psychology can inform one another and provide resources for dealing with human suffering (i.e., Caplan, 2018; Levine, 2008; van der Kolk, 2014). Much of the previous yoga research has focused on the psychophysiological impact of yoga, with the potential implications of yoga as a spiritual practice not yet addressed. This quantitative research project examined the relationship to and the potential implications for psychological functioning by addressing the unique role of 125 yoga practitioners’ appraisal of their yoga practice as sacred. Utilizing the sanctification framework (Pargament & Mahoney, 2005), which explores the ways in which practitioners may understand their yoga practice as a manifestation of God or having sacred qualities, this research asked participants to identify the specific practices within their overall “yoga practice,” such as asana (posture) practice or recitation of mantra. Participants were also asked to respond to measures of embodiment, difficulties with emotion regulation, and mental health symptoms.

Preliminary findings suggested positive correlations between sanctification and mental health symptoms, contrary to expectations based upon previous research. Results from this sample indicated that overall appraisals of sanctification do not account for significant variance after controlling for personality, mindfulness, and overall global religiousness. Further, results indicated a negative correlation with difficulties with emotion regulation and mental health symptoms with the number of different yogic practices utilized by participants. Implications for pastoral and mental health counselors, as well as yoga instructors, are addressed, particularly as yoga practice and philosophy offer opportunities for non-affiliated individuals to practice routes of spiritual searching outside of traditional religious and spiritual groups. Further, due to group differences and questions raised with results, brief consideration of group differences between convenience sample and an online recruitment crowdsource (Amazon Mechanical Turk) are made, including implications for research.

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