Magazine 2014
International Peer-Reviewed Journal  
Cicilia Chettiar  
The presence of high levels of anxiety in students has been documented in various studies. There are  
various methods of intervention that are suggested and have been found acceptable. This study covers  
the application of specific yoga techniques to female student population taught by a trained yoga teacher.  
It was hypothesized that students who are exposed to specific Yoga asanas will respond positively and  
find a reduction in their anxiety levels as measured by their physiological manifestations. Anxiety levels  
were assessed using Beck’s Anxiety Inventory both before and after the intervention. A control group  
matching the experimental group in demographics was also used to ensure that change occurred only  
in the specific experimental group. Results indicate significant reduction in the levels of anxiety in the  
experimental group as measured by the t-test.  
Keywords : Yoga, Positivity, Anxiety, Control Group  
The lifestyle of youth today is prone to a lot of stress and challenges. Particularly young students who  
are on the threshold of their careers that threaten to overwhelm their ability to cope. Even seemingly  
well adjusted young students are frequently prone to various anxiety based symptoms due to the  
pressures on them.  
Not all such stressors are academic. Some are social, some financial and many are related to family.  
In the face of such overwhelming demands, many students give up the good fight and turn to unhealthy  
options. Some become part of gangs or cliques that provide a sense of identity and self-validation.  
Such gangs can range from most healthy to least healthy.  
It is not always possible within the scope of the academic set up to provide too much of training or to  
provide guidance to the student to a very large extent. In such a scenario it makes sense to provide the  
student access to techniques and strategies that can be used by them on their own time at their own  
space and something that will benefit them in the long run. Besides, the additional burden of a stigma  
prevents most students from seeking therapeutic solutions. With this scenario as a reference point, the  
current study attempted to cover the student’s personal growth and provide a coping mechanism that  
can be sustained even after they have completed their education.  
The role of alternative therapies in the treatment of anxiety has been studied in great detail over the  
years. Although there are various methods to help in the management of anxiety, in the present study,  
yoga was selected as an alternative that could be taught to the students to train them to manage their  
anxiety. With research still on the rise today, yoga has been greatly commended for its triumphs in  
modulating stress response systems” (Kirkwood, 2005). This was largely due to the need for an  
instrument that required very little investment of time and money to sustain it and yet yield a maximum  
of returns. Most of the student population is financially dependent on their parents and so providing  
them techniques that further add to their financial burden was not considered viable.  
Yoga & Anxiety  
Since the 1970s, meditation and other stress-reduction techniques have been studied as possible  
treatments for depression and anxiety. Available reviews of many studies have shown that yoga can  
reduce the impact of exaggerated stress responses and maybe helpful for both anxiety and depression.  
The benefits of yoga are not just restricted to the improvement in physiological states as shown my  
biological indicators. It extends to the perception of stress. By affecting stress perception it modulates  
stress response system. The individual therefore observes a noticeable change in his experience of  
life in general and anxiety in particular.  
The use of breath work, or pranayama, is useful to those who suffer from anxiety particularly because  
breathing exercises help combat the physiological symptoms such as, short, tight upper-chest breathing.  
Relaxation is the key to the elimination of anxiety because when one deepens the breath by lengthening  
the exhalation they are reducing the short shallowness of breath that is associated with the inhalation.  
Lengthening of the exhalation can help the person achieve a healthy level of carbon dioxide in the  
bloodstream that helps in the relaxation process.  
International Peer-Reviewed Journal  
The different bodily postures (asanas) and the breathing exercises are considered central to the aim of  
achieving relaxation and reducing anxiety (Monk-Turner & Turner, 2010). There have been numerous  
studies confirming the beneficial effects of yoga. There are also known physiological benefits to the  
practice of yoga (Bali, Ebenezer, & Nagendra, 2010). Yoga was also found to have a beneficial effect  
on perceived stress, coping and experience of positive and negative affect (Permith-Levine, 2014).  
In a comparative study (Gupta & Sawane, 2012) on the effects of yoga and swimming on pulmonary  
functions, it was found that swimming had a slight edge as compared to yogic exercises. The inclusion  
of physiologists in the team of yoga researchers has led to a significant increase in the credibility of  
yoga thanks to the physiological measures that act to verify and justify the psychological effects felt by  
the yoga practitioner. But there are many studies that support yoga in the treatment of rheumatoid  
arthritis (Telles, Naveen, Gaur & Balkrishna, 2011), stress management (Kirkwood, Rampes, Tuffrey, &  
Piklington, 2005), decreasing heart rate & systolic and diastolic blood pressure (Selvamurthy et. al.  
998,) and decreasing anxiety (Michalsen et. al. 2005; West 2004), and increasing feelings of  
emotional, social, and spiritual well-being (Moadel 2007).  
Brown and Gerbarg (2005) in a paper ono Sudarshan kriya Yogic breathing in the treatment of stress  
developed a neurophysiologic model. This model integrated research on yoga with polyvagal theory,  
vagal stimulation, hyperventilation and clinical observations. Based on research they explained how  
slow breathing had an impact on the autonomic nervous system. They compared to this breathing to  
animal studies which indicated this breathing occurs in threatening situations for animals but for humans  
occurred in non-threatening situations as well. During slow breathing people feel calm but alert and  
The sympathetic nervous system (SNS) is an adaptive system that mobilizes energy for “fight or flight”  
behaviours. Bhastrika, a form of breathing technique enhances the SNS reserves and the capacity to  
continue functioning effectively over time as opposed to becoming depleted and in reaction to multiple-  
stressors becoming hyper-reactive or hypo-reactive.  
The study used a pre and post experimental design across an experimental and control group. There  
were thirty students each in experimental and control groups. Results of anxiety as measured by  
Becks’ Anxiety Inventory were evaluated before intervention and after intervention thus creating a pre  
and post experimental design. The following hypotheses were generated:  
There will be a statistical difference in the pre-test & post-test BAI scores for the experimental  
There will be no difference in the pre-test & post-test BAI scores for the control group.  
The participants were 120 females of a suburban Mumbai college 18-20 year olds studying in the arts  
stream. None of the participants were from the psychology stream and had no prior experience with  
yoga. The participants were invited after explaining to them that they would have to make a commitment  
of one month and perform the tasks as assigned. Mean age of the participants was 19.1 years.  
Becks Anxiety Inventory (BAI) was used to assess the anxiety levels of the students and after the  
intervention program. BAI (Beck, Epstein, Brown & Steer, 1988) is a 21-item scale that showed high  
internal consistency (á = .92) and test–retest reliability over 1 week, r (81) = .75.  
Yoga Exercises or Asanas  
The following exercises were taught to the students by a trained yoga teacher. The exercises were  
selected on the basis of the benefits that could be provided in the reduction of anxiety & fatigue and  
also increase in concentration.  
. Prithvi Mudra - Touch Ring Finger to Thumb  
Prithvi Mudra helps to strengthen the body and alleviates fatigue. It also helps to open the mind and  
frees it from irrational prejudices and beliefs. Practicing this Mudra also helps to foster self-confidence  
and belief in the self.  
. Anulomvilom - This is a breathing exercise meant to purify the body as well as the mind. It reduces  
stress and has physiological benefits  
International Peer-Reviewed Journal  
. Bhramari – This calms the mind by settling the flight or fight response pattern. It also claims to lower  
blood pressure and aids in healing the body tissues.Keep your finger on your ears & make Honey bee  
. Bhastrika Pranayama - This rhythmic inhalation and exhalation stimulates the circulation of cerebral  
fluid, creating compression and decompression in the brain. Rhythmic diaphragm movements stimulate  
heart & lung muscles improving blood circulation. Accelerated blood circulation and rate of gas  
exchange in each cell produces heat and washes out gases.  
. Simhasana or Lion Position - This position benefits the face and the throat. It improves posture  
prevents sagging of the throat and development of wrinkles and can therefore be considered to have  
aesthetic benefits which are the priority for most young girls.  
. Abdominal Breathing - By expanding the lung’s air pockets and improving the flow of blood and  
lymph, abdominal breathing also helps prevent infection of the lung and other tissues. But most of all  
it is an excellent tool to stimulate the relaxation response that results in less tension and an overall  
sense of well being.  
All the above stated benefits are according to the Yoga teacher and have found echoes in magazines,  
journals and web sites related to Yoga.  
The participants were first briefed about the study. The BAI was administered to the group. Thirty  
students were randomly selected as control group. The remaining thirty were taught the asanas through  
demonstration. Each participant also performed the asanas before the Yoga experimenter to ensure  
that they had clearly understood the technique of performing the asanas. Once the experimenter was  
certain that the students were sure about what they had to do, they were instructed to perform these  
six exercises everyday early morning. The students followed the instructions and performed the yoga  
asanas or exercises for a thrity day period. At the end of thirty days the BAI was administered to them  
once again and the scores were tabulated.  
Statistical Analysis  
Statistical analysis was carried out using the t-test with time (pre-test, post-test) as the subject factor  
for comparison and with the scores on the BAI as the dependent variable.  
Results and Discussion  
Difference between means was calculated using the SPSS software. The anxiety scores of the EG  
before the Yoga intervention (M=32.10) was clearly higher than the anxiety scores after intervention  
M=17.97) with t(30) = 4.93, p=.000 (two tailed), d = .90. The anxiety scores of the CG before the  
Yoga intervention (M=32.10) was found to have increased slightly after the intervention period of 30  
days (M=32.47) with t(30) = -.367, p=.878.  
The statistically significant result for the experimental group indicates that there has been an impact of  
the intervention provided. The effect size is also significantly large and enables us to consider the  
intervention program favorably.  
The present study adds to the body of research in the field of yoga and anxiety. The population being  
restricted largely to female under graduate students ensured comparability between subjects leading  
to a largely matched sample. The reduction in anxiety scores with the BAI was dramatic with the fall  
being almost fifty percent.  
The BAI is largely a measure of physiological symptoms related to anxiety. Therefore the use of Yoga  
asanas specifically aimed at reduction of bodily stress was a fruitful effort. The asanas were decided  
after understanding the requirements of the students in terms of physical and emotional relief. At the  
same time they were concerned that the intervention or should not impact their lifestyle or inconvenience  
The entire set of six exercises took about fifteen minutes in a day. Encouraging students to perform  
them on a daily basis in the early hours of the day was a challenge which was met by following up  
regularly. The above study although conducted with a limited sample, was justified by the success rate  
observed by the researchers and the participants. All those who were part of the experimental group  
expressed an easing up of life in general. Although they were unable to clearly articulate what changed  
specifically, they had no doubt that performing these asanas regularly had great physical & psychological  
benefits thereby leading to a better quality of life.  
International Peer-Reviewed Journal  
The sample size could be considered a concern. There was also a possibility that the students being  
mindful of their Yoga routine also developed a healthier attitude simply because of the Hawthorne  
effect (Mayo, 1945). Some of the challenges of yoga research as expounded by (Brown et. Al., 2005)  
like designing sham controls, double blinding, fully documenting yoga procedures obtaining the right  
instructors etc. can even be applied to this study. Yet an attempt was made to ensure the presence of  
a matched control group and uniformity in the conduction of Yoga asanas.  
The above study lends support to the assumptions about the beneficial effects of Yoga. Students can  
be empowered by including Yoga as an essential part of their curriculum. More empirical studies  
should be conducted to understand the applications and benefits of Yoga in the student community.  
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Relaxation Technique In Patients With Common Neck Pain.’ International Journal of Yoga.3:18–25.  
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Psychometric Properties’. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, Vol 56(6), 893-897. doi:  
Brown, R.P. &Grenbarg, P. (2005) “Sudarshan Kriya Yogic Breathing in the Treatment of Stress, Anxiety,  
and Depression: Part I — Neurophysiologic Model,” Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine  
Vol. 11, No. 1, pp. 189–201.  
Permuth – Levine, R. (2013). ‘Differences In Perceived Stress, Affect, Anxiety, And Coping Ability Among  
College Students In Physical Education Courses’ - Dissertation  
Gupta, S.S. & Sawane, M.V. (2012). ‘A Comparative Study On The Effects Of Yoga And Swimming On  
Pulmonary Functions In Sedentary Subjects’. International Journal of Yoga. 5(2).128-133.  
Kirkwood, G., Rampes, H., Tuffrey, V., Richardson, J., Pilkington, K. (2005). ‘Review Yoga for anxiety:  
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Mayo, Elton (1945) ‘Social Problems of an Industrial Civilization’. Boston: Division of Research, Graduate  
School of Business Administration, Harvard University, p. 64  
Michalsen, A., Grossman, P., Acil, A., Langhorst, J., Ludtke, R. & Esch, T. (2005). ‘Rapid Stress  
Reduction and Anxiolysis Among Distressed Women As a Consequence Of A Three Month Intensive  
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Moadel, A.B., Shaw, C., Wylie-Rossett, J., Harris, M.S., Patel, S.R., Hall, C.B. (2007). ‘Randomized  
Controlled Trial of Yoga Among a Multiethnic Sample Of Breast Cancer Patients: Effects On Quality Of  
Life’. Journal of Clinical Oncology.25:1–9.  
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Differences Between Yoga Practitioners And College Students’. International Journal of Yoga.;  
Radhakrishna, S. (2010). ‘Application of Integrated Yoga Therapy To Increase Imitation Skills In Children  
With Autism Spectrum Disorder.’ International Journal of Yoga.3:26–30.  
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New Physiological Approach To Control Essential Hypertension.’ Indian Journal of Physiology &  
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West, J., Otte, C., Geher, K., Johnson, J. & Mohr, D.C. (2004). ‘Effects of Hatha Yoga And African  
Dance On Perceived Stress, Affect, And Salivary Cortisol. Annals of Behavioral Medicine. 28:114–8.  
Dr. Cicilia Chettiar : Head, Dept. of Psychology, Maniben Nanavati Women’s College, Mumbai