An Examination of the Effectiveness of an 8-week Bikram Yoga Program on Mindfulness, Perceived Stress, and Physical Fitness

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Hewett, Zoe Louise
Bikram yoga; Mindfulness; Perceived stress; Physical fitness; Kinesiology
thesis / dissertation description
Previous research has examined the effects of yoga on levels of mindfulness. The physical and psychological outcomes of participation in a Bikram yoga program have not been thoroughly researched, yet this type of yoga may be significant with regards to stress management and inactivity due to its unique method of practice. The purpose of this study was to observe the changes in the levels of mindfulness, perceived stress and physical fitness due to participation in an 8-week Bikram yoga program. It was hypothesized that participants would show improvements in mindfulness, perceived stress and physical fitness. Fifty-one males and females between the ages of 20-54 years (M=31.57, SD = 9.287) were recruited from the Boise State University population, and by word of mouth. Participation was limited to those who had engaged in less than two years of long-term practice of Bikram yoga, and who had not attended Bikram yoga in the last three months. Participants attended a minimum of three Bikram yoga sessions per week for 8-weeks. Average attendance was 28.59 sessions (SD = 9.21), which was above the minimum requirement of 24 sessions. Mindfulness was measured pre- and postintervention using the Five-Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire (Baer, Smith, Hopkins, Krietemeyer & Toney, 2006). Perceived stress was measured using the Perceived Stress Scale (PSS) (Cohen & Williamson, 1988). Components of physical fitness were measured with a 1-mile walk, resting heart rate, a modified sit-and-reach test, a total body rotation test, and a single-leg balance test. A MANOVA showed that participation in an 8-week Bikram yoga program increased levels of overall mindfulness, Hotelling's T = 5.69, F(4, 47) = 66.8, p < .001, d = .89. Paired t tests showed that eight weeks of Bikram yoga lowered levels of perceived stress,t(50) = 6.19, p < .001, d = -.79, did not change resting heart rate, t(50) = 0.712, p = .24, d = -.09, improved predicted VO2max, t(50) = 3.73, p < .001, d = .24, improved flexibility, t(50) = 11.48, p < .001, d = .63 and improved balance, t(50) = 4.51, p < .001, d = .53. Mindfulness was negatively correlated with perceived stress (r = -.43, p = .002) and resting heart rate (r = -.30, p = .036). The results show that Bikram yoga positively affected psychological and physical health in the sample population. This information can be used to further the understanding of mind-body based programs, and how Bikram yoga may give people the tools to decrease perceived stress, potentially having an effect on chronic stress-related illnesses.