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Running head: EFFECTS OF YOGA ON STRESS OF GRADUATE STUDENTS

Effects of Yoga on Perceived Stress Levels of Occupational Therapy Graduate Students


Jennifer Godfrey, Annie Guiliano, Danielle Palmer, and Brianna Pupp
Touro University Nevada

EFFECTS OF YOGA ON STRESS OF GRADUATE STUDENTS

Results
Information on Participants and Data Collection
The participants were recruited via electronic mail (email). The mass email was sent to
all Touro University Nevada occupational therapy graduate students in cohort 2015 and cohort
2016 over a two week period using convenient sampling. A total of sixty-five people were asked
to volunteer and thirty participants were to be randomly assigned equally into a control and
experimental group. Eleven people responded to the recruitment email, the additional nineteen
people were recruited in class and asked if they were willing to participate in the study. Of the
eleven students that volunteered, four of the students asked to participate in person were assigned
to the treatment group. The remaining fifteen participants recruited in person were assigned to
the control group. The ages of the participants ranged from twenty-two to forty-four and there
were two males and twenty-eight females. Randomization was not attained due to the lack of
volunteers and the need to directly ask students to participate in the study. The experimental
group contained nine students from cohort 2016 and six students from cohort 2015. The control
group consisted of fifteen students from cohort 2016. One hundred percent of the thirty
participants completed the research study.
Data Analysis

Treatment Group

Control Group

30

40
21.9

20.8

20
10

Perceived Stress

Perceived Stress

40

37.3

39.9

30
20
10
0

0
Pretest

Post Test

Pretest VS Posttest

Pretest

Post Test

Pretest VS Posttest

EFFECTS OF YOGA ON STRESS OF GRADUATE STUDENTS

Implications for Practice


Unmanaged stress can become a chronic health issue and many life threatening
conditions, such as heart problems, high blood pressure, and diabetes, are associated with
constant levels of high stress (Collingwood, 2007). Unmanaged stress is also an important issue
because occupational therapists risk professional burnout due to chronic work stress (Rogers &
Dodson, 1988). Research has shown that yoga can decrease overall stress and improve wellbeing by decreasing signals sent to the autonomic nervous system that keep the body in constant
stress (Smith, Greer, Sheets, & Watson, 2011). Stress has been shown to be prevalent in graduate
students and it is important to find different ways to combat stress that do not involve spending
profuse amounts of money or by taking medication (Beck & Verticchio, 2014).
All participants in the treatment group received a yoga packet by email containing a yoga
questionnaire, a record log to track participation, a yoga booklet for instruction, and two Sheldon
Cohen Perceived Stress Scales. The questionnaire was completed by the participants to establish
their yoga history and any other stress reduction techniques they utilize. The sample size was
small and did not identify any dominant trends. Compliance was one hundred percent with zero
percent morbidity. Both the treatment group and control group were given the Perceived Stress
Scale before the study to establish baseline and two weeks later after the completion of the yoga
stretching program. The descriptions and pictures of the yoga stretches were only given to the
treatment group. The booklet contained instructions for five different yoga stretches that the
participants of the treatment group completed on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday nights before
bed. Each yoga stretch was to be held for three minutes before moving onto the next step in the
sequence of stretches. The treatment group filled out a record log to track participation. All data

EFFECTS OF YOGA ON STRESS OF GRADUATE STUDENTS

was collected after two weeks and put into excel spreadsheets. There were two categories of data
collected, treatment pre and posttest and control pre and posttest data.
The research question focused on the relationship between perceived stress levels of
occupational therapy graduate students at Touro University Nevada and participation in yoga
stretching. The formulated hypothesis predicted there would be a decrease in perceived stress
levels of the treatment group after completion of the yoga stretching program. After analysis of
the results, the data from the study supported the hypothesis. The data showed the control
groups perceived stress levels increased between the pretest and posttest. The data also showed
the treatment groups perceived stress levels decreased between the pretest and posttest. The
treatment group completed six yoga sessions between the pretest and posttest.
Our research study shows that yoga stretching can decrease perceived stress levels of
occupational therapy graduate students, however, there were many limitations within the study.
The first limitation was the small sample size which consisted of less than 50 participants, this
decreased the validity of the study. The second limitation of the study was the weekly record
logs and questionnaire were self-reported by the treatment group. In future studies, it is
recommended a yoga group be implemented for accountability and encouragement among
participants. The yoga stretches would be practiced together so they would be completed
correctly and to the specifications of the yoga instructor. A third limitation would be the
environment in which the participants completed their yoga stretching sessions. With the
treatment group completing the yoga stretches in their own homes, there were a variety of
environments utilized that may not have been conducive to a true yoga stretching experience. In
future studies, the yoga stretching should be done in a professional yoga environment, such as a
yoga studio. The yoga stretches were not taught, the participants were given a booklet of written

EFFECTS OF YOGA ON STRESS OF GRADUATE STUDENTS

instruction with pictures. This should also be corrected by having a certified yoga instructor lead
the yoga group. Another limitation was the control group consisted of graduate students from
cohort 2016, while the treatment group was a mixture of both cohort 2015 and cohort 2016. In
future studies the control and treatment group should contain an even composite of cohort 2015
and cohort 2016. A final limitation, cohort 2015 may have established better stress reduction
techniques. Cohort 2015 students may have decreased perceived stress levels because they have
had a year to acclimate to their coursework and the educational demands placed on them
compared to cohort 2016. Since the perceived stress levels decreased in the treatment group, the
idea of teaching yoga stretching as part of orientation or as part of the curriculum to the
occupational therapy graduate students would be a great preventative measure to keep perceived
stress levels low. Teaching occupational therapy students better stress reduction techniques, like
yoga stretching, will ultimately increase overall health and prevent professional burnout.

EFFECTS OF YOGA ON STRESS OF GRADUATE STUDENTS

References
Beck, A. R., & Verticchio, H. (2014). Facilitating Speech-Language Pathology Graduate
Students Ability To Manage Stress: A Pilot Study. Contemporary Issues In
Communication Science & Disorders, 4124-38.
Collingwood, J. (2007). The physical effects of long-term stress. Psych Central. Retrieved on
October 12, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/lib/the-physical-effects-of-long-termstress/000935
Smith, J.A., Greer, T., Sheets, T., & Watson, S. (2011). Is there more to yoga than exercise?
Alternative Therapies 17(3), 22-29.
Rogers, J. C., & Dodson, S. C. (1988). Burnout in Occupational Therapists. American Journal of
Occupational Therapy, 42(12), 787-792. doi: 10.5014/ajot.42.12.787