Friday, October 20, 2017

The Effects of Yoga on Stress, Stress Adaptation, and Heart Rate Variability Among Mental Health Professionals--A Randomized Controlled Trial

By Samuel Farnan


A group of researches set out to measure the effect Yoga would have on a group of mental health professionals. They argue the need for this study is due to the increasing demands by the general public for mental health therapy. More so, the amount of emotional stress that mental health professionals are subjected to and more importantly, expected to overcome is also increasing. These professions include psychologist, psychiatrists, social workers, and occupational therapists. 

The research design utilized 60 mental health professionals that at the time of the study, were not involved in any regular exercise program. 30 of the mental professionals did yoga once a week for 60 minutes and 30 did not, with the test span lasting a total of 12 weeks. Results of work-related stress and stress adaptation were measured via biofeedback monitors (objective) and personal surveys (subjective). The biofeedback monitors measured various nerve activity while questions for the survey included "Do you feel overloaded?" and "Do you experience difficulty in getting along with colleagues?". These measurements were calibrated on a 60-point stress scale.

Overall, the participants who did yoga displayed increased adaptation to stress and lowered stress that was directly related to their work. In a more specific analysis of co-variance (ANCOVA) the yoga group showed significant change in work-related stress and autonomic nerve activity, but not actual stress adaptation. The researchers propose that yoga can offer physiological and autonomic balance to manage stress, but not the actual skills of stress adaptation. Furthermore, the researchers proposed further study should include more yoga--two to three times of this study-- to determine an optimal range of yoga practice for mental health professionals.


Although the benefits of yoga are well known at this point, I feel this study applies quite well to intelligence professionals. Like these mental health professionals, intelligence professionals are expected to make the most objective decisions possible, eliminating bias and emotion often under tight deadlines and stressful conditions. However, this study could've done better in some areas. The researchers took 60 mental health professionals that were not on any physical exercise regimen prior to the 12-week study. Is yoga more effective on stress management than running, lifting, swimming, etc.? I would enjoy seeing yoga compared to other physical activities, especially swimming, as both utilize and depend on breathing sequences along with the reduced stimuli of both activities. 


  1. Sam I agree with you on the next step in further research on this topic, as in the article I found regarding this weeks blog topic found no statistical significance between vitality, sick leave, work engagement, and productivity. However yoga had a higher positive trend than just regimented exercises, the two combined had the strongest positive trend. It would be interesting to see yoga against physical exercise types in regards to the variables above. As well as a possibility of seeing yoga and exercise combined against each method on its own.

  2. I believe that combining Yoga with other physical activities would be more helpful. For instance an individual that is depressed because they are overweight might need more than a breathing exercise and meditation to regain their self esteem.

  3. I would assume that individuals in this study are often overlooked because they are expected to be the ones who should "theoretically" know how to handle themselves in high stress situations due to the nature of their jobs. The combination of yoga with physical activities produces much better results in handling stress than either just by itself.

  4. Solid study Sam. I agree that it would be interesting to see a meta-analysis comparing yoga to other techniques, but I would also like to see a study that has a third group where added stress is introduced and then evaluate the effects stress has on performance.