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 Table of Contents  
ORIGINAL ARTICLE
Year : 2020  |  Volume : 8  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 21-32

Yoga practice and stress management: Spiritual belief as a moderator


1 Department of Management and Marketing, Charlton College of Business, University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, MA, USA
2 Botulinum Research Center, Institute of Advanced Sciences, MA, USA

Date of Submission03-Sep-2019
Date of Acceptance10-Dec-2019
Date of Web Publication28-Jan-2020

Correspondence Address:
Prof. Satyanarayana Parayitam
Department of Management and Marketing, Charlton College of Business, University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, NorthDartmouth, MA 02747
USA
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


DOI: 10.4103/ijny.ijoyppp_14_19

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  Abstract 


Background: Yoga, Ayurveda, and naturopathy have received increased attention in the recent past as alternative therapies. Considering that over 75% of people experience stress which has negative consequences, the effect of yoga as a stress management therapy is not examined. As people are becoming more and more spiritual in their daily lives, the effect of spiritual beliefs in reducing stress is unknown. Aim: The present article is aimed at developing a conceptual model on yoga practice and the impact of spiritual beliefs in the management of stress. This is the first of its kind in literature and a modest attempt is made to empirically test the model. Materials and Methods: The study involved 251 individuals (110 males and 151 females) in the age groups ranging from 18 to above 65. A carefully crafted survey instrument was used to collect data. To empirically test the model that involves the relationship between stress and the effect of stress on life, social support, activities, yoga practice, and stress management, the present research used hierarchical regression analysis. Results: The results indicate that individuals who experience stress feel its effect on life and engage in various physical activities. The results did not show the importance of socialization, contrary to the popular belief that individuals who experience stress seek socialization. The results also showed that the effect of stress is positively related to yoga practice. For managing stress, spiritual beliefs play a major role. Interestingly, spiritual beliefs acted as moderator in the relationship between the effect of stress and yoga practice and management of stress. These results emphasize the growing importance of both yoga and spiritual beliefs in the world. Conclusions: The empirical model we tested in this research has implications for management as well as for practitioners. Growing yoga centers all over the world bear testimony to the benefits of yoga, and this research corroborates such practices. The results also provide justification for increasing spirituality in reducing the effect of stress.

Keywords: Spirituality, stress, stress management, yoga


How to cite this article:
Barnes NG, Singh BR, Parayitam S. Yoga practice and stress management: Spiritual belief as a moderator. Int J Yoga - Philosop Psychol Parapsychol 2020;8:21-32

How to cite this URL:
Barnes NG, Singh BR, Parayitam S. Yoga practice and stress management: Spiritual belief as a moderator. Int J Yoga - Philosop Psychol Parapsychol [serial online] 2020 [cited 2020 Jul 7];8:21-32. Available from: http://www.ijoyppp.org/text.asp?2020/8/1/21/277010




  Introduction Top


Stress and burnout are widely researched areas in the field of management, organizational behavior, and applied psychology.[1],[2],[3] A recent report by the American Psychological Association indicated that over 75% of people experience psychological and physical symptoms of stress and 48% of people say that stress has a negative impact on their personal and professional lives.[4] Over 50% of workers in organizations experience stress and their adverse physical symptoms such as fatigue, headache, upset stomach, and muscle tension and psychological symptoms such as irritability or anger, feeling nervous, and lack of energy.[4] Researchers and scientists in medical fields are trying to prescribe mechanisms to cope with stress and advocate various methods either to reduce stress or to manage stress. Literature on stress and stress management has been diverse, and prescriptions range from reducing, if not eliminating, stress at workplace and at home.[5]

Contemporary researchers focus on the interdisciplinary approach to manage stress. One of the widely discussed, not yet thoroughly researched, areas is the yoga practice in the process of reducing or managing stress. Rapid growth of yoga-practicing centers bears testimony to the belief among population about the importance and contribution of yoga to maintain health.[6] It is estimated that yoga practice is a billion-dollar industry, and researchers are trying to find correlation between yoga practice and health. As more people are becoming health conscious, practices range from taking organic diet to physical exercises and systematic and organized yoga practices. Although yoga has Indian origin, now, it has been widely recognized in the world, and June 21 has been declared as the “International Yoga Day.”

Another important factor that went unnoticed by scholars at large is the spiritual belief the people have in their daily lives. Spirituality is different from religion.[7],[8] Spirituality is “more concerned with the direct experience of latent higher consciousness within one's self, i.e., the internal space, whereas religion is an institutionalized set of beliefs, practices, and guidelines that an individual adopts and follows.”[6] A person may be both religious and spiritual, or he or she may be religious but not spiritual, but may be spiritual and not religious.

While religion focuses on praying and preaching a god (or several goddesses) to bring systematization in life, spirituality is concerned with enlightenment about self. History is replete with spiritual movements as rebellion against dogmatic dominant religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Sufism because it was believed that the spiritual masters used to preach and practice religion which is supposed to be followed by their disciples. Further, there was rebellion against religious philosophies by the emerging field of science which believes that everything needs to be explained by scientific observation and hypothesis testing. Sometime in the 19th century, spirituality was totally “condemned as unscientific, elusive and irrational and hence practice was discouraged”[6] (p. 17). Freud, the 19th-century psychoanalyst, believed that religion took birth from human's need to make his/her helplessness tolerable. However, one of the leading scholars on spirituality of the 20th-century Sri Aurobindo propagated spirituality and maintained that it is dangerous to give excessive importance to sexual complexes by psychoanalysts, which may have deleterious consequences on the mental health of humans. Spiritual belief is turning inward an individual and knowing oneself. Becoming all inclusive is the essence of spiritual belief.

One of the latest developments in the field of psychology is transpersonal psychology which broadened the 'vision of positive mental health to include spiritual aspects, man's need for transcendence' and “reconciliation of spirituality and mental health in allaying human suffering and evolution of consciousness”[6] (page 2). Some five decades back, researchers found that “yoga and yogic treatments” have significant effect in reducing hypertension among individuals and cure asthma and heart disease, multiple sclerosis, and Type-2 diabetes.[9] However, yoga was still in embryonic stage during that time, and there was no worldwide recognition. Now, all over the world, there are thousands of yoga schools practicing yoga because of the positive benefits yoga has on both physical and mental health.

Relationship between spirituality and well-being

Contemporary researchers in the field of psychology found that life satisfaction of an individual is correlated with mystical experience and people having spiritual experiences tend to report positive feelings.[10],[11] In one study, it was found that religious beliefs help people deal better with negative life events and distress, though both religious and nonreligious people experience same amount of stress.[12] The essence is that people experience stress, irrespective of whether they are religious or nonreligious, but people with higher religious beliefs report greater happiness and few negative consequences of stress and cope with traumatic life events.[13] Some anecdotal evidences are available that bear testimony that people engaging in spiritual pursuits report to be cheerful and happy, rarely undergo depression, and have excellent physical and mental health. Neurocognitive researchers emphasize that spiritual activities have tremendous impact on the brain such that they get less shocked for any unforeseen events and keep their levels of excitement at low level.[14] Further, spirituality works like transcendental meditation, wherein individuals have full control of their mind and unwittingly there will be metamorphosis of brain structure that elicits positive reactions even for negative events.[15]

Researches in various fields of social science and medical science (from psychology, psychiatry, medicine, neuroscience, theology, gerontology, and nursing) have attempted to examine the effects of spirituality on allaying various mental and physical illnesses. Spirituality helps reduce depression among individuals by educating them about the purpose of life. Some researchers found that for every 1% increase in a person's intrinsic religiosity, there was a 7% increase in recovery from depression that arises because of physical illness.[16] Sometimes, chronic illness leads to anxiety and frustration and in this case, religious beliefs help a lot. People suffering from cardiac problems and spinal injuries (and bedridden consequently) experience frustration.

Theoretical background and hypotheses development

Theoretical background

Theoretical background for the present study stems from (i) Selye's General Adaptation Syndrome (GAS) and (ii) Cognitive Appraisal Theory of Stress (CAT). Selye's (1950) GAS, one of the most popular theories of stress, explains an individual's physiological responses to stress. According to Selye,[17] three stages are associated with an individual's response to long-term stress. These are (i) initial alarm stage, (ii) the interim resistance stage, and (iii) the exhaustion stage. If the stress is not managed properly and if the stressor persists in the individual, the consequences will be disastrous and could be fatal too.

According to Selye, during the alarm stage, the reaction of an individual will be seen in terms of “fight or flight” where the nervous system of the individual will be activated and hormones are released. If the stressor remains and if the individual cannot control the stressor, then the second stage sets wherein the body of the individual goes into resistance, but the levels of blood glucose and cortisol stimulated by adrenocorticotropic hormones (known as ACTH) become abnormally high. This also adversely affects the heartbeat and breathing. In the final stage (called exhaustion stage), an individual gets exhausted by using all his/her energy and blood sugar levels drop and eventually body collapses. The GAS model thus explains the individual's physiological response to stress.

The GAS does not consider the psychological reactions to stress. The CAT focuses on an individual's perception of stressors and emotional reaction.[18] First, an individual will perceive whether the stressor is very significant and adversely affects the health. Second, whether the individual has enough resources to cope with the outcomes of stress. If an individual has enough resources to manage the stressor, there is no problem. With available resources, an individual will generate strategies to manage it. When stressor is perceived as a threat that cannot be solved, an individual may accept the stressor and gets succumbed to it eventually. The most important point in the CAT theory of stress is that an individual's perception of stressor depends on environment.

Development of hypotheses

Stress and its effects on life

Stress is an internal reaction of an individual to the events and circumstances surrounding the environment. When an individual experiences stress, the immune system is adversely affected causing illness. In general, stress is associated with headache, heart disease, and hypertension, and prolonged stress may trigger depression, anxiety, and other psychological symptoms. The sources of stress could be (i) environmental (weather, noise, crowd, and pollution), (ii) physiological (injuries, hormonal imbalance, sleep deficit, undernutrition, and menopause), (iii) cognitive (negative thoughts, perfectionism, catastrophizing, etc.), and (iv) social (work and family demands, financial problems, job interviews, examinations, love failure, marriage, etc.).

Individuals experience symptoms of stress and these include (i) physical (headache, body ache, high blood pressure, etc.), (ii) psychological (low self-esteem, forgetfulness, lack of motivation, etc.), (iii) behavioral (increased consumption of alcohol, aggressive behavior, increased smoking, reduced concentration, etc.), and (iv) emotional (anxiety, nervousness, frustration, depression, tiredness, crying, worry, unhappiness, etc.).[1],[2],[3],[4],[5]

The relationship between the types of stressors and their effects on individuals have been demonstrated by researchers.[1],[2],[3] Stress represents a condition where an individual is under pressure and does not have the ability to cope with it successfully. Stress adversely affects the quality of life and hinders personal development. The frequently reported consequences of stress in workplace are increased absenteeism and turnover, reduced quality of work, poor communication, reduced job satisfaction, and increased conflict.[19] Although the causes of stress may vary for different individuals, one common denominator is that it affects them adversely. The effect, however, depends on the capability of an individual to cope with stress and depends on the personality of individuals, organizational environment, etc., When individuals experience stress, for whatever the factors – personal and organizational – the effects of stress also will be felt by individuals. Based on the above, we hypothesize:

H1: Stress is positively related to the effect of stress on life.

Stress and activities

One of the ways of stress management is to engage in social support activities by an individual. People often socialize with friends and share their feelings among peers, family, and colleagues. Some researchers contend that time management is one of the effective ways of managing stress.

The role of exercise in stress management is also discussed by several researchers in the past.[20] Stress results in disruption of an individual's homeostasis in response to either real threat or perceived threat (threat may be taking an examination by a student or delivering a lecture by a newly selected teacher). Stress is a significant individual and public health problem that is encountered in many countries. Research demonstrated that over 75% of visits by patients are due to stress-related illnesses.[4] Diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, depression, anxiety, headaches, back pain, neck pain, etc., are mostly stress-related problems.[21] One of the ways of stress management that is recommended by physicians is “regular exercise.” It has been reported that individuals after half an hour exercise report calmness which will last for several hours. Therefore, daily exercise is recommended. Contemporary researchers are now focusing on mind–body types of exercises such as yoga or Tai Chi. Unfortunately, the mechanisms how the physiological mechanism of exercise reduces stress are not empirically established. Exercise also helps individuals as a kind of “break” from routine, which is called “time-out hypothesis.” College students who get stressed during examination time, find better to go to gym and do some exercise to reduce their stress. Some researchers demonstrated that yoga has the positive effect of reducing stress among individuals.[22],[23]

About how much time one should exercise depends on several factors such as availability of time, motivation, and compliance. Some studies concluded that yoga and Tai Chi exercises of about 1 h to 1½ h two to three times/week were reported to be effective in coping with stress.[24] Based on the above, we hypothesize that:

H2: Stress is positively related to activities

Stress and social support

Researchers have long back drawn a negative relationship between stress and social support. Available empirical evidence suggests that social support helps reduce stress and improve the health of individuals.[25] There are several different types of social support and depending on the context and purpose, an individual resort to any type that suits the requirements. Emotional social support is concerned with letting the individual know his/her self-worth and offer him or her shoulder. Sometimes, individuals do not know how to handle stress and may ask for informational social support. Individuals may be advised by friends and peers (or near and dear) as to what is the course of action and how to avoid stressors. When individuals feel stressed about shortage of financial or physical resources, what is needed is tangible social support. Finally, individuals experience chronic stress-related symptoms may strive for belonging social support. For example, if an individual is ailing in hospital or bedridden for long time, belonging social support help reduction of stress. Some researches found that emotional, tangible, and informational social support helped lowering blood pressure when they are faced with stressful situations.[26] One study reported that social support is positively related to physical and mental health and well-being of individuals.[27] Some researches documented that social support resulted in physiological and mental health benefits in terms of decreased depression and anxiety and improved immune and cardiovascular system.[28] Based on the above, we hypothesize that:

H3: Stress is positively related to social support.

Stress and yoga

Yoga, which is of Indian origin, has been widely recognized as one of the stress-relieving mechanisms as well as for physical fitness of individuals. Yogic philosophy was first explained by an Indian called Patanjali in his “yoga sutras” (i.e., yoga principles).[29] Patanjali introduced a concept known as “ashtanga” (eight limbs) that form the basis of self-discipline. Each of the eight limbs has its own technique of preventing and treating disease. Patanjali, in the ancient text, referred ashtanga yoga as the holistic approach of not only eliminating stress but improving the quality of life. Asthanga means (astha means “eight” and anga means “parts” or limbs). Asthanga yoga has two parts: one is yoga chikitsa which consists of 75 poses that are essential in the realignment of spine, detoxification of body, making body flexible, increasing strength and stamina, etc., The second part consists of Nadi-sodhana which focuses on strengthening the nervous system. Asthanga yoga also consists of pranayama (control over breathing) which has a direct effect on mind. In Western world, the most common practices of yoga include the physical postures (called asanas) and breathing practices (called pranayama). Breathing techniques include prolonged inhalation and breath retention and exhalation, which will keep the body's energy system in a perfect balance. In essence, yoga is considered by many as a form of mind–body medicine that integrates physical, mental, and spiritual components of an individual to combat stress-related illnesses.[30] Available empirical evidence suggests that yoga is a holistic stress management technique that produces a physiological sequence of events in the body of an individual that reduce stress.[31] Thus, researchers focused on the application of yogic postures and yoga practice in the treatment of health conditions and to prevent or reduce physiological and emotional pain and stress. In one study, the results showed that yoga practices enhanced muscular strength of individuals and improved the respiratory and cardiovascular function. The results also showed that yoga reduced stress, anxiety, depression, and chronic pain in individuals and improved their sleep patterns and overall quality of life.[32],[33] In one study conducted in Kendal town that has over 28,000 inhabitants in the northwest of England, over 52% have participated in “yoga” as a group activity and 8% participated in specialized spiritual/religious groups.[34] Based on the above, we hypothesize that:

H4: Effect of stress on life is positively related to yoga practice.

Stress and management of stress

The present-day organizations are characterized by high-stress jobs involving hectic schedules and complex responsibilities, which may result in an imbalance between the personal and work life of individuals.[35] Organizational factors such as role ambiguity, psychological pressures at work, and type of personality factors contribute to the stress of individuals. Management of stress is very important to overcome the stressors at workplace and at home. Some researchers focused on stress management strategies, namely, time management, breaking work into pieces, delegation, organizing work in a meaningful way, bringing additional sources to handle work, and prioritizing the work.[36] The management of stress includes problem-focused coping strategies,[37] in which an individual under stress attempts to change his/her behavior to deal with external factors, and emotion-focused coping strategies,[38] in which an individual tries to change his/her own thinking to reduce the stress levels. Some researchers found that individuals get involved in engaging in the activities of their own interest in order to cope with stressful situations.[39],[40] Students feeling stressful situations because of course load, assignments, homework, etc., would prefer to manage stress by participating in co-curricular activities, and employees in organizations resort to management of time and delegation of work to reduce stress. Effect of stress prompts individuals to manage stress in different ways depending on the context and purpose. Based on the above, we hypothesize that:

H5: Effect of stress on life is positively related to the management of stress.

Spiritual belief as moderator

Spiritual beliefs play a vital role in managing stress. Both researchers and practitioners like Elizabeth Scott who is a wellness coach and an author and has written many articles about stress management, health and interpersonal skills, and relationship dynamics. She is widely recognized for her experience as a counselor, smoking cessation counselor, and social science researcher), contend that spirituality can be used to manage stress. The basic argument is that spiritual path makes people to find greater relief from stress and lead better health and happy lives. Spirituality plays a major role in the well-being of individuals, but, unfortunately, it is largely unacknowledged because of unawareness of its capacity to nurture and transform individuals. Spirituality represents the psychic connectedness of individuals to the world. As spirituality is most subtle in concept, it can be easily corrupted and misunderstood. Spirituality grows out of the individual person from an inward source and not imposed from any outside authority. Spirituality is immensely intimate and transformative.[40]

Available evidence suggests that spiritual orientation helps people with chronic stress disorders (such as schizophrenia) to reconstruct and rediscover self and get recovered.[41] People find hope, meaning, and comfort in the spiritual beliefs because they feel that they can breakdown the psychic structures and bring revolutionary changes in the personality. People with spiritual beliefs tend to see the nature in a different way and get back to normal life. Anecdotal evidences are available about the benefits of meditation that helps solve some behavioral problems in children (such as aggression, nail biting, absenteeism, and laziness) and improve their academic performance.[42]

Spirituality is also combined with psychotherapy by some researchers in correcting some psychological disorders.[43],[44] The role of spiritual beliefs in alleviating mental disorders and illness is witnessed in several studies in mental health because of its potential to transform an individual, though some critics argue that spirituality is unscientific and archaic and has nothing to do with mental health. When an individual feels the effect of stress, the spiritual orientation helps him/her realize his/her inner potential and gradually resorts to yogic practice. The more an individual becomes spiritual, the more likely he or she subscribes to yoga and because it is believed to be one of the economical ways of combating the stressful situations and reduce the effect of stress on body and mind. Based on the above, we hypothesize the following:

  • H4a: Spiritual belief positively moderates the relationship between the effect of stress on life and yoga practice
  • H5a: Spiritual belief positively moderates the relationship between the effect of stress on life and management of stress.


The conceptual model is presented in [Figure 1].
Figure 1: Conceptual model

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  Materials and Methods Top


The data for the present study were collected by a center for marketing research from one of the premier universities in a north-eastern state of USA. The sample population consisted of around 3000 shoppers who visit a shopping mall. A carefully crafted survey instrument is distributed over 2500 shoppers and the total number of respondents was 251, who completed the survey. The incomplete surveys were not included in the analysis. The sample size is approximately 10%, which is significant enough to conduct analysis. The demographic profile of the respondents is shown in [Table 1].
Table 1: Demographic profile of the respondents

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A preliminary analysis of the data revealed that (i) 27% of the respondents manage stress somewhat or very ineffectively, (ii) 56% of the respondents manage stress by spending time with their friends, (iii) 45% of the respondents manage stress by spending time with their family, (iv) 56% of the respondents say that stress definitely has an impact of their lives, and (v) 14% of the respondents who reported experiencing stress in the past 12 months first turn to their mother for support versus 3% who turn to their father.

Variables in the study

The study involved seven variables, namely, stress, effect of stress, activities, social support, yoga practice, management of stress, and spiritual belief.

Measures

Stress is measured by asking the respondents a question on a Likert-type 4-point scale “which of the following best describes the amount of stress you have experienced in the past 12 months?” (score of “1” represents completely free of stress and score of “4” represents large amount of stress). Effect of stress on life is measured by asking the respondents a question “do you feel stress has had an impact on your life?” (score of “4” represents “definitely” and score of “1” represents “definitely not”). Activities are measured by asking the respondents about whether they are taking part in any of the activities such as church/parish, school, youth organizations, fitness group, and sports club or team. Socialization is measured by asking the respondents two questions as to “how much time you spend in an average week visiting/socializing with your friends?” and “how much time do you spend in an average week visiting/socializing with your family?.” Spiritual belief is measured by asking the respondents a question: “spiritual belief and practice is an important part of how I live my life” (strongly disagree is rated as “1” and strongly agree as “4”). Yoga practice is measured by asking the respondents a question: “how frequently do you participate in yoga, meditation, or other herbal or holistic methods?.”

In this research, we used single-item measures. Some researchers contend that single-item measures will not tap the actual construct and hence are not reliable and recommend multi-item measures because measurement error averages out when individual scores are summed to obtain total score.[45],[46] (p. 9). Critics also point out that single-item measures suffer from low content validity, sensitivity, and reliability.[47] However, some researchers contend that using the few best indicators or possibly even the single best indicator of a construct may be adequate to test theoretically sophisticated models.[48] Though several researches[49],[50] in the field of social sciences challenged the conventional wisdom by demonstrating that “single use measures can have acceptable psychometric properties and should not be considered fatal flaws in the review process”[51] (p. 250). What is important is to see the appropriateness of single-use indicators for a research, and some researchers contend that single-use indicators have potential benefit of simplicity, brevity or ease of use, and global measurement.[52] Substantial evidence suggest that single-item measures can perform sufficiently well in capturing a construct.[53],[54] After conducting a meta-analysis of 17 studies on job satisfaction, Wanous et al. (1997)[50] reported that single-item measure was more robust than the multi-item measures. Some researchers showed that single-item measure of depression was a reasonable substitute for multi-item measures.[55] Several researchers argue that single-item measures were adequate and hence advocate them in research.[49],[50],[56] Therefore, we argue that use of single-item measures in our research would not discount the validity of the results.

The study has several control variables, namely, age, gender, ethnicity, education, and marital status.


  Results Top


The descriptive statistics (means, standard deviations, and correlations) are presented in [Table 2].
Table 2: Means, standard deviations, and correlations of the main variables

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Preliminary analysis of correlations revealed that correlations ranged from 0.078 to 0.533. As correlations are not over 0.75, multicollinearity is not a problem.[57] We also checked the value of variance inflation factor for the variables and the values of lower than “2” suggest that multicollinearity is not a problem with the data.[58]

Hierarchical regression results of “effect of stress on life,” physical activities, and socialization as dependent variables and stress as independent variable are presented in [Table 3].
Table 3: Regression table: Direct effects

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The column 1 (step 1) shows the regression results of the effect of stress on life; first, control variables were entered into the equation (viz., age, gender, ethnicity, education, and marital status). None of the beta coefficients for the control variables was significant. The control variable model explained 2.8% of variance in the dependent variable due to control variables (R2 = 0.028, adjusted R2 = 0.008, F = 1.386). In step 2 (column 2), we entered the main variable “stress.” Once again, none of the control variables was significant. However, the beta coefficient of “stress” is positive and statistically significant (β = 0.526, P < 0.001). The model is significant and explained 30.1% of variance in the effect of stress because of stress (R2 = 0.301, adjusted R2 = 0.284, F = 17.519, △R2 = 0.274, △F = 95.509). The model explained additional variance of 28.4% after entering the control variables. These results support H1 that when people experience stress, they feel the effect of stress on life.

The relationship between stress and physical activities is presented in columns 3 and 4 of [Table 3]. Step 1 (column 3) shows the regression results of the stress on physical activities; first, control variables were entered. None of the control variables was significant, and the model was also not significant. Step 2 (column 4) shows that the regression coefficient of stress is positive and statistically significant (β =0.154, P < 0.05). The model explained 5.9% of variance in dependent variable “physical activities” because of stress (R2 = 0.059, adjusted R2 = 0.035, F = 2.53, △R2 = 0.024, △F = 3.197). These results support H2.

The effect of stress on socialization is presented in columns 5 and 6 of [Table 3]. Once again, when the control variables were entered (step 1), none of the beta coefficients of control variables was significant. The model explained 12.2% of the variance in socialization due to control variables. The beta coefficient of main variable (step 2) was also not significant and explained additional variance of only. 1% in socialization, though the model was significant (R2 = 0.034, adjusted R2 = 0.123, F = 5.693, △R2 = 0.001, △F = 0.313). These results do not support H3.

For moderation effects, we followed the procedures outlined by previous researchers.[57],[58] Hierarchical regression results of moderation effects of spiritual belief in the relationship between the effect of stress on life and yoga practice and the effect of stress on life and management of stress are presented in [Table 4].
Table 4: Hierarchical regression results: Moderator effects

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Regression results of yoga practice as dependent variable are shown in columns 1, 2, and 3. The control variable model (Step 1) in column 1 showed that none of the control variables was significant. The model explained 9% of variance in the yoga practice due to control variables (R2 = 0.09, adjusted R2 = 0.13, F = 1.529). In column 2 (step 2), the main variables were entered. The beta coefficient of “effect of stress” on yoga practice was statistically significant β = −0.212, P < 0.05), and the beta coefficient of moderator variable (spiritual belief) also was statistically significant (β =0.259, P < 0.001). The model explained 11.3% variance in the yoga practice due to the effect of stress and spiritual belief (R2 = 0.113, adjusted R2 = 0.043, F = 1.963, △R2 = 0.065, △F = 2.863). These results support H4 that the effect of stress is related to yoga practice. In step 3, we entered the interaction variable (effect of stress × spiritual belief) and the beta coefficient of interaction variable was statistically significant (β = 0.350, P < 0.05). The model was significant and explained additional 4.3% variance in yoga practice due to interaction between the effect of stress and spiritual belief. The model was significant (R2 = 0.156, adjusted R2 = 0.078, F = 1.986, △R2 = 0.043, and △F =3.865). These results support the moderation hypothesis H4a that spiritual belief moderates the relationship between the effect of stress and yoga practice.

The regression results of the effect of stress on management of stress were captured in columns 4, 5, and 6. When control variables were entered in step 1 (column 4), very interestingly, the beta coefficients of ethnicity (β =0.182, P < 0.05) and education (β = 0.176, P < 0.05) were statistically significant. The model explained 6.8% variance in the management of stress due to these control variables. The results from column 5 (step 2) revealed that beta coefficients of ethnicity (β = 0.152, P < 0.05) and education (β = 0.178, P < 0.05) were statistically significant. The beta coefficients of effect of stress (β = −0.307, P < 0.05) and spiritual belief (β = 0.172, P < 0.05) were statistically significant. The model was significant and explained 16% of variance in the management of stress due to both control variables and main variables (R2 = 0.160, adjusted R2 = 0.139, F = 7.95, △R2 = 0.092, △F = 7.95). These results provide support to H5.

Most importantly, the interaction effect of spiritual belief was shown on column 6 (step 3) and the beta coefficients of ethnicity, education, and effect of stress were significant. The beta coefficient of interaction term (effect of stress × spiritual belief) was statistically significant (β =0.199, P < 0.05) and the model was significant (R2 = 0.183, adjusted R2 = 0.159, F = 6.841, △R2 = 0.023, △F = 6.729). These results support H5a.

The interaction plots that show the moderating effect of spiritual belief on yoga practice and management of stress are presented in [Figure 2] and [Figure 3]. The interaction plot [Figure 3] shows that when the effect of stress is increasing from low to high, yoga practice decreases from higher levels to lower levels. Further, when spiritual belief is very high, the lower levels of yoga practice are associated with the effects of stress than the lower levels of spiritual beliefs. The logic behind this is people having spiritual belief do not feel that much stress in their levels even though the effect of stress is very high on their emotional state. When spiritual belief is low, yoga practice tends to be high because people need more yoga practice to reduce the effects of stress [Figure 2].
Figure 2: Moderating effect of spiritual belief in the relationship between the effect of stress on life and yoga practice

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Figure 3: Moderating effect of spiritual belief in the relationship between the effect of stress on life and management of stress

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The interaction plot in [Figure 3] reveals that higher levels of spiritual belief are associated with decrease in the levels of management of stress when the effect of stress moves from low to high. Once again, when the spiritual belief is low, higher levels of effects of stress are associated with higher levels of management of stress when compared to higher levels of spiritual belief. When spiritual belief is low, management of stress tends to be high because people need to manage their stress when they feel that the effect of stress takes toll on their emotional state. These results support hypotheses 4a and 5a.


  Discussion Top


Stress management has been a widely researched area in the field of organizational behavior, social psychology, and medical research. The present article addressed the importance of yoga practice and spiritual beliefs in stress management. Drawing from the General Adaptation Theory and CAT, a conceptual model is drawn and tested. The results suggest that individuals who experience stress feel its effect and engage in various physical activities. The results did not show the importance of socialization, contrary to the popular belief that individuals who experience stress seek socialization. The results also showed that the effect of stress is positively related to yoga practice. For managing stress, spiritual beliefs play a major role. Interestingly, spiritual beliefs acted as a moderator in the relationship between the effect of stress and yoga practice and management of stress. These results emphasize the growing importance of both yoga and spiritual beliefs in the world.

The current paradigm of health management has been the adoption of spiritual beliefs and yogic orientation, which takes individuals away from the materialistic interpretation of life. An individual realizes the inner self through yoga practice, which contributes to both physical and mental health. As stress is a precondition of mental and physical illness, it is important to add the elements of nature-based therapy, in addition to the medical supplements to reduce the effect of stress. The present study contributes to the literature by providing empirical support for the positive effects of yoga practice and spiritual beliefs.

Limitations

Before generalizing the results, it is necessary to acknowledge some of the limitations from the present study. As with any survey research, common method bias is a problem. When same individuals provide the measure of both dependent and independent variables, the method bias results. To remedy the common method bias, as suggested by researchers, we counterbalanced the question order so that the respondents do now what the criterion variables and predictor variables are.[59],[60] Another problem is the “social desirability” bias. The respondents may inflate the ratings of the items because they may feel that it is socially acceptable behavior to give either “high” or “low” ratings for the measures. To counter this problem, anonymity of the respondents is maintained so that they become unaware of their identity. When the identity is not revealed, the respondents have a tendency of reporting the correct answers to the best of their knowledge.

Contributions to the theory and practice and suggestions for future research

The results from the present study and empirical model contribute to both theory and practice in the field of stress management, spirituality, and yoga practice management. As stress management is a widely researched area in both social psychology and medical research, the present study adds to the existing knowledge by providing some empirical evidence about the importance of yoga practices in the world and about growing spiritual beliefs.

The present study also tests an empirical model that is developed. It also provides avenues for future research. In addition to the spiritual beliefs, it is also important for the researches to focus on religious practices and the connection between religion and spirituality in reducing the stress of individuals. Although religion and spirituality are discussed at length by some researchers, the importance of religion on individual's mental makeup is not studied at length. It is also important to find some other moderator variables (such as personality characteristics of individuals, attitude of individuals to spiritual and religious orientation, and religious practices followed by them) in understanding the relationship between the effect of stress and stress management.


  Conclusions Top


The current study suggests that yoga and spirituality are important in the stress management of individuals. While the benefits of yoga are well documented as anecdotal evidences in social science research (though some researchers in parapsychology have studied extensively the benefits of yoga as a therapy), research on yoga and spirituality is sparse in management and organizational behavior. While the process of how yoga therapy works is documented, the importance of spirituality in the relationship between yoga and management of stress is not examined. The present study bridges the gap and provides avenues for future research.

Financial support and sponsorship

Nil.

Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.



 
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    Figures

  [Figure 1], [Figure 2], [Figure 3]
 
 
    Tables

  [Table 1], [Table 2], [Table 3], [Table 4]



 

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