International Journal of Yoga - Philosophy, Psychology and Parapsychology

ORIGINAL ARTICLE
Year
: 2019  |  Volume : 7  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 17--23

Transformative effects of yoga nidra on hedonic and eudemonic dimensions of well-being: A qualitative study in trainee teachers


Bhalendu Suryakant Vaishnav1, Smruti Bhalendu Vaishnav2, Vibha Suryakant Vaishnav3, Neepa D Bharucha4, Jagdish R Varma5,  
1 Department of Medicine, Pramukhswami Medical College, Karamsad, Gujarat, India
2 Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Pramukhswami Medical College, Karamsad, Gujarat, India
3 Department of Electronics, Sardar Patel University, Anand, Gujarat, India
4 Department of Science Education, M. B. Patel College of Education, Sardar Patel University, Anand, Gujarat, India
5 Department of Psychiatry, Pramukhswami Medical College, Karamsad, Gujarat, India

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Smruti Bhalendu Vaishnav
Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Pramukhswami Medical College, Karamsad, Gujarat
India

Abstract

Context: Incorporation of educational measures which enhance well-being is one of the priority needs of mainstream education in the 21st century. Yoga nidra is an ancient Indian practice which enhances well-being through the release of stress on physical, emotional, and mental planes of one's being through the creation of an experiential state of inner awareness with simultaneous detachment. Aim: The aim of the study was to assess qualitative effects of yoga nidra on physical, emotional, cognitive, and spiritual dimensions of well-being in trainee teachers. Materials and Methods: Seventy-seven students received yoga nidra sessions over for 3 months. About 86% of students (n = 66) submitted their diary notes containing their observations and experiences about yoga nidra sessions, which were thematically analyzed. Results: Key observations captured from 475 individual observation notes were experience of quietude, freshness, and relief from fatigue, clarity of thoughts, enhanced concentration, memory and reduction of anxiety, depression, and worries. As the weeks of the study progressed, the transformative effects of yoga nidra were noticed in the forms of enhanced capacity for self-reflection, self-awareness, and behavioral modification. Conclusion: Yoga nidra sessions enhance hedonic and eudemonic dimensions of well-being through minimizing negative emotions such as stress and anxiety, enhancing positive emotions such as happiness, enthusiasm, and alertness, and bringing about an experience of cognitive, emotional and behavioral stability, and clarity. It can be considered as a useful tool for enhancing well-being.



How to cite this article:
Vaishnav BS, Vaishnav SB, Vaishnav VS, Bharucha ND, Varma JR. Transformative effects of yoga nidra on hedonic and eudemonic dimensions of well-being: A qualitative study in trainee teachers.Int J Yoga - Philosop Psychol Parapsychol 2019;7:17-23


How to cite this URL:
Vaishnav BS, Vaishnav SB, Vaishnav VS, Bharucha ND, Varma JR. Transformative effects of yoga nidra on hedonic and eudemonic dimensions of well-being: A qualitative study in trainee teachers. Int J Yoga - Philosop Psychol Parapsychol [serial online] 2019 [cited 2019 Oct 14 ];7:17-23
Available from: http://www.ijoyppp.org/text.asp?2019/7/1/17/255077


Full Text



 Introduction



Positive education is defined as education for both traditional skills and happiness. High prevalence of depression among young people, small rise in life satisfaction, and synergy between learning and positive emotion indicate the need for teaching skills for happiness in school.[1] Trainee teachers, the ambassadors for this educational innovation, however, suffer from higher levels of stress arising from psychological and/or physiological imbalances.[2] Engaging individuals in specific forms of training through psychotherapy, meditation has been shown to enhance well-being through functional and structural changes in the brain.[3] Yoga is an ancient, comprehensive life discipline useful in harmonizing body, mind, and spirit helpful in enhancing well-being and transcend suffering by developing an abiding awareness of one's spiritual nature. It enables the growth of oneself from the phenomenal to the real man. Yoga nidra is a part of Sense withdrawal or pratyahara technique of Yoga which facilitates a state of inner awareness and outer detachment brought about through a systematic and largely scripted process of guided relaxation. Beneficial effects of yoga nidra have been documented in clinical and educational cohorts;[4] however, there is dearth of elaborate qualitative studies. The quintessential effects of yoga nidra practice cover cognitive, emotional, and spiritual dimensions of well-being, the measurement of which can be complete only by including objectively measurable phenomena as well as subjective and experiential effects. We, therefore, chose the experiential, subjective narratives for data collection during this arm of the study to study its qualitative effects.

 Materials and Methods



Setting

We set out to study effects of yoga nidra on physical, emotional, cognitive, and spiritual dimensions of well-being among trainee teacher (B. Ed. or Bachelor of Education) students of faculty of education in a rural-based university in central Gujarat, India. Approval was taken from the Institutional Ethics Committee (letter no IEC/HMPCMCE/2017/17). Participants were enrolled after obtaining voluntary informed consent. All students had completed their graduation/postgraduation studies in various disciplines of humanities or science. They had been exposed to conventional yogasana (physical postures) but not to yoga nidra prior to the study (except one student, who was familiar with Yoga nidra). Participants did not take part in any other yoga practice during this intervention.

Methodology

Seventy-seven students who volunteered to participate in the study were enrolled. Preexisting acute or chronic illness or development of acute illness during the study constituted the exclusion criteria. There were no dropouts. Yoga nidra sessions were conducted for 45 min/day once in a week by instructors who were clinicians in a medical college and had 3 years' experience of conducting yoga nidra sessions. Each session comprised of guided yoga nidra practice performed in a relaxed state in supine position of “shavasana,” wherein participants followed spoken instructions of the instructor to undergo sequential stages of resolve, rotation of consciousness, breath awareness, and visualization.[5] After 8 weeks, students had a preparation time of 3 weeks for their semester examinations, so they were given audio recording of the guided yoga nidra session and were asked to continue the same. Participants found audio recording were equally effective as compared to sessions conducted in person although the detailed record of self-practice compliance has not been maintained. The guided sessions were resumed on completion of examinations. Total number of guided group practice sessions before and after examinations were 12 and 7, respectively. The research question was: what are the effects of yoga nidra on multiple dimensions of well-being in teacher trainees? Diaries maintained by the participants were considered the most appropriate mode of qualitative data collection since we aimed at capturing the first-person experiences, perceptions, attitudes, and behaviors over a period of time. Participants were briefed about the focus of the study and provided a simple framework prior to the commencement of the study. Participants were asked to give open-ended comment on their experiences during yoga nidra practice. During the initial couple of sessions, they were asked to record a brief report describing whatever aspect of their practice experience and its effect which seemed most important to them at that moment. Subsequently, they were asked to pen down their experiences after reflecting upon the sessions at their convenience later in the week. Diary recordings were unsupervised and were in the form of free expressive format.

Analysis

Diaries were transcribed by one researcher and rechecked by the second researcher. No diaries were found to be illegible. Thematic analysis of the data was carried out based on the grounded theory of analysis. While doing so, the observation notes were read multiple times in conjunction and key concepts noted. The researchers familiarized themselves with the data, identifying text that was relevant to the research question. The themes were honed, through discussion, until consensus between the authors was reached - this was an iterative process which distilled and refined in a cyclical fashion. In the end stages, notes were revisited to check whether the honed themes reflected the key messages recorded. In the presentation of findings, illustrative quotes from participants' narratives are used. The key concepts identified in the narrative diary records were that yoga nidra produces an experience of physical well-being, emotional happiness and quietude, and, cognitive well-being in the forms of clarity of ideas and thinking process. Both the researchers concurred with the concepts identified since reflective narratives were almost equivocal in the describing the core experiences.

Additional instruments and quantitative measurements: In addition to qualitative observations, pre- and post-interventions effects of yoga nidra were objectively assessed through several standard tools, namely (1) faces scale for happiness (Happiness), (2) visual analog scale (Perceived Stress), (3) ladder scale (Cantril's Self-Anchoring ladder (Overall Quality of Life), (4) Psychological General Well Being Index-Short (PGWBI-Short) (Psychological General Well-being), (5) Rosenberg self-esteem test (Self-esteem: measured), (6) Perceived Stress Scale (Stress), and (7) SISRI 24 inventory (Spiritual Intelligence). However, results of the same and their comparative analysis are not included in this paper in view of enormity of data, derivations and determinative implications although they too concurred with results of qualitative analysis.

 Results



Qualitative analysis

Seventy-seven students (56 females [72.73%] and 21 males [27.27%]) in their early twenties (mean ± standard deviation: 22.44 years ±1.79). There were no dropouts. Participants enjoyed the yoga nidra sessions, and no adverse effects of yoga nidra practice were reported.

Sixty-five students submitted their diaries for qualitative analysis. Four hundred and seventy-five diary notes were systematically analyzed. The first stage of analysis involved the qualitative technique of grounded theory. More than 55% of the students mentioned that they had never heard about yoga nidra. Thematic observations reached saturation in all domains of well-being after analyzing observations of 24 participants. We discovered that all participants experienced positive physical, emotional, and cognitive/mental well-being, which were hedonic in nature during the early period of intervention (1–4 weeks). During the later period (5–12 weeks), diary notes of participants were characterized by improved emotional, cognitive, and spiritual clarity which were eudemonic well-being effects. By the end of the course, all participants developed, to some degree, a clear self-observing stance toward their experiences and importance of yoga nidra for one's well-being, one's aim in life, and interpersonal relations. Briefly, the order of positive experiences was somatic, emotional, and cognitive well-being in early weeks. The order of positive experiences during subsequent weeks of training was cognitive, metacognitive, and spiritual. Thematic analysis of the observations is given in [Table 1]. Experiences of all participants were on almost parallel lines; however, many participants had their own unique trajectory of expressions. The following are some of the special observations and unique individual quotes:{Table 1}

The first session: getting introduced to the process, the “Aha!” moment

Everyone felt that yoga nidra sessions created an atmosphere of peace spreading over the entire hallA sense of happiness and relaxation, writ large on their faces at the end of the session was observed by one and all the participants, teachers, and trainersOn student mentioned that the session took him to “another world” - away from sorrow and tension“Eternal Peace” noted another.

Physical well-being

Many reported “disappearance of physical fatigue, relaxation, and freshness during the session, persisting for a variable period after the session”Four participants mentioned that “they felt sleepy during the first session. However, as the practice continued, this phenomenon was replaced by increase in freshness”“Freshness and rest resulting from half an hour of yoga nidra are far more energizing than hours of normal sleep,” observed one participant.

Emotional well-being

“One can say with certainty that yoga nidra gives immutable peace”“Yoga nidra increases enthusiasm; feelings have become quiet”“I was able to control my feelings; the practice gives mental stability”“It helps in changing one's bad behavior and changing one's nature”“I forgot my anger!”

Cognitive/mental well-being

“Yoga nidra is a very useful method of mental education which is missing in the current education system”About 35% of participants mentioned “they could focus well on learning during the study. Participants felt relaxed and comfortable during the examination” “This was a different experience for taking examinations” – 15 participants mentioned!“My self-confidence has increased”“My direction of thought has changed. I can think about future with clarity”“Yoga nidra enhanced my clarity of thoughts and ability to make decisions”One participant recorded that “it helped her in removing conflicts”“I could fully experience the 'visualisation' and enjoyed it the most.”

Social well-being

“My feelings about others have started changing…I have become more stable. My relations with others are becoming more deep and pleasant”“I feel, and my friends confirm too that I have changed a lot due to yoga nidra”One participant recorded that during the resolution stage, he “resolved never to hurt anyone”Three students mentioned that they started practice of yoga nidra in their hostel by themselves from 2nd week onward“My wife joined yoga nidra session with me. She became quiet!”“Everyone must do yoga nidra. I will take it forward.”

Spiritual well-being

“It gives capacity to observe oneself and develop an attitude of self-contentedness”“It is a practice of stilling, opening, and nourishing the mind”“Yoga nidra period was a golden time. From day 1 onward to the last day, I have had different new and subtle experiences. I can see difference in myself between first and last session.” - remarked one participantOne student, who wrote 15 notes in his diary (as compared to average 6–8 notes by most) mentioned that “I have changed due to yoga nidra; my thinking, emotions, physical well-being, etc.,”“I have become more aware about my inner self, soul. I feel that yoga nidra can help in spiritual growth and help in identifying and increasing one's capacities“Regular yoga nidra practice has potential of awakening a new consciousness in the body”“My soul and body are different and my body houses my soul”“Yoga nidra is very useful method of mental education as well as devotion.”

Finally, two students summed up all:

“Yoga nidra increases enthusiasm, peace, energy, freshness, stability of feelings, and clarity of thoughts. It gives me capacity to think about my aim and reality of life with much more clarity. I can express myself better”“It is the simplest way to loosen up one's stress. It reduces anger, fatigue, improves acceptance, soothes mind, and controls anxiety”

These accounts capture participants' journeys through the process of practicing yoga nidra over a period of 3 months. As these accounts suggest, nearly all participants considered yoga nidra beneficial in terms of helping them to cope with the emotional and cognitive disturbances and in enhancing well-being.

 Discussion



It is becoming increasingly imperative for teachers to assume roles of educators beyond academics and focus on integral well-being and development of students. As a step priori, trainee teachers must get acquainted with concepts of well-being and empower themselves for teaching about the same. It is equally true that university students, particularly trainee teachers have higher rates of mental ill-health than the general population and hence need of measures that enhance their well-being. Studies have reported stress level among teacher trainees to be between 39% and 44%.[6],[7],[8]

Yoga nidra is a part of pratyahara technique of yoga which facilitates a state of inner awareness and outer detachment brought about through a systematic and largely scripted process of guided relaxation. It has been suggested that yoga nidra has potential to enhance well-being and self-development, improve memory, increase in knowledge and creativity, and transform one's nature.[5]

Any study of positive psychology needs to consider the effects of the intervention on hedonic and eudemonic views of well-being. The hedonic view on well-being, consisting of both cognitive and affective aspects, assumes that through maximizing pleasurable experiences and minimizing suffering, the highest levels of well-being can be achieved. The eudemonic approach departs from the concept of a good life that is not just about pleasure and happiness but involves developing one-self, being autonomous, and realizing one's potential.[9],[10]

Our results indicate that yoga nidra has positive effects on hedonic dimensions of well-being as evidenced by observations of participants regarding the feeling of peace, quietude, happiness, freshness and removal/reduction of anxiety, stress, worry, and anger. This effect, observed very early during intervention, increased subsequently. During later weeks of intervention, positive effects on eudemonic dimensions were also observed. Studies have demonstrated that efforts to cultivate well-being tend to positively influence both these dimensions.[3],[11]

We observed that with increasing duration of the study, there was a transformative effect on thinking process from superficial to deep level, from explicit to implicit. This led to growing positive intrapersonal, interpersonal, and transpersonal effects. Intervention was seen by the participants as tool to modify their nature. We attribute these changes to progressive increment in the depth of experience of yoga nidra and its widening influence on one's being. Pioneering studies by Kamakhya K, have shown that the practice of yoga nidra is helpful in awakening inherent creativity, enhancing well-being and promote learning and memory abilities of the practitioner.[12] Positive effects of yoga nidra on hedonic well-being has been reported in several studies including a study on adolescents carried out by us[13] and in college students by Kamakhya and Kim.[12],[14] Our present observations additionally point toward the emergence of positive, nobler qualities in one's personality as a result of yoga nidra. This prompted us to pursue an additional analytical step wherein we have attempted to explore whether the emergent theory discovered in the first phase of analysis was related to ancient/esoteric and modern theories hypothesizing mechanisms which enhance well-being, and if so, how.

For all its basis and method, as well as for its purpose and authenticity, yoga nidra draws heavily from ancient Indian texts. While the observed results are often assumed to be indicative of “the effects of yoga nidra,” the focus on positive health-related benefits represents only a narrow selection of possible effects that have been acknowledged within the ancient scriptures, which far exceeds the “mundane” objectives. Nevertheless, attempt to contextualize its application in reference of positive psychology do offer a basis for constructing an integrating framework for interventions in positive psychology.

In parlance of ancient Indian psychology, well-being refers to awareness and manifestation of a transcendental state of consciousness, which human beings are capable of accessing. Yoga is the science, the process, the effort and action by which man attempts to pass out of the limits of his ordinary mental consciousness into a greater spiritual consciousness, from the phenomenal to the real man.[15] The four powers and objects of yoga are purity, liberty, beatitude, and perfection, which too can be cultivated and attained through methodical self-development, which ultimately foster attainment of the highest level of well-being. In this context, yoga nidra is a method of awakening oneself to the influence of one's “psychic consciousness,” which has been described as a plane of consciousness which is endowed with a sense of happiness, peace, calmness, contentedness, and bliss.

Detailed elucidation of the effects of yoga nidra is beyond scope of this paper. Briefly, the stage of Shavasana helps in physical and mental relaxation. Stage of resolve enhances self-determination. The rotation of consciousness helps in bringing about a state of simultaneous relaxation and awareness, thereby helping in producing a witness state of consciousness. This is an ideal state of mind to plant a thought or willed resolution in oneself. The effects of “visualisation” have been described as useful in shaking off painful memories, conflicts, fears; in other words, fostering neuroplasticity which “rewires” the neural pathways. In its totality, the process facilitates the integration of learning that goes from implicit to explicit knowledge (bottom-up knowledge) with learning that goes from explicit to implicit knowledge (top-down knowledge) for improved self-regulation and self-modulation. Marti A and Sala J in their extensive long term studies on 'enhancing awareness' have concluded that yoganidra brings about release of stress on all planes of one's being leading to improvement in cognitive, emotional, and behavioral well-being.[16]

Yoga nidra produces alpha dominance in both hemispheres more consistently and for more duration as compared to other relaxation practices.[17] Yoga nidra enhances self-awareness through binding conscious experiences together in a single construct with a sense of unity of consciousness as reported by Hans C. Lou et al.[18] In the parlance of modern psychology, sustained positive emotion, recovery from negative emotion, empathy, altruism, mindfulness, and emotion captured attention are novel constituents of well-being. The neural circuits that underlie each of these constituents overlap partially thus can be transformed through experience and training.[19]

There are several unique aspects of this study. Effects of a process as profound as yoga nidra cannot be studied on a fewer dimensions of well-being through objective tools alone. We used qualitative methods for the evaluation of multiple dimensions of well-being recorded week after week to document its beneficial effects We also verified that there was congruity between qualitative and quantitative analysis, although the latter is not presented here.

We chose trainee teachers because we believed them to be more proficient in principles of reflective learning about a process which is essentially experiential. The depth of observations captured during the study validated our selection. Literature on the pedagogy of mindfulness-based approaches has placed considerable emphasis on the importance of the teacher embodying the spirit and essence of the well-being enhancing practices taught.[20] Teacher's professional identity and personality are strengthened during their teacher training course; and therefore, it is an opportune moment to provide an input which focuses on one of the priority areas of educational goals.

 Conclusion



Results of our study demonstrate that conducting regular yoga nidra sessions in trainee teachers enhances hedonic and eudemonic dimensions of well-being through minimizing negative emotions such as anxiety, enhancing positive emotions such as happiness, enthusiasm, quietude, and alertness, and bringing about a clarity and stability of thinking process and aligning individual and societal goals. Yoga nidra can be considered as a useful tool for enhancing well-being.

It is indeed a high time to incorporate wellness education into mainstream education. After all, what is a true and living education? - “That alone will be a true and living education which helps to bring out to full advantage, makes ready for the full purpose and scope of human life all that is in the individual man.” (Sri Aurobindo).[21]

Acknowledgment

The authors would like to acknowledge the authorities and the staff of the college of education where the study was conducted.

Financial support and sponsorship

Nil.

Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

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