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 Table of Contents  
ORIGINAL ARTICLE
Year : 2021  |  Volume : 9  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 32-39

Impact of yama and niyama on psychospiritual factors in young adults: A randomized controlled trial


Division of Yoga and Physical Sciences, S-VYASA Deemed-to-be-University, Bengaluru, Karnataka, India

Date of Submission10-Sep-2020
Date of Acceptance19-Feb-2021
Date of Web Publication17-Mar-2021

Correspondence Address:
Miss. Wen Xu
S-VYASA Deemed-to-be-University, #19, Eknath Bhavan, Gavipuram Circle, Kempe Gowda Nagar, Bengaluru - 560 019, Karnataka
India
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


DOI: 10.4103/ijoyppp.ijoyppp_17_20

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  Abstract 


Background: The ethical principles of yoga enunciated in yama and niyama are not well known and are not usually presented to students of yoga. Aim: The goal of this study was to evaluate the benefits of yama and niyama in psychospiritual well-being in young adults. Materials and Methods: A total of 100 participants were randomly assigned to the yama-niyama group and control group. Yama-niyama group underwent three months intervention and one-month follow-up assessment. Control group attended regular classes during intervention time. Participants completed baseline and post-intervention of Vedic Personality Inventory questionnaire and cakra alignment measures. Results: The outcome measures in the yama-niyama group showed a signifi'cant difference in sattva (P<0.001), rajas (P<0.001), tamas (P<0.001) and cakrās (P<0.001) after intervention compared to the control group. In the follow-up, sattva (P=0.018) and rajas (P=0.018) showed a significant difference compared to the control group. Further, in yama-niyama group showed a significant increase in sattva (P<0.001) and cakrās were significantly better aligned (P<0.001), whereas rajas (P<0.001) and tamas (P<0.001) showed a significant decrease after intervention. In the follow-up, sattva (P<0.001) showed a significant increase and cakrās were significantly better aligned (P<0.001), whereas rajas (P<0.001) and tamas (P<0.001) showed a significant decrease. Conclusion: The findings show that young adults may advance in psychospiritual growth with proper introduction to yama and niyama in their practices. The study also fills a gap in yoga research which often neglects this foundation of psychospiritual practices in yoga.

Keywords: Cakrās, contemplative, Gṇās, Niyama, psychospiritual, yama


How to cite this article:
Xu W, Itagi R K, Thaiyar M S. Impact of yama and niyama on psychospiritual factors in young adults: A randomized controlled trial. Int J Yoga - Philosop Psychol Parapsychol 2021;9:32-9

How to cite this URL:
Xu W, Itagi R K, Thaiyar M S. Impact of yama and niyama on psychospiritual factors in young adults: A randomized controlled trial. Int J Yoga - Philosop Psychol Parapsychol [serial online] 2021 [cited 2021 Jul 25];9:32-9. Available from: https://www.ijoyppp.org/text.asp?2021/9/1/32/311400




  Introduction Top


Yama and niyama (YN) in yoga refers to the universal precepts of ethical codes which work toward improving the body, mind, and soul of an individual.[1] The principles of YN are enumerated in the ancient traditional scripture of Yoga Sūtrās by Patañjali. The yamās are Ahiṁā (nonviolence); satya (truthfulness); asteya (nonstealing); brahmacharya (continence); and aparigraha (noncovetousness). Equally importat are the niyamās: Śauca (purity of body and mind); santoṣa (contentment); tapas (self-discipline); svādhyāya (introspective study of the scriptures); and īśvarapraṇidhāna (surrender to God).

Over the past decades, yoga has been widely studied in different domains regardless of age, race, and of national origins. Several studies report increasing use of yoga as a complementary health approach for mental and physical well-being, treating neck and back problems, anxiety, stress, cardiovascular, and respiratory disorders.[2],[3],[4] Yoga includes eight steps (or limbs): Yama (moral conduct) and niyama (religious observances), āsana (physical postures), prāṇāyāma (breathing regulation), and meditative components (pratyāhāra, dhāraṇā, dhyāna, and samādhi), which together facilitates the union of the body, mind, and spirit for health and well-being.[5] Most modern yoga classes typically focus on āsana, prāṇāyāma, and meditation. However, ethics as enunciated in yoga are missing in practice.

Increasing evidence found yoga facilitated subtle changes in positive personality traits.[6] A qualitative study identified yoga practice may benefit one's social contentedness, personal transcendent, and spiritual transcendence.[7] The practice of YN may have an indirect effect on attitudes of compassion and nonharmfulness.[8] The ethical aspects of yoga in the above-mentioned outcomes remain to be studied. There is limited literature for researchers to reference on the themes of yoga ethics. According to the Indian traditional philosophy such as Bhagavad Gītā, a person's actions and behavior are influenced by the three gṇās of nature. The three gṇās are: (1) Sattva is the attribute influenced by truth, purity, and spirituality; (2) rajas is the attribute endowed with constant activity and motion; (3) tamas is the attributes of lack of trust, inertia, and ignorance.[9] The three gṇās constitute physical, mental, and spiritual aspects of an individual's personality.[10] All people display an admixture of all gṇās, thus accounting for the variety of human mind and behavior. Wolf developed the Vedic Personality Inventory (VPI) based on the three gṇās derived from the Vedic literature of India.[11] Reliability analyses propose the VPI has good item consistency (α> 0.90 for all three scales) and produced evidence of construct validity.[12] For each subscale, a higher score reflects a greater predominance of these attributes.[6] Additional psychometric support for the VPI has been revalidated and found to correlate in a theoretically expected manner with measures of daily spiritual experiences and psychopathology.[13]

In addition, yogic texts introduce the concept of cakra. There are seven major cakrās, associated with spiritual well-being that affect the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual realm.[14] With the Bio-Well instrument and software, it is possible to quantitatively estimate the energy and alignment of the cakrās.[15] The Bio-Well device is based on Electro Photonic Imaging (EPI) technology that allows assessing the impact of psychophysical and spiritual aspects on the energy field of the human body. Bio-Well is developed by an international team led by Dr. Konstantin Korotkov; many scientific and clinical research have been verified over the last 20 years. The cakra evaluation is based on the processing of bio-images of ten fingers. In the calculation of each cakra, the program produces the values of asymmetry, and interpretation of cakra energy based on properties associated with cakrās.[15] The cakra aligned closer to the central line (suṣumṇā) of the spinal cord indicates good psychological and spiritual conditions.[15] This paper reports the potential effect of practices of YN on psychospiritual well-being (i.e., sattva, rajas, tamas, and cakrās) on normal healthy young adults over a period of 3 months of intervention and 1-month follow-up.


  Materials and Methods Top


The total sample size for each group calculated by using G * Power software was 38 G*Power 3.1 software (Axel Buchner, Stuttgart, Germany). Based on the previous study, the effect size was 0.84, by considering alpha (0.05), power (0.95).[16] Hence, the final sample size was 47.5 after calculating attrition of 25%. One hundred young healthy volunteers were recruited from a tertiary education institution in Ranchi. The participants were from the department of computer application and information technology; their regular college curriculum courses were not related to the component of ethics during the present study. There were three teachers from this department who assisted to recruit the subjects. An equal number of 50 students were randomly assigned to two groups: (i) YN group; (ii) control group. The random allocation sequence generated (using the website www.random.org) which was concealed in sealed envelopes to prevent selection bias, until the allocation. The inclusion criteria were: (a) understanding the English language, (b) age between 18 and 26 years, (c) have no experience of the practice of yoga earlier. The exclusion criteria were: (a) physical and mental disabilities, (b) missing fingers (required for Bio-Well recordings), and (c) having any self-reported chronic diseases. The research protocol was approved by the Institutional Ethics Committee (RES/IEC-SVYASA/151/2019). Informed consent was signed by all the participants.

Participants in the YN intervention attended six sessions per week with each session conducted for 45 min per day during the 3-month experiment and one session per week during the follow-up for the duration of 1 month. The researcher gave the YN intervention. The control group followed the same duration of time in one of their regular classes. The YN program was inspired by ancient scripture Patañjali Yoga Sūtra and the Bhagavad Gītā; and the teaching that embody such ethics from yoga master Paramahaṁsa Yogānanda. This program included lectures in YN themes, japa writing, introspection, and counseling [Appendix 1]. The researcher collected the predata by VPI questionnaire and Bio-Well from all the participants before the start of the experiment. At the end of the intervention, post data were collected as mentioned above. During the follow-up period, there was one session per week for refreshing the practice and to motivate the participants to continue self-practice (Japa writing once a day) during the rest of the days. At the end of this period, again data were collected from the subjects of both the groups.



The researcher performed statistical analysis after the completion of the project with the help of a professional statistician who was blind to group allocation. The data were analyzed by Statistical Package for the Social Science (SPSS) Version 23 and R version 3.6.3 SPSS Statistics 23 (IBM, New York, United States); R software version 3.6.3 (Bell Laboratories, Vienna, Austria). For the present study, repeated measures analysis of variance was used to compare within and between the two groups, with the prescores as a covariate. For all analyses, statistical significance was set as P < 0.05.


  Results Top


The study profile is shown in [Figure 1]. One hundred and eighty-six participants were assessed for eligibility and 100 participants gave consent to participate in the study. [Figure 1] shows that 15 subjects (10 from the YN group and 5 from the control group) dropped out after providing the baseline data. Since no information was available as to the reason for dropout, the data for these 15 subjects were treated as not missing at random, for which data imputation is not permissible. The effective sample size thus reduced to 85 (YN: 40, control: 45).
Figure 1: CONSORT diagram

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The data for these 85 subjects were completed for the baseline and 3rd month data. For the follow-up at the 4th month, there were missing data: 9 in the YN group and 14 in the control group. It was ascertained that these data could be treated as MAR and the missing data were imputed in R (version 3.6.3) R software version 3.6.3 (Bell Laboratories, Vienna, Austria) using the mice package. The diagnostics for the imputed data were satisfactory and these imputed data with 85 complete cases were used for the final analysis presented here.

Baseline characteristics of age (YN group = 19.10 ± 1.03 years, control group = 19.58 ± 1.25 years, t=-1.91, P = 0.60), and gender (χ2 (1) = 1.34, P = 0.29) were of no statistically significant difference between groups.

As shown in [Table 1], there was a statistical significant difference at the time points (baseline, after intervention, and follow-up), for sattva score, F (2166) = 18.30, P < 0.001; for rajas score, F (2166) = 13.44, P < 0.001; for tamas score, F (2166) = 6.95, P < 0.001; for cakra alignment score, F (2166) = 16.05, P < 0.001. There was a significant difference in group and time interaction, for sattva score, F (2166) = 23.98, P < 0.001; for rajas score, F (2166) = 14.04, P < 0.001; for tamas score, F (2166) = 14.71, P < 0.001; for cakra alignment score, F (2166) = 5.03, P = 0.008.
Table 1: Comparison between/within yama-niyama and control groups for vedic personality inventory and electro photonic imaging at the baseline, after the intervention, and 1-month follow-up

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For between group comparison, there was a significant difference in sattva score: At the time point of baseline (P < 0.001), after the intervention (P < 0.001), and follow-up (P = 0.018). There was a statistical significant difference between groups (YN and Control) on postsattva score (after intervention and follow-up) after controlling baseline sattva score, F (182) = 38.28, P < 0.001 and F (182) = 8.10, P = 0.006. There was a significant difference in rajas score at the baseline (P = 0.026), after intervention (P < 0.001) and follow-up (P = 0.003). There was a significant difference between groups (YN and Control) on post-rajas score after controlling baseline rajas score F (182) = 17.16, P < 0.001 and F (182) = 13.24, P < 0.001. There was a significant difference in tamas score at the baseline (P = 0.029) and after intervention (P < 0.001). There was a significant difference between groups (YN and control) on post-tamas score after controlling baseline tamas score, F (1,82) =27.03, P < 0.001. There was a significant difference in cakra alignment score after intervention (P < 0.001). Tamas and cakra alignment scores were observed with no significant difference in the follow-up.

The results in YN group showed a significant increase in sattva (P < 0.001) and cakrās were significantly better aligned (P < 0.001), whereas rajas (P < 0.001) and tamas (P < 0.001) showed a significant decrease after intervention. In the follow-up, sattva (P < 0.001) showed a significant increase and cakrās were significantly better aligned (P < 0.001), whereas rajas (P < 0.001) and tamas (P < 0.001) showed a significant decrease. There are no significant changes observed in the control group, except cakrās were significantly better aligned (P = 0.031) in the follow-up.


  Discussion Top


The findings from this study suggest that the ethics of YN applied to actual practice significantly affect psychospiritual growth. In the present study, participants following YN showed a significant difference in sattva, rajas, and tamas after the intervention compared to the control group. Further, the YN group showed a significant increase in sattva, whereas rajas and tamas showed a significant decrease after intervention and follow-up compared to baseline. According to the primary theoretical framework of VPI on Bhagavad Gītā, some attributes described are considered psychological such as anger, helplessness, depression, and intelligence; and some are considered spiritual such as truthfulness, materially detached, and interest in spiritual understanding. Stempel et al. state “that the combination of these characteristics within an individual is considered indicative of the person's overall psychospiritual makeup and the person's tendency to manifest specific psychological and spiritual tendencies and behaviours.”[13]

Several early studies found that sattva was positively correlated whereas rajas and tamas negatively correlated with well-being.[10] The integrated yoga module has shown a good effect on sattva scores as compared to physical exercise.[6] In another study, a 21-day yoga program to university students found statistically increased sattva values and decreased rajas and tamas.[17] These outcomes are in line with the present study; YN has shown to have a good effect on personality and psychospiritual growth. The yogic practices of āsanas induce the body to relax, prāṇāyāma regulates the breathing rhythm, and meditation, contemplation or introspection practice calms the mind;these may be the mechanisms that increase sattva, reduce rajas and tamas.[17],[18] The ethics of yoga, for instance, helps to cultivate the principle of nonviolence, encompasses compassion and nonharmful attitudes toward all living being that could develop positive feelings of love and kindness. Similarly, other principles of YN could help to facilitate self-awareness and positive attitudes which may potentially impact the intrapersonal and also interpersonal relationships and enhance social connectedness.[7],[8]

Cakrās were significantly better aligned in the YN group after intervention compared to the control group. In the YN group, cakrās showed significantly better alignment after intervention and follow-up compared to baseline. The distribution of the cakrās affects the body, mind, emotional, and spiritual well-being. Usually, they are affected by environmental factors and deviate to the left or right of the central line [Figure 2] and [Figure 3]. Ideally, each cakra should be aligned along the central line of the spinal cord. The ideal balance of cakrās may be seen for people involved in daily meditation and mental training.[15] Ethical training of YN significantly improved the balance state of cakrās. EPI provides several other parameters including energy level, stress level, and balance of energy. The improvements in these parameters due to the practice of YN are being reported separately in another scientific paper.
Figure 2: The alignment of cakrās of one subject before/after intervention

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Figure 3: The alignment of cakrās of one control subject before and after 3 months

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The sixteenth chapter verses 1–3 of Bhagavad Gītā describe 26 ennobling qualities of human personality; they constitute one's spiritual wealth and manifest the ethical principles of YN.[9] Japa writing refers to the inner repetition of a mantra, writing 26 of them out longhand twice in 20 min is a very powerful form of programming the brain and heart with higher consciousness.[19] Bhagavad Gītā's teachings strengthen personality and its development, alone with its positive impact on the modern educational system.[20] Introspection is a useful practice, at the end of each class to mentally review the themes and the circumstances that one passed through is a good way to achieve this. Recall the particular aspects of spiritual living, and to impress these spiritual principles in hearts and minds; this will rewire the brain and transform one into compassionate and caring person.[19] Contemplative practices such as meditation have examined the brain effects and mechanisms based on the brain and the central nervous system (CNS). The subtle body in yogic philosophy is known to have a cakra system. There are seven main cakrās widely discussed. Contemporary psychological theories of development indicate that activation of the cakrās can be seen as a model of psychospiritual development.[21] Modern science has observed contemplative practices in a mechanistic way, contemplative practices (e.g., mindfulness, compassion training, mantra repetition, transcendental meditation, introspection) as a common model of conscious self-regulation that integrate body-mind, activated neural structures, the parasympathetic nervous system, and downregulate sympathetic nervous system.[22],[23],[24],[25] Contemplative practices mapped onto particular subtle body structures and functions explain that all mental activities are directed toward flow of energy in the subtle body. Repeated practice of concentrating energy and awareness further balances the cakrās.[26] It is interesting to consider these mechanisms to establish whether the introspection practice in the present study has an impact on the brain and CNS also.

A psychologist who was looking at the increasing interest in Eastern religion and spirituality in the West since the 1960s observed many people who have followed spiritual practices for many years, but their spiritual practice has failed to penetrate due to some hindrance in their lives, without developing the most rudimentary forms of self-care or interpersonal sensitivity.[27] It is something to introspect about, for a wholesome development path, this is where it starts: learn and practice moral and ethical behavior. These basic principles are essential to succeed in meditation to achieve the final goal; they lead to self-care and healthy holistic living. To verify our findings, reference is made to Patañjali's Yoga Sūtra (1:33) which indicates that yoga practice leads to a personal transformation: by cultivating attitudes of friendliness toward those who are happy, compassion for the unhappy, delight in the virtuous, and disregard of the wicked. With these attitudes, the mind becomes purified and peaceful.[28] This sūtra is in line with the theme identified in the current study that the ethics of yoga could lead to a transcendence of self and a sense of connection to all humankind.

Limitations

First, the homogeneity of the present sample who were predominantly young adults restricted the findings and did not represent the entire general population. Second, it was not possible to maintain the same temperature and moisture at data collection time points using Bio-Well. The third limitation of this study is limited empirical evidence of YN to help guide design and timescale of assessment. Finally, limitations of the assessment tools. The VPI outcome measure is a self-reported tool; more objective tools (such as transcranial magnetic stimulation, magnetic resonance imaging, and functional near-infrared spectroscopy) are not available in the present study to assess the impact of YN practices on the brain and related nervous systems. The tool VPI used in this study could be sensitive to the ethnic background of the participants and hence, may not be applicable to all people. Further, EPI needs more intense research and data to be a regular clinical tool in assessing psychophysiology of individuals.


  Conclusions and Future Direction Top


In summary, the present study was the first preliminary randomized control trial to study the effects of ethics of yoga practice. The results showed the efficacy of YN disciplines improved psychospiritual well-being. This current finding emphasizes the basic foundation of ethics of yoga which links one not only to self but also to others. It also cultivates the right attitude and behavior and strengthens the other steps of yoga practices to attain harmony and freedom in body and mind.

A particular strength of the present work is that it has filled the gap of ignoring the benefits of the first two limbs of yoga. Future research is required to examine different age groups, races, and across nations. In terms of future directions, we hope readers will adopt YN approach to incorporating yoga in different domains, such as education system, self-care management, and integrate them with other limbs of yoga as complementary and alternative medicine practices.

Acknowledgment

We are grateful to Yogoda Satsanga Mahavidyalaya College for supporting this study. We thank the volunteers, teachers, and supporters who participated in this study.

Financial support and sponsorship

Nil.

Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.



 
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