Journal of Religion and Health

, Volume 58, Issue 6, pp 2277–2287 | Cite as

Separating the “Limbs” of Yoga: Limited Effects on Stress and Mood

  • Evangeline A. WheelerEmail author
  • Antonia N. Santoro
  • Alicia F. Bembenek
Original Paper


Though millions of people practice yoga to reduce stress and improve their mood, it is unclear which aspect of yoga is responsible for these effects. To investigate relevant aspects, or “limbs” of yoga, participants who were novices in the practice of yoga engaged in a single yoga manipulation (i.e., poses, breath work, meditation, or listening to a lecture about yoga) for 20 min before experiencing a mild stressor. Participants’ heart rate, blood pressure, mood, and anxiety level were assessed, both immediately after the yoga manipulation and after the mild stressor. The 20-min yoga manipulation did not differentially affect any of the measures, including participants’ stress response after the mild stressor. Results are discussed regarding the individual components of a yoga practice.


Anxiety Blood pressure Heart rate Mood Stress Yoga 



The authors would like to acknowledge the contributions of the research assistants Chelsea Smith (yoga instructor), Seth Goldstein (yoga instructor), Bradley Dunagan, Faith Carlson, and Allison Schneider, who collected the data for this study. Correspondence concerning this article should be directed to Evangeline A. Wheeler.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Human and Animal Rights

Participants were compensated with course extra credit points only. Yoga mats were donated from a local yoga studio. No animals were involved in the conduct of this study. All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Ethical Approval

The study received the Approval Code 15-A013 from the University IRB committee.

Informed Consent

Signed informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study. No deception was involved in the experimental procedure, and participants were fully debriefed afterward.


  1. Arambula, P., Peper, E., Kawakami, M., & Gibney, K. H. (2001). The physiological correlates of Kundalini yoga meditation: A study of a yoga master. Applied Psychophysiology & Biofeedback,26(2), 147–153.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Beck, A. R., & Verticchio, H. (2014). Facilitating speech-language pathology graduate students’ ability to manage stress: A pilot study. Contemporary Issues in Communication Science & Disorders, 41, 24–38.Google Scholar
  3. Clarke, T. C., Black, L. I., Stussman, B. J., Barnes, P. M., & Nahin, R. L. (2015). Trends in the use of complimentary health approaches among adults: United States, 2002, 2012. National Health Statistics Reports,10(79), 1–16.Google Scholar
  4. Clay, C. C., Lloyd, L. K., Walker, J. L., Sharp, K. R., & Pankey, R. B. (2005). The metabolic cost of hatha yoga. Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research,19(3), 604–610.Google Scholar
  5. Hagins, M., Haden, S. C., & Daly, L. A. (2013). A randomized controlled trial on the effects of yoga on stress reactivity in 6th grade students. Evidence-Based Complementary & Alternative Medicine (Ecam). doi: 10.1155/2013/607134.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Johnson, S., Gur, R. M., David, Z., & Currier, E. (2015). One-session mindfulness meditation: A randomized controlled study of effects on cognition and mood. Mindfulness,6(1), 88–98. doi: 10.1007/s12671-013-0234-6.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Kumar, K. K. (2008). A study on the impact on stress and anxiety through Yoga nidra. Indian Journal of Traditional Knowledge,7(3), 401–404.Google Scholar
  8. Landry, J. M. (2014). Physiological and psychological effects of a Himalayan Singing Bowl in meditation practice: A quantitative analysis. American Journal of Health Promotion,28(5), 306–309.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Li, A. W., & Goldsmith, C. W. (2012). The effects of yoga on anxiety and stress. Alternative Medicine Review,17(1), 21–35.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  10. Mc Intyre, M. E., Silverman, F. H., & Trotter, W. D. (1974). Transcendental meditation and stuttering: A preliminary report. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 39(1), 294.Google Scholar
  11. Melville, G., Chang, D., Marshall, P., Cheema, B., & Colagiuri, B. (2012). Fifteen minutes of chair-based yoga postures or guided meditation performed in the office can elicit a relaxation response. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. doi: 10.1155/2012/501986.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  12. Murthy, P. N. V., Janakiramaiah, N., Gangadhar, B., & Subbakrishna, D. K. (1998). P300 amplitude and antidepressant response to Sudarshan Kriya Yoga (SKY). Journal of Affective Disorders,50(1), 45–48. doi: 10.1016/S0165-0327(98)00029-9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Pramanik, T., Sharma, H. O., Mishra, S., Mishra, A., Prajapati, R., & Singh, S. (2009). Immediate effect of slow pace bhastrika pranayama on blood pressure and heart rate. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 15(3), 293–295. doi: 10.1089/acm.2008.0440.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Rizzolo, D., Zipp, G., Stiskal, D., & Simpkins, S. (2009). Stress management strategies for students: The immediate effects of yoga, humor, and reading on stress. Journal of College Teaching & Learning,6(8), 79–88.Google Scholar
  15. Ross, A., & Thomas, S. (2010). The health benefits of yoga and exercise: a review of comparison studies. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 16(1), 3–12. doi: 10.1089/acm.2009.0044.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Semich, A. (2014). Effects of two different Hatha yoga interventions on perceived stress and five facets of mindfulness. Dissertation abstracts international, p. 74.Google Scholar
  17. Spielberger, C. D., & Sydeman, S. J. (1994). State-trait anxiety inventory and state-trait anger expression inventory. In M. E. Maruish (Ed.), The use of psychological testing for treatment planning and outcome assessment (pp. 292–321). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
  18. Streeter, C., Jensen, J., Perlmutter, R., Cabral, H., Tian, H., Terhune, D., et al. (2007). Yoga asana sessions increase brain GABA levels: A pilot study. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine,13(4), 419–426. doi: 10.1089/acm.2007.6338.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  19. Telles, S., Yadav, A., Gupta, R. K., & Balkrishna, A. (2013). Reaction time following yoga bellows-type breathing and breath awareness. Perceptual and Motor Skills,117(1), 89–98.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Vancampfort, D., De Hert, M., Knapen, J., Wampers, M., Demunter, H., Deckx, S., et al. (2011). State anxiety, psychological stress and positive well-being responses to yoga and aerobic exercise in people with schizophrenia: A pilot study. Disability and Rehabilitation,33(8), 684–689. doi: 10.3109/09638288.2010.509458.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  21. Watson, D., Clark, T. E., & Tellegen, A. (1988). Development and validation of brief measures of positive and negative affect: The PANAS scales. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,54, 1063–1070.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. West, J., Otte, C., Geher, K., Johnson, J., & Mohr, D. C. (2004). Effects of hatha yoga and African dance on perceived stress, affect, and salivary cortisol. Annals of Behavioral Medicine,28(2), 114–118.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Evangeline A. Wheeler
    • 1
    Email author
  • Antonia N. Santoro
    • 1
  • Alicia F. Bembenek
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyTowson UniversityTowsonUSA

Personalised recommendations