Research-Based Applied Psychophysiology: Yoga for Occupational Stress and Health

Research-Based Applied Psychophysiology: Yoga for Occupational Stress and Health

Ned Hartfiel, Rhiannon Tudor Edwards
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-1680-5.ch011
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Recent research indicates that yoga can be effective for reducing both musculoskeletal conditions and stress. In the workplace, musculoskeletal conditions and stress are the two most common reasons for sickness absence. The World Health Organisation has identified the workplace as a priority area for promoting good health. As a result, yoga is increasingly being offered in workplace settings to improve the physical health and mental wellbeing of employees. In September 2014, a comprehensive search of relevant electronic databases was performed to determine the effectiveness of yoga in workplace settings. Eight randomised trials met the inclusion criteria. The results showed that the effectiveness of yoga in the workplace was strong for musculoskeletal conditions, moderate for perceived stress, limited for sleep quality and conflicting for heart rate variability. Overall, this evidence is promising, yet limited due to a lack of high quality studies of yoga in workplace settings.
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Yoga For Managing Musculoskeletal Conditions, Back Pain, And Stress

Recent research suggests that yoga is one form of physical activity that can reduce musculoskeletal disorders and stress. Developed in India nearly 3,000 years ago, yoga is considered a means for promoting physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing (Cramer, et al., 2013a). Yoga often includes four main components: physical movement, breathing exercises, relaxation methods and meditation/mindfulness techniques (Collins, 1998; Woodyard, 2011; Ward, Treharne, & Stebbings, 2011; NIH, 2013; Cramer, Krucoff, & Dobos, 2013a).

In recent years, yoga has gained popularity as a therapeutic practice for improving mental and physical health. In 2012, approximately 20 million people in the United States practiced yoga with the specific intention to improve their overall health (Yoga Journal, 2012). Today, yoga is practiced in the United States by more than 36 million people (Yoga Journal and Yoga Alliance, 2016). Yoga is now commonplace in western countries and taught in community centers, health clubs, schools, hospitals and workplaces (Cramer et al., 2013a).

Yoga for Musculoskeletal Conditions

Two recent systematic reviews of ‘yoga for musculoskeletal conditions’ found yoga to be a safe, acceptable and feasible intervention, superior to usual care in reducing pain and improving functional outcomes (McCaffrey & Park, 2012; Ward, Stebbings, Cherkin, & Baxter, 2013). McCaffrey and Park (2012) reviewed the evidence from 31 randomized and non-randomized studies. They found yoga to be ‘moderately feasible’ and likely to reduce both pain and the use of medication for pain.

Ward et al. (2013) found 17 randomized controlled trials covering yoga for low back pain, osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia. The authors concluded that the yoga produced clinically meaningful reductions in pain and improvements in functional outcomes across a range of musculoskeletal conditions (Ward et al., 2013).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Musculoskeletal Disorders: Musculoskeletal Disorders or MSDs are injuries and disorders that affect the human body's movement or musculoskeletal system (i.e. muscles, tendons, ligaments, nerves, discs, blood vessels, etc.). Common MSDs include: Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, Tendonitis, and Muscle / Tendon strain.

Dru Yoga: Dru yoga is a style of yoga that works with postures, breath work, relaxation and meditation. Its series or sequences are called Energy Block Release.

Heart Rate Variability: Heart rate variability (HRV) is the physiological phenomenon of variation in the time interval between heartbeats. It is measured by the variation in the beat-to-beat interval.

Perceived Stress: Perceived psychological stress has been defined as the extent to which persons perceive (appraise) that their demands exceed their ability to cope.

Cost-Effectiveness of Yoga: Cost-effectiveness is the degree to which something is effective or productive in relation to its cost.

Health Related Quality of Life: Health-Related Quality of Life (HRQoL) is a multi-dimensional concept that includes domains related to physical, mental, emotional, and social functioning.

Quality of Sleep: The Sleep Cycle’s Sleep Quality is affected by two factors: (i) Sleep quantity and (ii) Frequency of movement. In short, the more you sleep and the less you move, the higher Sleep Quality you will get.

Quality Adjusted Life Years: The quality-adjusted life year or quality-adjusted life-year (QALY) is a generic measure of disease burden, including both the quality and the quantity of life lived. It is used in economic evaluation to assess the value for money of medical interventions. One QALY equates to one year in perfect health.

Non-Specific Low Back Pain: Non-specific low back pain is usually categorized in 3 subtypes: acute, sub-acute and chronic low back pain. This subdivision is based on the duration of the back pain.

Occupational Stress: Occupational stress is a major hazard for many workers. Increased workloads, downsizing, overtime, hostile work environments, and shiftwork are just a few of the many causes of stressful working conditions.

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