Exercise science students research yoga's effects

November 6, 2012 | 11 a.m.

Are the health claims yoga enthusiasts are making really valid?

Culture | Courtney Sperry for The Clarion 

Exercise science students research yoga's effects

Students perform yoga poses as they participate in the Yoga4Research study. | Drea Chalmers

Yoga has gradually been gaining popularity throughout the U.S., and many people are now incorporating this activity into their exercise regimes. There are yoga classes, workshops, conferences, retreats, videos and even clothes, which seem to have become a fashion trend as well. 

So what is going on at Bethel in regards to yoga? As people try to learn more about yoga and its health benefits, questions arise as to what makes it different from other forms of exercise. Two Bethel students are tackling these questions and seeking to learn more by conducting their own research – they are the ones behind the flyers that have been seen around campus.

Emily Dillner and Lydia Bergeson are both senior biokinetics majors who are seeking to understand more about yoga. As part of their senior research project, they are investigating the importance of this popular practice as it relates to health and exercise. 

While looking into the subject, Bergeson and Dillner said, “The U.S. Yoga Alliance claims yoga results in improved breathing, flexibility, strength, weight management, circulation, cardiovascular conditioning, stress relief, pain relief, presence and spirituality.” This information presents a wide array of benefits. 

“Yoga claims to do so many things,” they commented. “What we found from current literature was controversial, so we wanted to see for ourselves. We wanted to know whether yoga was beneficial because it has become so popular.” 

Bergeson and Dillner come from differing backgrounds in the practice of yoga. Dillner started going to a yoga class last January at LA Fitness. "I absolutely love it. I try to go at least twice a week. I personally have had a lot of benefits from it.” 

Bergeson on the other hand, like many others who have never practiced yoga, is curious about learning more. “I have never really done yoga before,” she said. “But I have heard a lot about it and have been interested in trying it and discovering whether it really works.” 

These questions have led the girls to initiate a six-week study with 23 co-ed participants from Bethel. During those six weeks, participants will attend 30-minute yoga sessions three times a week for four weeks. The study began in October and will conclude in the middle of November. 

One participant, Angela Pascarella, saw the flyers and thought it would be the perfect opportunity to help achieve some balance in the midst of a busy academic atmosphere. As a sophomore with some prior yoga experience, she stated that one of the reasons why yoga is important to her is because, “I believe that God calls us to take care of our bodies as temples for Him, so what better way to fulfill this?” 

She believes that making this commitment will provide the motivation needed exercise, even when school gets overwhelming. Pascarella is hoping for some personal results from this too. She said, “By the fourth week, I am hoping to feel balanced emotionally, physically and mentally. I would like to feel more at ease when facing stressful situations.” 

This spring, Bergeson and Dillner will be presenting their research at the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) Conference where they will be competing against student presenters from other colleges and universities. 

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