PURPOSE: The purpose of this study was to observe how one yoga session effects perceived and physiological stress levels among college students. METHODS: Subjects (20.44 ± 1.0 yr.), enrolled in an introductory yoga class at Gonzaga University participated in 3 separate data collection sessions. In the first session, body height (172.03 ± 7.21cm) and mass (71.05± 13.03kg) were measured, and body mass index (BMI) (23.84 ± 2.93kg/m2) was determined. The second and third sessions were counter-balanced, with half the subjects attending the 50-minute yoga session while the rest completed the control condition, studying for 50 minutes. Before and after each intervention a Perceived Stress Questionnaire (PSQ) was completed followed by a Forestry Step Test. The protocol was modified to include baseline heart rate (HR) and blood pressure (MAP) measurements before and after the Forestry Step Test. The purpose of implementing this protocol was to determine changes in the sympathetic nervous system and physiological stress levels through secondary measures. Within 1-7 days, subjects performed the opposing condition. Statistical analyses were performed using SPSS and MS Excel. RESULTS: A strong correlation was found between pre- and post-condition PSQ scores (r=0.71, p<0.01). There was a significant increase in MAP between step-tests performed before and after studying with a mean difference of 2.92+1.56 mmHg (p=0.037) but no significant difference for step-tests before and after yoga. In either condition, there was no significant difference between the changes in pre- to post HR. PSQ scores during the yoga condition decreased by a mean difference of 0.078 more than the studying condition (p=0.04, SD=0.051). There was a significant decrease between ΔPre PSQ scores, the change between pre-yoga and pre-study scores, and ΔPost PSQ scores, change between post-yoga and post-study scores (p=0.04). CONCLUSION: The results of this counter-balanced study indicate that yoga may significantly reduce perceived stress and physiological stress as determined by MAP. HR, the secondary measure of physiological stress, was not affected significantly, which is hypothesized to be due to the low impact exercise and active body movements performed within the yoga session.

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