YogAnatomy Research Project

Mental, Emotional, and Spiritual Impacts of the Ashtanga Yoga Practice

Yoga Anatomy Survey Project

The Ashtanga practice has been passed on by multiple generations of teachers and we’re at a point where we can begin to see what impacts this practice has on practitioners over time. This research will help us describe the mental, emotional, and spiritual impacts of the Ashtanga practice, as well as why and how specific methods of practice elicit certain effects.  In our comparison to runners, we'll gather information that will help us describe the mental, emotional, and spiritual impacts of running, as well as how that differs or is similar to the effects of Ashtanga yoga. 

What is it?

The survey will take 20 - 30 minutes to complete. It is being distributed to English-speaking Ashtanga yoga practitioners and runners in order to gather information and create context for understanding the mental, emotional, and spiritual impacts of the Ashtanga practice.

All survey responses will remain anonymous.

The survey is designed to collect information regarding these main areas:

  • Your typical Ashtanga practice or your typical running habits
  • Mental, emotional, and spiritual states and experiences

Why are we interested in asking questions about the mental, emotional, and spiritual impacts of the Ashtanga practice?

Those who practice or have practiced Ashtanga yoga often regard the practice as much more than just gymnastics. But, how is the Ashtanga practice doing with respect to steering us as practitioners toward steadiness of mind (“Yogah citta vrtti nirodhah”)?

Since it has now been several decades since the first western students learned a practice that would become codified as Ashtanga yoga, we have an opportunity to take a look at where practice is taking us mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. The specificity of the Ashtanga practice lends itself well to studying potential connections between how we practice and the experiences that we have. The comparison between the effects of Ashtanga yoga practice and running will allow us to distinguish between the effects of a movement activity in general and Ashtanga yoga specifically.

How will this information be used?

What we hope to do with this project is provide data to describe what impacts the practice is actually having. This will provide a clearer picture of the impacts of methods of practice and provide an opportunity for the Ashtanga community to better understand potential impacts and limitations of the practice.

Methods: How will information be collected and analyzed?

A representative sample of Ashtanga yoga asana practitioners and runners will be surveyed on their typical practice or running habits, and on their mental, emotional, and spiritual experience using established psychological scales. Data will be collected from English-speaking Ashtanga yoga practitioners and runners through a self-administered survey. Sample will be voluntary as the opportunity to complete the survey will be announced through direct email, Ashtanga studio newsletters, and social media outlets. We expect total sample size of each group (Ashtanga yoga practitioners and runners) to be large enough (> 400 completed surveys) to control for the necessarily opportunistic nature of the survey distribution and voluntary completion. Our expected sample size will allow for statistical analysis of data at survey completion at α=.01 (99% confidence level).

The YogAnatomy Research Project is the collaborative effort of:

Christine Wiese, MSc; LMBT

David Keil, LMBT

Rikke Olesen, MD, Ph.D

Anne Rasmussen, Ph.D

Web and IT support:Michael Sammut

Statistical consultant: Jared Westbrook, Ph.D