Positive Psychology and Yoga
This writeup has been taken from the paper: Dagar, C., Pandey, A., & Navare, A. (2020). How Yoga-Based Practices Build Altruistic Behavior? Examining the Role of Subjective Vitality, Self-transcendence, and Psychological Capital. Journal of Business Ethics, 1-16.
Yoga, a contemplative practice originated in ancient India, aims at relieving suffering and promoting wellbeing (Cope, 1999; Feuerstein, 2011). Yoga interventions has the wide ranging beneﬁcial effects of on the physical and psychological health (for review, see Mooventhan, & Nivethitha, 2017, Khalsa, et al., 2016).). Yoga-Based Practices (YBPs) are found effective in improving ‘negative states’ by alleviating symptoms of depression, anxiety, stress, post-traumatic stress disorder, and other psychological problems (Balasubramaniam et al., 2013; Li and Goldsmith, 2012) as well as promote ‘positive states’ such as enhanced well-being, satisfaction with life, and happiness (Woodyard, 2011).
Positive psychology is the science of positive subjective experience and positive individual traits like wisdom, creativity, future-mindedness, courage, spirituality, responsibility, and promises to improve the quality of life (Seligman and Csikszentmihalyi, 2014, pp. 279). Positive Organizational Scholarship (POS) and Positive Organization Behavior (POS) draws from the positive psychology movement. Confidence, hope, and resiliency are proposed as the constructs of Positive Organization Behavioras (POB, Luthans, 2002). Walsh (2001), in the formative years of positive psychology, proposed plausible overlap of the objective and scope of positive psychology and the potential of yoga for achieving psychological health. Research suggests that YBPs enhance positive emotions and enable individuals to look beyond selfish cravings; thus, potentially, they accentuate altruistic behaviour (Pandey, Chandwani and Navare, 2017). In spite of the significant commonality in the objectives, promises, and the potential of Yoga and positive psychology, the theoretical linkages and empirical inquiry are scant in literature (For exception, see Butzer, 2016). Accordingly, scholars have called for examining the conceptual and empirical convergence between YBPs and positive psychology (Rao and Paranjpe, 2016). Scholars have also pointed out the need to study the individual, team and organizational determinants and consequents of POB constructs like resilience (King, Newman and Luthans, 2016), virtuousness and social concern and energy (Cameron, & McNaughtan, 2014) etc. and the need of positive cross cultural scholarship (Stahl and Tung, 2015).
Aiming to address this gap, we study the impact of YBPs on self-transcendence and subjective vitality and further, examine their effect on variables related to positive psychology, namely, psychological capital (PsyCap), and altruistic behaviour. We aim at contributing to the positive organizational scholarship in multiple ways. First, we propose and test the impact of subjective vitality and self-transcendence on altruism and the mediating role of psychological capital (PsyCap). Second, we examine the impact of YBPs on subjective vitality and self-transcendence through a longitudinal experiment and longer-term post-assessment. Third, we establish the role of YBPs as a intervention to POB outcomes like psychological capital and altruistic behaviour.
The empirical study was carried out in the three phases. First, we conducted a survey to examine the theoretically derived relationships between subjective vitality, self-transcendence, psychological capital and altruistic behaviour. Next, using a longitudinal experimental design, we examined whether YBPs enhance subjective vitality and self-transcendence. In the third phase, we again conducted a survey of the participants and the control group after a period of 4 months to measure the long-term effect of YBPs on subjective vitality and self-transcendence.
The rest of the paper is structured as follows. In the next section, we present the theoretical framework and draw hypotheses about the effect of YBPs on subjective vitality and self-transcendence and their impact on psychological capital and altruistic behaviour. Next, we outline the methodology of the three phases of empirical inquiry and then describe the finding. The discussion section analyses the results, explicates the implications for theory and practice, and delineates the agenda for future research.
Theoretical Background: Hypotheses Development
Yoga and its Effects
Yoga is a mind-body practice aimed at the integration of mind, body, and spirit. Its goals are to cultivate balance, calm, harmony, and awareness. In the classic yoga tradition, the objective of yoga is to transcend the ego-personality (Feuerstein, 2011, pp. 1). Yoga Based Practices include a range of integrative mind-body exercises like Asanas (involving stretching, balance, bodily alignment, and relaxation), Pranayama (breathing practices) and Dhyan (mind stilling and focus). In the present study, we focus speciﬁcally on Pranayam (Breathing techniques) and Dhyan (Mind stilling or meditation). These are the most widely prevalent Yoga based practices at present among the beginners of Yoga (Cope, 1999).
A special health report by Harvard Medical School (Khalsa and Elson, 2016) summarizes a vast body of research on the physiological impacts of Yoga and their plausible psychological benefits. The report suggests that yoga (1) tamps down stress and related sympathetic activation, (2) increases vagal tone and parasympathetic responses related to calming and resilience and (3) reduces chronic inflammation associated with a range of harmful effects, including the development of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. Yoga practices including yoga postures (Manjunath and Telles, 2003), yoga breathing (Raghuraj et al., 1998) and meditation (Telles et al., 2013) have been shown to result in a calming and energizing effect by changing the Heart Rate Variability (HRV), an indicator of autonomic balance.
Yoga and Subjective Vitality
Subjective vitality is a self-reported feeling of aliveness and the energy available to the self, and is reflected in the experience of a sense of enthusiasm and activated positive affect. Subjective vitality is positively toned and represent energy that one can harness for purposive actions unlike other forms of activation such as anger, anxiety, or arousal (Ryan and Frederick, 1997; Watson and Tellegen, 1985).
Ryan and Frederick (1997) compared the notion of subjective vitality with Chinese concept of Chi to the yogic concept of Prana and pointed out that eastern traditions have link vitality to mental, physical, and spiritual health and viewed it as something that can be actively cultivated. Yoga Based Practices (YBPs) are found to enhance the subjective feeling of energy that is linked to positive aspects such as vigour and enthusiasm (de Zavala, Lantos, & Bowden, 2017). However, to the best of our knowledge, there are only a few studies that discuss the impact of YBPs (mainly Pranayama and Dhyan) on the subjective vitality of young, adult, and healthy participants, which we aim to present in this article.
Strijk et al. (2012) recommend introducing YBPs along with workouts to improve the vitality of older workers. Yoga-based practices have a preventive impact on depression, stress, anxiety and anxiety-related disorders, and a positive impact on mental health, well-being, and the overall quality of life (e.g. Bussing et al., 2012; Hagen and Nayar, 2014; Woodyard, 2011). There is evidence that Yoga increases mindfulness (Conboy, Wilson, & Braun, 2010; Shelov, Suchday, & Friedberg, 2009). Allen and Kiburz (2011) reported the positive association between mindfulness and vitality, which in turn, mediated the Yoga and work-family balance. Luu and Hall (2016) reported that YBPs improved executive function and mood, where mood benefits were visible immediately while cognitive benefits appeared after a lag.
H1: Yoga-based practices have a positive impact on subjective vitality in a healthy adult population.
Yoga and Self-Transcendence
Self-transcendence (ST) generally refers to the awareness of being an integral part of nature and the universe at large or the experience of cosmic unity (Johnstone et. al. 2016). Self-transcendent is reported to associate with greater awareness of the self and of the environment (Reed, 2008).
YBP increase bodily awareness and particularly enhances the perception of one’s body in space (Yardi, 2001, David et al., 2014). Enhanced body representations and meditative practices are likely to trigger the experience of self-transcendence and wellbeing (Macdonald and Friedman, 2009, Urgesi et al., 2010; Crescentini et al., 2014). In fact, one of the aims of Yoga is to transcend superficial self-reflecting identity to attain the liberation of the true self where separation between subject and object, self and nonself, is broken down (Johnstone et. al, 2016, Pandey and Navare, 2018).
Bussing et al. (2012) adopted a within-subject design, in which Yoga practitioners were enrolled in an intense training to become Yoga teachers. The results showed an increase of ST in yoga practitioners after six months of intensive training. However, self-transcendence was already higher in yoga practitioners than in the reference control population before the training. Fiori, David, and Aglioti (2014) demonstrated that long and medium term Yoga practitioners show the tendency and capacity of self-transcendent more than novices. Gard et al (2014) indicated so and in best of our knowledge, since their observation there is no study that examines the impact of YBP training amongst the healthy youth and novice subjects. Hence, we hypothesis and aim to examine that:
H2: Yoga-based practices have a positive impact on self-transcendence in a healthy adult population.
Subjective Vitality and Psychological Capital
Psychological capital, or ‘PsyCap’, is an individual’s positive psychological state characterized by (1) having confidence (efficacy) to take on and put in the necessary effort to succeed at challenging tasks, (2) making a positive attribution (optimism) about succeeding now and in the future, (3) persevering towards goals and, when necessary, redirecting paths to goals (hope) in order to succeed, and (4) when beset by problems and adversity, sustaining and bouncing back (resiliency) to attain success (Luthans, Morgan & Avolio, 2015, pp. 2). Extant literature has attempted to highlight the antecedents and consequences of PsyCap, by specifically focussing on the utility of PsyCap in organizational life (e.g. Luthans, 2007, Bakker, & Schaufeli, , 2008) and personal life (Avey et al., 2010). Avey (2014) investigated three categories of antecedents to PsyCap: demographics (e.g., age, gender, and tenure), individual differences (e.g., self-esteem and proactive personality), and contextual factors (e.g., leadership roles and job design) and found the strongest support for individual differences.
Subjective vitality is robustly associated with both behavioural and objective health outcomes. It has been linked to specific configurations of brain activation and positive response mechanisms (e.g., Barrett, Della-Maggiore, Chouinard & Paus, 2004; Rozanski, Blumenthal, Davidson, Saab, & Kubzansky, 2005). Vitality corresponds to the experience of oneself as a potential “origin” of action (deCharms, 1968). Greater subjective vitality should also accompany the experience of autonomy and integration (Deci and Ryan, 2000), and self-actualization and perception of oneself as a “fully functioning” person (Roger, 1961; Sheldon and Kasser, 1995).
Ryan and Fredrick (1997) mentioned and examined the variables which are now part of PsyCap at different stages of their conceptual and empirical research on subjective vitality. They mention the work of Selye (1956) on the theory of stress wherein she proposes the role of vitality as a principal factor in resilience. Later in the article, Ryan and Fredrick (1997) mention the need for examining the role of subjective vitality on resilience in longitudinal research. In order to validate the construct, they propose and examine the negative association of subjective vitality and anxiety, and worry, and its positive association with health and efficacy. They demonstrate the covariance of subjective vitality with both physical and psychological aspects. In light of these observations and findings we hypothesize that:
H3: Subjective vitality has a positive association with psychological capital in healthy adult participants.
Self-Transcendence and Psychological Capital
Self-transcendence encompasses both psychological (relating to others and self) and spiritual (having a sense of meaning, acceptance, and living fully in the present) aspects (Reed, 2009). Self-transcendence is referred to as wisdom in contemplative traditions (Curnow, 1999; Levenson et al., 2005). ST develops through purposive practices such as meditation. The process meditation changes and stabilizes the thought processes and emotions, and helps in lowering anxiety and excitability (Miller, Fletcher, & Kabat-Zinn, 1995). It is likely that self-transcendence has protective mental health effects. Haase et al. (1992, pp. 145) enumerated the outcomes of self-transcendence as a sense of well-being, enhanced feelings of self-worth; a greater sense of connectedness with others, nature, and God; personal growth; finding purpose and meaning in life; and a sense of being healed. Higher levels of self-transcendence have shown a positive association with energy, dedication to, and absorption in work amongst the nurses/nursing population. Self-transcendence is reported to have a negative relation to depression. In the series of studies, Coward (1996, 1998, 2000) reported that Self-transcendence is correlated with hope, emotional well-being, and a sense of coherence in both healthy adults and people with serious illnesses. ST is related to higher psycho-spiritual functioning, and offers potential buffers for an individual’s reactions to stressful life experiences (Haugan, Moksnes, & Løhre, 2016).
Self-transcendence is associated with selflessness in across diverse religions that may increase feelings of connection with a higher power, nature, or the cosmos, as well as promote health and wellness. (Johnstone et al. 2016). Naturally, transcendence from self-focused needs may also increase the positive social behaviours and loving-kindness.
Research indicates that positive social behaviours induce positive alterations in the brain and in behaviours that promote resilience (Champagne and Curley, 2008). Psychosocial factors, such as decreased levels of denial and avoidant-coping behaviour, increased levels of social engagement, positive emotion, and dispositional optimism have all been shown to promote resilience (Feder et al., 2009).
Piedmont and Wilkins (2005) considered spirituality as an important input to psychological health and transcendence as having important implications for psychological stability.
Based on the above research, which indicates the association of self-transcendence with different variables of PsyCap like hope, resilience, efficacy, and quality of life in general, we hypothesize that:
H4: Self-transcendence is positively associated with psychological capital.
Psychological Capital and Altruism
Psychological capital is a composite construct consisting of four dimensions – confidence (efficacy), hope, optimism, and resilience (Luthan et al., 2004). Scholars have also explored the predictive power of PsyCap (see, for example, Larsen and Luthans, 2006; Avey et al., 2010) with other outcomes. The construct, especially the first three dimensions can be posited to enhance altruistic behaviour in an individual. Altruistic behaviour refers to helping others in accomplishing others’ goals. While there has been no study that attempts to link PsyCap with altruism, we draw upon the literature that connects PsyCap with Organizational Citizenship Behaviours (OCBs) to put forth our arguments (Beal, Stavros, & Cole, 2013). OCBs refer to the prosocial behaviours that promote the good of the organization by exhibiting behaviours such as providing help to colleagues, and helping other employees accomplish their tasks or projects (Organ and Ryan, 1995; Podsakoff, MacKenzie, & Hui, 1993). Scholars have emphasized the voluntary nature of OCB to distinguish it from performance (Borman & Motowidlo, 1997). Several studies have demonstrated that higher PsyCap can enhance pro-social behaviour in organizations in the form of OCBs (see, for example, Shahnawaz and Jafri, 2009; Avey, Wernsing & Luthans 2008; Wenyu Su 2004). Extending the argument we posit that:
H5: PsyCap has a positive relationship with altruism towards colleagues.
Self-Transcendence and Altruism
In the tradition of Yoga, ethical conduct is based on the conception of oneness that naturally result in universal love and compassion for all living beings. Self-transcendence is intricately linked to selflessness, dissolution of distinctions between self and other, and are associated with prosociality (Vego and Silbersweig, 2012, Johnston, 2016). Self-transcendence facilitates furthering a cause beyond the self and allowing the practitioner to experience a communion beyond the boundaries of the self. Altruism, defined as general helping behaviour and a general philosophy of helping others, entails communion beyond the boundaries of the self (Koltko-Rivera, 2006). Hence, we hypothesize that:
H6: Self-transcendence has a positive association with altruism in healthy adult participants.
The research was carried out in three phases. In phase 1, we conducted a cross-sectional survey to test the hypothesis explicating relationships between subjective vitality, self-transcendence, psychological capital, and altruistic behaviour. In phase 2, we conducted an experimental study to examine the impact of YBP on the subjective vitality and self-transcendence towards the end of eight weeks of YBP. In phase 3, we conducted repeated assessment after three months of the intervention.
Phase 1: Participants, Procedure and Findings
We followed the purposive sampling method and sampled the working professionals enrolled for the post graduate program in management in two premier business schools from the western and southern parts of India in 2016-17. We used the online survey method for the data collection. Subjective vitality, self-transcendence, and altruism were measured in the self-report format. Psychological capital was measured in a self and peer assessed format, i.e., in the groups of six, five participants reported the PsyCap for one participant and this procedure was used for all the six members of all the groups.
We followed the recommendations of Podsakoff et al. (2003) of separating antecedents from outcomes in the survey, thus, ensuring anonymity and confidentiality of responses. Of the 320 surveys distributed, 276 (approximately 86%; women:17%, average age: 23.4 years) completed surveys were returned.
All the measures used have been previously validated in published research.
Subjective vitality was measured by using the scale developed by Ryan and Frederick (1997). Sample items were, “I feel alive and vital” and “I nearly always feel awake and alert.” The alpha reliability coefﬁcient was 0.75.
Self-transcendence was measured using the self-transcendence scale developed by Levenson et al. (2005). Sample items were, “I feel that my individual life is a part of a greater whole” and “I feel much more compassionate, even towards my enemies.” The alpha reliability coefﬁcient was 0.77.
Psychological capital was measured using the shorter version (12 items) Psychological Capital Questionnaire developed by Luthans, and Avolio et al. (2007) and Luthans, Youssef, & Avolio (2007). The sample items were, “This person is confident of presenting his information/ work output to a group of colleagues” (efficacy) and “This person always looks on the bright side of things regarding his/her study/career” (Optimism). We adapted the items to focus on the MBA course-related work. The alpha reliability coefﬁcient was 0.84.
Altruism was measured using the helping behaviour and helping intentions scales of Schwartz et al. (2012). The sample items were, “I try to help others even if they do not help me” and ‘I have allowed someone to go ahead of me in line.” The alpha reliability coefﬁcient was 0.75.
Findings of Phase 1:
Following Anderson and Gerbing (1988), we first conducted a confirmatory factor analysis to test the adequacy of the measurement model and, subsequently, examined the structural equation model. We used the SPSS version 21 and AMOS version 21 for the data analysis. To check the robustness of the measurement model, we performed a Confirmatory Factor Analysis of scales. We found that scales of self-transcendence with one factor (CMIN/DF = 1.621, CFI = 0.935, RMSEA = 0.048), psychological capital with four factors of efficiency, hope, resilience and optimism (CMIN/DF = 2.841, CFI = 0.877, RMSEA = 0.08), subjective vitality with one factor (CMIN/DF = 1.539, CFI = 0.992, RMSEA = 0.044), and altruism with two factors of helping orientation and general helping behaviour (CMIN/DF = 1.427, CFI = 0.968, RMSEA = 0.040) were found reliable.
We first tested adequacy of our proposed measurement model consisting of 4 factors. It showed acceptable fit (CMIN/DF = 1.643, CFI = 0.870, RMSEA = 0.049). Then we checked the other alternative models. In the first alternative model, we combined the independent variables self-transcendence and subjective vitality. The model fit got worse (CMIN/DF = 2.079, CFI = 0.781, RMSEA = 0.063). Then we combined the mediator psychological capital and the outcome variable altruism. The fit indices were again found to be worse than the hypothesized model (CMIN/DF =1.873, CFI = 0.823, RMSEA = .057). Finally, we combined the independent variables self-transcendence, subjective vitality and mediator psychological capital. The fit indices were found to worsen further (CMIN/DF = 2.756, CFI = 0.641, RMSEA = 0.080).
Having established an adequate fit of our measurement model, and by eliminating the other possible alternate models, we tested our mediation hypotheses using an SPSS macro named PROCESS (Hayes, 2013).
Subjective vitality was found to be positively related to psychological capital (β = 0.226, t = 5.176, p < .001) and psychological capital to altruism (β = 0.183, t = 4.700, p < .001). These findings substantiated H3 and H5. Subjective vitality was also found to be positively related to altruism (β = 0.159, t = 5.464, p < .001Besides, it also influenced altruism through psychological capital (β = 0.118, t = 4.700, p < .001). The results revealed the partial meditation effect of subjective vitality on altruism. We tested impact of self-transcendence on altruism with the mediation effect of psychological capital. Self-transcendence was found to be positively related to psychological capital (β = 0.278, t = 3.599, p < .001). This finding supported H4. However, it was found that self-transcendence does not influence altruism (β = 0.047, t = 0.886, p = .377). In the presence of mediator psychological capital, direct effect of self-transcendence on altruism was found to be non-significant (β = -0.18, t = -0.352, p = .725) confirming full mediation effect of psychological capital on altruism.
To test the significance of indirect effect, we used both the Sobel (1982) and a bias-corrected bootstrapped test with 5000 replications to construct a confidence interval (Preacher & Hayes, 2008). The results confirmed that psychological capital played a mediation role in subjective vitality to altruism (z = 3.442, p < .001) and self-transcendence to altruism relationship (z = 3.048, p < .01). Bootstrapping results showed that the indirect effect of subjective vitality on altruism via psychological capital (β = 0.041, bootstrap bias-corrected 95%CI [0.021 - 0.072]), and self-transcendence on altruism via psychological capital (β = 0.065, bootstrap bias-corrected 95% CI [0.026 - 0.117]), was supported.
Phase 2: Experimental Study: Participants, Procedure and Findings
Phase 2 of the study was designed as randomised controlled longitudinal experiment involving students of the Master of Management (MMgt) enrolled in an eight-week long course on ‘self-management’. Participants (N=109) were MBA students at a top-tier university in India who participated in the study for partial course credit. All participants were enrolled in one of the two sections of a self-management course, both of which were taught on the same days. The sessions of the course were on Time Management, Emotional Intelligence, Personal Vision and Mission, Building and Leading Teams and Creativity and Design Thinking. The conceptual rubric of the course design and discussion was the Panch-Kosh model, a model of human self that is widely recognized in the Indian society and in the literature on traditional Indian wisdom. The participants in the randomly selected experimental group were given a choice of either participate in Yoga-Based Training or Training in Music (vocal or instrumental) . Participants could make their choice upfront or after attending a 2-hour introductory session of each training. A total of 40 participants attended the two-hour introductory and experiential session on Yoga which covered basic philosophy, approach, and introduction to eight limbs of Yoga. When asked about the reason of their choice, participants shared the following reasons: curiosity for Yoga, particularly after United Nations proclaimed June 21as the International Day of Yoga, parental influence, some students practiced in their childhood, and the desire to reconnect with Yoga practice. Finally, 56 participants received training on Yoga-Based Training (YBT) as an experimental condition. We used the partial Yoga protocol approach in which participants trained in 30-minute sessions, twice weekly. The participants were encouraged to follow the practices every day in their hostels.
This experimental procedure has certain favourable properties. First, participants did not sign up specifically for Yoga training, as the sections were randomly assigned into conditions. This eliminated the risks of pre-existing between-group differences due to specific interest in Yoga or mindfulness. Second, the control group was not entirely passive, as all participants received course assignments, exercises, and readings related to the topic of self-management including time management, emotional intelligence, character strengths, creative thinking, and teamwork. This helped mitigate some confounds produced by passive controls, such as waitlists, in which conditions differed not only in their Yoga practice, but also in the level of social interactions and other factors (Goyal et al., 2014). Third, the course setting ensured a higher degree of consistency in work tasks across various participants than would otherwise be possible outside of a controlled laboratory environment.
Researchers are cautioned against using students’ data for social science research because magnitudes and pattern of effect size may differ in students and non-student samples (Paterson, 2001; Sears, 1986), which might pose a threat to the external validity of the findings. However, we conducted our study on students for several reasons. Researchers have pointed out that the use of student data in general ensures more homogeneity, less noise and extraneous variability, and that the data is less prone to non-response bias (Paterson, 2001; Druckman and Kam, 2009, Highhouse and Gillespie, 2009). These conditions are particularly important in the theory-building phase of research. Moreover, the present study is centred on exploring the theoretical underpinnings of the impact of YBPs on subjective vitality and self-transcendence and their impact on altruistic behaviour with mediating effect of psychological capital. Several studies have proposed relationships amongst the above variables based on the findings with non-students respondents. We argue that there are no reasons to justify that these theoretical underpinnings will differ in the student and non-students samples.
Participants received training in the process of Ashtang Yoga. The process consists of unfreezing through reverberation, Upa-yoga (preparatory movements for Yoga; Upa meaning ‘sub’ or preceding in Sanskrit), breathing techniques known as Pranayam and Dhyan or meditation. Unfreezing through reverberation of the whole body helps the participants to disassociate with the ongoing stream of thoughts and concerns. Pranayam includes deep breathing (Bharstika), high-frequency yoga breathing (HFYB; Kapal Bhati ) and alternate breathing (Anulom Vilom ), and humming (Bhramari ), which has an energizing effect and, at the same time, brings about relaxation and prepares the participants for body scan and sitting meditation. In the present study, Samatha meditation was taught to the subjects. It included ‘Body Scan’, a progressive movement of attention through the body from the toes to the head observing any sensations in the different regions of the body, and ‘Sitting Meditation’ involving awareness of body sensations, thoughts, and emotions while continually returning the focus of attention to the breath . The choice of Samstha meditation is based on the fact that (1) it is a kind of ‘attention meditation’ that helps in controlling the fluctuation of the mind and (2) there is no prerequisite on subscribing to any particular belief system (Awasthi, 2013; Nash and Newberg 2013). The YBP was taught and conducted by an expert who is a trained teacher and instructor in Yoga and has been practicing it for more than 20 years.
All the data were collected online after taking due consent from the participants and with ethical clearance following institutional procedure. We followed the recommendation of Podsakoff et al. (2003) of separating antecedents from outcomes in the survey, ensuring the anonymity and confidentiality of responses. Groups of six students each were formed in the beginning of the course. Individual and group assignments formed part of the course. The group assignments were to be submitted by the respective groups. Subjective vitality, self-transcendence, and altruism were measured in the self-report format. Psychological capital was measured in a peer assessed format, i.e., in the groups of six, five participants reported the PsyCap for one participant and this procedure was used for all the six members of all the groups. The average score of the PsyCap questionnaire was taken from five peers for each participant. The measures of the assessment were the same as used in Phase 1 of the study.
Findings in Phase 2
A longitudinal experimental design was used to test hypothesis 1 and 2. Data from the experimental study were analyzed with SPSS version 21. One-way repeated measures analysis of variance (ANOVA) was used to examine the changes in the measures of moral reasoning, mindfulness, compassion, and egocentric bias after the mindfulness intervention. For all analyses, effect size estimates are reported as partial eta squared. The ANOVA results show that the overall model displayed good fit (Pillai Trace: 0.429; Wilk’s Lambda: 0.571; Hotelling’s Trance: 0.751; Roy’s Largest Root: 0.751) with F1, 53 = 12.268, p < 0.001, ƞp2 = 0.43.
One-way repeated measures ANOVA revealed significant positive changes from the baseline to the post-YBP intervention in an experiment group on subjective vitality (F1, 53 =34.236, p < .001, ƞp2 = 0.25), self-transcendence (F1, 53 = 10.049, p < .01, ƞp2 = 0.09), and psychological capital self-report (F1, 53 =21.897, p < .001, ƞp2 = 0.18) as well as other-report (F1, 53 = 23.097, p < .001, ƞp2 = 0.18). Similar effect is seen on altruism self-report (F1, 53 = 8.307, p < .001, ƞp2 = 0.08) and other report (F1, 53 = 27.458, p < .001, ƞp2 = 0.21). Amount of change in psychological capital and altruistic behavior was significantly more in the experiment group in comparison to the control group. No significant increase was found in subjective vitality (F1, 53 = 0.187, p = 0.67, ƞp2 = 0.00) and self-transcendence (F1, 53 = 2.319, p = 0.13, ƞp2 = 0.02) in control group. The actual score change is presented in Table 4a.
The above mentioned finding about the experimental study substantiates hypotheses 1 and 2 about the impact of YBP on subjective vitality and self-transcendence. We controlled for the cognitive complexity during the study. The cognitive complexity of the participants of both the groups remained unchanged after the end of the eight-week long study.
Phase 3: Longer-term Effects
We collected data again after the period of 4 months to measure longer-term effect of YBPs. It was found that approximately 75% participants of the experiment group continued to practice Yoga regularly. One-way repeated ANOVA analysis showed significant differences in subjective vitality (F1, 53 = 5.280, p < .05, ƞp2 = 0.05) and self-transcendence (F1, 53 = 4.809, p < .05, ƞp2 = 0.06) between the experiment and control group participants. Thus, we found that the effect of YBPs on subjective vitality and self-transcendence was sustained after 4 months. Descriptive statistics of psychological measures is given in Table 4b.
Advances in neuroscience have attempted to explore and have made significant progress in highlighting the neurochemistry, focal areas, and the pathways pathological states such as depression, schizophrenia, obsessive compulsive disorders, and anxiety neurosis. However, the focus on positive states such as well-being, satisfaction, etc., has been historically, and surprisingly, missing (LeDoux & Armony, 1999; Seligman and Csikszentmihalyi 2014). Moving from the unilateral focus on pathology, the scholarship is recognizing the importance of positive psychology (Seligman and Csikszentmihalyi, 2014: 5). Gard et. al (2014) call for the Yoga research to elaborate on specific process, tools and outcomes that improve the efficiency and adaptive nature of habitual forms of cognition, emotion, and behavior across systems. They also call for studies that go beyond cross-sectional designs (e.g., novice vs. long-term practitioners) and focus on longitudinal designs with appropriate active control. By examining the positive psychological processes through longitudinal study and active control design our study is a response to their call for yoga research.
We attempt to address two important gaps in the nascent positive psychology literature - about the techniques and interventions that can enhance positive psychology and about understanding of the linkages between interventions, positive psychology, and behaviour (Seligman and Csikszentmihalyi 2014; Seligman, Schulman, DeRubeis, & Hollon, 1999). We demonstrated in the first phase of research that subjective vitality and self-transcendence enhance positive psychological aspects like psychological capital which further impacts the altruistic behaviour. A longitudinal experimental study with randomized control conducted in the second phase of research demonstrated that YBPs enhance subjective vitality and self-transcendence. The third phase of the study further established the impact of YBPs on the subjective vitality and self-transcendence and sustenance of the psychological capital and altruistic behaviour in the long-term. Thus, we presented a schema of how YBPs can affect positive psychology. Further, the paper highlights the mechanism of the effect of YBPs on individual psychology (PsyCap) as well as behaviour (altruism). Thus, we contribute to the conversation about intersection between YBPs and individual’s psyche and behaviour (Lazar et al 2000; Streeter et al., 2007).
The course for both the groups involved training in techniques for better time management, emotional intelligence, personal growth, team work, and creativity and innovation. The dominant pedagogy was experiential learning methods. Hence, we expected an increase in psychological capital and altruistic behaviour in both the groups. Findings of phase 2 substantiated the expectation. However, the significantly higher rise in psychological capital and altruistic behaviour in the experiment group along with subjective vitality and self-transcendence indicate the specific impact of YBPs. Longer-term impact of YBPs on subjective vitality and self-transcendence is evident in the findings of phase 3. Though the peer reported scores of PsyCap and altruistic behaviour dropped slightly in the third phase. One possible explanation why subjective vitality and self-transcendence kept rising in the longer-term and falling in the other reported PsyCap and altruistic behaviour may lie in the confounding impact of the course work on PsyCap and altruistic behaviour. Since about 75% participants of the experiment group continued, the YBPs there were a rise in subjective vitality and self-transcendence in phase 3. The course also was probably impacting the PsyCap and altruistic behaviour, which was over along with experiment phase 2 and, hence, the slight decrease in the scores of PsyCap and altruistic behaviour were observed in both the groups. Another explanation can be in the nature of the relationship between SV and ST on PsyCap and altruism. The long-term association may not be linear in these variables.
The study has significant implications for practice, specifically management education for students and managers. The study establishes the positive impact of YBP on subjective vitality and self-transcendence. Subjective vitality enhances subjective well-being (Ryne and Deci, 2000), self-control (Muraven et al., 2008) and creativity (Chen and Sengupta, 2014). Self-transcendence also enhances positive psychological aspects (Maynard, et. al., 2015, Osler, 2016), for example, coping (Baldacchino and Draper, 2001), adjustment (e.g. Cole and McNulty, 2011), moral temperament (e.g. Menesini et. al., 2013), meaning and well-being (Wong, 2016). These aspects can have a positive spillover effect in family, organization, and societal domains. The findings about the impact of YBPs on subjective vitality and self-transcendence were further strengthened by the longer-term assessment carried out in phase 3 of the study.
PsyCap has been shown to have beneficial effects like decreasing burn-out, enhancing quality of service (Leon-Perez, Antino, & Leon-Rubio, 2016) and happiness (Williams, Kern, & Waters, 2017) (See Luthans et al., 2015 for more comprehensive review of the consequents of PsyCap). Our study extends the literature on PsyCap by identifying and examining the antecedent of PsyCap in the form of subjective vitality and self-transcendence. Responding to the call of Newman et. al. (2014) our study examines the antecedents of the PsyCap. Our research also responds to the call of Weng et al. (2013) by examining the antecedents of altruistic behaviour in the form of psychological capital and self-transcendence. Weng et al. (2013) demonstrated that compassion training increased altruistic behaviour and this was accompanied by associated activation of specific neural pathways. In this paper, we extend the literature by showing that YBPs can result in the holistic enhancement of positive psychological aspects and this can result in increased altruistic behaviour.
The present research has significant implications for leadership development. Traditional leadership development has emphasized behavioural adaptation and the acquisition of competencies, focusing solely on tangibles and largely ignoring the not-so-observable internal and/or psychological aspects, such as personal life experiences, emotions, or mind-sets. In the light of this limitation of the competency-based approach to leadership development, Ruderman, Clerkin, and Connolly (2014) recommend adopting a broader view of leadership development that emphasizes contemplative practices like mindfulness. The present study substantiates the proposition of Ruderman et al. (2014) by demonstrating that YBPs result in a mental state like self-transcendence, subjective vitality, and psychological capital which have positive impact on a wide range of dispositions which affect the leadership effectiveness.
The findings of the study can be useful to policy makers for incorporating YBPs as a part of educational and competence building programs imparted to the youth.
Limitations of the Study and Directions for Future Research
We present the limitations of the present study, which also indicate the scope for future research. Grant (2007, 2013) has shown that self-transcendence can lead to greater persistence while engaging in repetitive and uninteresting tasks at work. Yeager (2014) extended this by examining situations in which a person was involved in tasks that have no immediate payoff but may prepare one to make a contribution in the future. Yeager (2014) found that a self-transcendent purpose for learning could alter a person’s self-regulation in such circumstances. However, in the present research, we consider self-transcendence as an experiential outcome rather than a conscious cognitive input. Future research studies can examine the differential and synergistic impact of YBPs and self-transcendence on other positive psychological outcomes like positive emotions, engagement, and relationship etc.
The present research is limited by having studied only one type of YBPs, whereas Yoga has many sub-branches (see Feuerstein, 2011, pp. 36) with nuanced protocols emphasizing different components. The possibility of differences in YBPs resulting in different kinds of benefits and outcomes cannot be denied. Future studies can give an account of the differential impact of different YBPs on similar and different psychological outcomes on the subjects of differing personalities and temperament.
We have presented the findings of the impact of YBPs on positive psychological outcomes that are closer to the aspects of personal well-being. However, Yoga also recognizes that we can never be completely satisfied with life until we have found the source of happiness beyond pleasure and pain. At the core of Yoga is the realization of the transcendental reality. There are higher practices of concentration, meditation, and unitive ecstasy beyond postures and breath control. Empirical studies based on the logical positivist approach may not be suitable to examine the nature and impact of the higher practices of Yoga. Contemporary ideals of ‘science’ require the rejection of indeterminate, objectivity, impersonal-ness and the use of deductive methods of inquiry. Research in the field of positive psychology also aspires to imbibe these characteristics for new knowledge creation in the field. However, many of these ideals of science may not apply to study the higher practices of Yoga, which are aimed at realizing the transcendental reality. This realm of human experience is subjective and personal in nature, can be studied in first personal account and the outcome or behavioural manifestations may then be varied in different practitioners (Bhawuk, 2010). That may be the point of bifurcation of YBPs and positive psychology research or that may be the point where positive psychology and Yoga may enlighten and enrich each other, methodologically, empirically, and conceptually. Nevertheless, that may be a fruitful area of research in future.
The present study is limited in terms of the mediating variables it covers on the impact of YBPs on different positive psychological outcomes. Hagen and Nayar (2014) proposed variables like emotional balance, self-confidence, feeling of well-being, self-regulation, and respect for peers as the consequents of YBPs. Future studies may consider these variables as well to decipher the impact of YBPs on psychological outcomes and on demonstrable behaviour.
While we attempted a longitudinal study by assessing the effect of YBPs on positive psychological constructs over two months and then after five months we acknowledge that significant changes in psychological states may take a longer time to mature. Future researchers can conduct studies over longer periods to assess the effect of YBPs. Such studies would be extremely opportune in illuminating the evolution of positive psychological aspects with YBPs.
Extant literature links happiness with energy (e.g. Csikszentmihalyi and Hunter, 2003; Peterson, Ruch, Beermann, Park, & Seligman, 2007; Gailliot, 2012) Happiness has been found to predict future success (e.g., in marriage, friendship, wealth, work, and health by Lyubomirsky, King, & Diener, 2005). Our study demonstrates that YBP can create or sustain the positive energy surplus and be concomitant with happiness. Future research may be aimed at presenting a more nuanced picture of YBPs and happiness and how this association is affected by contextual and agentic factors.
Yoga research has been dominated by research in the medical science domain (Balasubramaniam, 2013). However, there is also a need to reveal the nature and type of impact of Yoga practice from a psychological perspective. We report a relationship between the YBPs on subjective vitality and self-transcendence in healthy young adult graduate students in management we aimed to address this gap with our study. Further, we demonstrate that high levels of subjective vitality and self-transcendence may enhance the psychological capital which, in turn, results in higher altruism. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first study to explore the mechanism of the effect of YBPs on positive psychological states and behaviour. The study, thus, contributes to the theory by exploring linkages between the literatures on YBPs and positive psychology. Moreover, the findings have significant implications for personal well-being and leadership development.