Yoga practitioners’ emotion regulation, mindfulness, and empathetic ability
The objective of this study is to determine whether the practice of yoga is associated with enhanced emotion regulation and empathy, and if the relationship between these variables is mediated by mindfulness. It was hypothesized that the participants with more yoga experience will show more skillful emotion regulation, more mindfulness, and higher empathetic ability. The relationship of exercise experience to the dependent variables was also examined to evaluate if it differed from the relationship of yoga experience to the dependent variables. It was also hypothesized that mindfulness mediates the effect of yoga experience on the other variables. The study sampled both a college students (n =185) and individuals in the community (n =81) with a range of yoga experience, from no experience to experts. Yoga experience was measured with three independent variables in the community sample, including lifetime number of hours of yoga, frequency of yoga practice, and importance of yoga practice. In the college student sample, individuals who practiced yoga were compared to those who had never practiced yoga in a dichotomous independent variable. The Godin Leisure-Time Exercise Questionnaire (GLTEQ; Godin & Shepard, 1985), Five Factor Mindfulness Measure (FFMQ; Baer, Smith, Hopkins, Krietemeyer, & Toney, 2006), the Difficulties in Emotion Regulation Scale (DERS; Gratz & Roemer, 2004), Emotion Regulation Questionnaire (ERQ; Gross & John, 2003), and Interpersonal Reactivity Index (IRI; Davis, 1980) were used to assess the study constructs. Preliminary analyses were conducted to examine the relationship of demographic variables (age, gender, ethnicity/race, religion, religious attendance, income, education, and relationship status) with the dependent variables, and demographic variables that were found to be significantly related to dependent variables were controlled for in the primary analyses. The hypotheses were analyzed using hierarchical regression, simple regression, and mediation. The study hypotheses were partially supported by the study findings. In the community sample, those with more yoga experience exhibited increased mindfulness, improved emotion regulation, and higher perspective taking. Mindfulness was found to mediate the relationship between yoga experience and suppression and the relationship between yoga experience and reappraisal. The results of the college student sample yielded non-significant findings. The implications of the study findings are discussed.