A brand new study – came out yesterday from the University of Rochester – suggests that people who have a stronger sense of control over their lives (or what’s called an “internalized locus of control”) are better able to deal with the external stress of their lives like their financial situation, work (or lack of work), difficult living situations, and the pressures of racism, sexism, ageism etc.  

This is really important when we look at a public health perspective of the application of yoga. Yoga helps people to gain a better sense of control over their lives. And to understand that this sense of control arises from deep within themselves – from their spiritual source or from a greater sense of connection to their higher power. Since we know that this sense of control mediates stress and we know that stress is behind just about every major health issue, having a deeper sense of control correlates with better health outcomes. 

Some other research on how spiritual practices and religiosity affect health (including mental health) – for example the work of Harold Koenig at Duke University – highlight that people with a stronger sense of spirituality have better health outcomes.

So when we take these studies together – they provide a very strong case for the implementation of yoga as a public health strategy.

The work of Aaron Antonovsky, who was a professor of medical sociology at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, further shores up the argument. Antonovsky developed the theory of “sense of coherence.” According to Antonovsky, “What determines whether a stressor will cause you harm is whether or not the stress violates your sense of coherence.”

Coherence means:

  1. Comprehensibility – a belief that things happen in an orderly and predictable fashion and a sense that you can understand events in your life and reasonably predict what will happen I the future.
  2. Manageability – a belief that you have the skills or ability, the support, the help, or the resources necessary to take care of things, and that things are manageable and within your control.
  3. Meaningfulness – a belief that things in life are interesting and a source of satisfaction, that things are really worthwhile and that there is a good reason or purpose to care about what happens.

According to Antonovsky, meaningfulness is the most important in coherence. Meaningfulness of course  is central to a yogic philosophy and worldview.

If your life is meaningful, you will be less stressed, happier and healthier. The research continues to support the idea that yoga should be implemented as an essential component of integrative care and a powerful tool for improving public health outcomes.


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