Evaluation of the benefits of a kripalu yoga program for police academy trainees: a pilot study.
ABSTRACT Background: Law enforcement ranks as one of the most stressful occupations in the world. Yoga is a mind-body practice composed of postures, breathing, and meditation techniques, and is known for its beneficial effects on stress and mood disturbance. Objectives: This pilot study evaluated the effects of Kripalu yoga on perceived stress, mood, and mindfulness during police academy training. Method: Forty-two recruits participated in a 6-class yoga intervention. Participants completed the Profile of Mood States-Short Form, Perceived Stress Scale, and the Five Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire prior to and immediately following completion of the yoga program, as well as an exit survey. Results: Paired samples t-tests revealed significant postintervention changes in perceived stress and mood, reductions in tension and fatigue, and a trend toward reduced anger. Changes in mindfulness were not detected. The exit survey indicated perceived benefits of yoga for some participants. Conclusions: This preliminary study suggests that yoga may be beneficial for reducing stress, tension, and fatigue among police academy trainees. Future longitudinal randomized controlled trials are needed to evaluate its full potential as a permanent component of police academy training.
- [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
ABSTRACT: Abstract Objective: A systematic review was done of the evidence on yoga for improving balance. Design: Relevant articles and reviews were identified in major databases (PubMed, MEDLINE(®), IndMed, Web of Knowledge, EMBASE, EBSCO, Science Direct, and Google Scholar), and their reference lists searched. Key search words were yoga, balance, proprioception, falling, fear of falling, and falls. Included studies were peer-reviewed articles published in English before June 2012, using healthy populations. All yoga styles and study designs were included. Two (2) raters individually rated study quality using the Downs & Black (DB) checklist. Final scores were achieved by consensus. Achievable scores ranged from 0 to 27. Effect size (ES) was calculated where possible. Results: Fifteen (15) of 152 studies (age range 10-93, n=688) met the inclusion criteria: 5 randomized controlled trials (RCTs), 4 quasi-experimental, 2 cross-sectional, and 4 single-group designs. DB scores ranged from 10 to 24 (RCTs), 14-19 (quasi-experimental), 6-12 (cross-sectional), and 11-20 (single group). Studies varied by yoga style, frequency of practice, and duration. Eleven (11) studies found positive results (p<0.05) on at least one balance outcome. ES ranged from -0.765 to 2.71 (for 8 studies) and was not associated with DB score. Conclusions: Yoga may have a beneficial effect on balance, but variable study design and poor reporting quality obscure the results. Balance as an outcome is underutilized, and more probing measures are needed.Journal of alternative and complementary medicine (New York, N.Y.) 02/2014; · 1.69 Impact Factor
- [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
ABSTRACT: A total of 40 secondary schoolteachers and support staff at the Bennington School in Vermont, a therapeutic school for children with behavioral problems, were randomly assigned to either practice of the Transcendental Meditation program or a wait-list control group. The Transcendental Meditation program was effective in reducing psychological distress in teachers and support staff working in a therapeutic school for students with behavioral problems.The Permanente journal 01/2014; 18(1):19-23.
Background: Law enforcement ranks as one of the most stress-
ful occupations in the world. Yoga is a mind–body practice
composed of postures, breathing, and meditation techniques,
and is known for its beneficial effects on stress and mood dis-
turbance. Objectives: This pilot study evaluated the effects of
Kripalu yoga on perceived stress, mood, and mindfulness dur-
ing police academy training. Method: Forty-two recruits par-
ticipated in a 6-class yoga intervention. Participants completed
the Profile of Mood States-Short Form, Perceived Stress Scale,
and the Five Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire prior to and
immediately following completion of the yoga program, as well
as an exit survey. Results:Paired samples t-tests revealed signif-
icant postintervention changes in perceived stress and mood,
reductions in tension and fatigue, and a trend toward reduced
anger. Changes in mindfulness were not detected. The exit sur-
vey indicated perceived benefits of yoga for some participants.
Conclusions: This preliminary study suggests that yoga may be
beneficial for reducing stress, tension, and fatigue among police
academy trainees. Future longitudinal randomized controlled
trials are needed to evaluate its full potential as a permanent
component of police academy training.
Key Words: police, recruit training, yoga, stress, mood,
Corresponding author: Pamela E. Jeter, PhD,
Law enforcement is a highly stressful profession (Violanti &
Aron, 1993). Police officers face occupational stressors ranging
from routine organizational or administrative duties to life-
threatening critical incidents (Brown & Campbell, 1990; Collins
& Gibbs, 2003; Gershon, Barocas, & Canton, 2009; Hickman,
Fricas, & Strom, 2011). Critical incidents are events that occur
in the line of duty and include death threats, injuries, shooting
incidents, and child deaths, all of which are likely to evoke
i nte nse emoti onal re sponses (Kita e ff, 2011). Routi ne work
demands account for greater levels of perceived chronic stress
among police officers than do acute stressors or critical inci-
dents (Brown & Campbell, 1990). The chronic stress experi-
enced by members of the law enforcement community is asso-
ciated with depression (Wang et al., 2010), cardiovascular dis-
ease (Brown & Campbell, 1990; Collins & Gibbs, 2003), inti-
mate partner abuse or hy pe r aggre ss i on (Ge rshon et al., 2009),
al c ohol addicti on and abuse (Kohan & O’Con nor, 2002;
Violanti, Marshall, & Howe, 1985), and suicide (McCafferty,
McCafferty, & McCafferty, 1992). Consequently, programs are
needed that help mitigate the effects of stress for law enforce-
T h is pil ot stu dy used a pre – po st design to exam i ne
whether participation in a Kripalu yoga program would reduce
stress, tension, and fatigue; improve mood; and increase mind-
fulness among trainees. We hypothesized that participants
would demonstrate pre- to postintervention reductions in per-
ceived stress and related symptoms and demonstrate improved
mood and increased mindful awareness immediately following
the yoga intervention.
Law Enforcement and Stress
Five domai ns of oc cupati onal stre ss have been identi fi ed that are
above and beyond tho se expe ri e nc ed du ri ng criti cal inc i d e nt s
( C r ank & Cal d e ro, 1991). They include inte r a cti ons within the
org an i z ati on, navi g ati ng the ju d i c ial system, the task envi ron-
me nt, pe rsonal or fam ily conc e rns, and deal i ng with city gove rn-
me nt (Crank & Cal d e ro, 1991). The mo st frequ e ntly cited sou rc e
of work stre ss involved relati onsh ips with supe ri or offi c e rs or
upper manage me nt, rotati ng sh i ft work and its impa ct on fam ily
and soc ial life, and limited opportu n ity for adv anc e me nt. The
task envi ron me nt was the sec ond - h i ghe st re ported sou rce of
stre ss. Ne g ative inte r a cti ons with citi z e ns and frustr ati on wh il e
d eal i ng with the ju d i c iary system we re also noted as sign i fi cant
sou rces of work - related te ns i on (Crank & Cal d e ro, 1991).
Police offi c e rs are fou nd to be 6 ti mes more psychol o gi cally
distressed from routine occupational stressors, such as admin-
istr ative, org an i z ati onal, and bu reau c r ati c - related activiti e s ,
than from acute eve nts or criti cal inc i d e nts (Brown &
Campbell, 1990; Collins & Gibbs, 2003; Violanti & Aron, 1993).
In a study of routine work stressors, frustration, and satisfaction
among police officers, Liberman and colleagues (2002) devel-
oped the 68-item Work Environment Inventory (WEI) based
on extant measures and conversations with law enforcement
pe rson nel and administr ators. Ite ms we re word ed as ge ne ri cally
as possible, with the exception of 15 items that used police-spe-
cific language. Respondents endorsed items such as I am not
paid enough for what I do and I am happy with the assignments
I receive. Items describing critical incidents were excluded. A
separate scale was developed to determine if critical incidents
are attributable to psychological distress.
The WEI was completed by 733 officers. The generic,
work-related, and police-specific items in the WEI were corre-
lated (r = 0.68), suggesting that some aspects of routine work
International Journal of Yoga Therapy — No. 23 (1) | 201324
Evaluation of the Benefits of a Kripalu Yoga Program for
Police Academy Trainees: A Pilot Study
Pamela E. Jeter, PhD,1Susan Cronin,2,3Sat Bir S. Khalsa, PhD4
1. Wilmer Eye Institute, Johns Hopkins University, 2. Massachusetts State Police 3. Westfield Yoga Center, 4. Brigham and Women’s Hospital,
Harvard Medical School
stress were similar to those found in other occupations and
were not related to stress from critical incidents. As corroborat-
ed by other reports (Brown & Campbell, 1990; Collins & Gibbs,
2003; Vi olanti & Aron, 1993), routi ne oc cupati onal stre ss
placed police officers at greater risk for psychological distress
independent of critical incidents and more than the cumulative
effect of critical incidents alone (Liberman et al., 2002). Those
who experienced greater perceived work stress were also at
greater risk for posttraumatic stress symptoms, such as emo-
tional avoidance, feelings of numbness, difficulty concentrat-
ing, or difficulty falling asleep, after experiencing a critical inci-
dent (Liberman et al., 2002) .
Stress itself is not necessarily harmful; however, the inabil-
ity to cope with day-to-day exposure to occupational stressors
places law enforcement personnel at risk for a number of nega-
tive outcomes. Very little training in positive coping strategies,
stress management, or resiliency enhancement is offered during
police academy recruit training (Executive Office of Public
Safety and Security, 2011). Basic training curricula include
modules such as problem solving, community policing, ethics
and integrity, emergency medical services, criminal law and
procedures, investigation, traffic enforcement, and firearms
training (Executive Office of Public Safety and Security, 2011).
Health and fitness training typically includes, but is not limited
to, running, weight training, and circuit training. In some cases,
police recruits are subjected to high-stress training that is
intended to develop strict discipline (Violanti, 1992; Violanti &
When assessed for their ability to cope with physical and
mental stressors during high-stress training, recruits reporting
greater stress were likely to rely on maladaptive coping strate-
gies, such as escape-avoidance and distancing (Violanti, 1993).
Some recruits reported “avoiding being around people in gen-
eral” and an increased use of alcohol and drugs to help them-
selves feel better. High levels of perceived work stress and neg-
ative or avoidant coping mechanisms were related to adverse
outcomes (e.g., depression, partner abuse) and are highly corre-
lated (Gershon et al., 2009). Police recruit training aimed at
improving coping and resilience might result in improved
health outcomes (Ranta, 2009; Ranta & Sud, 2008; Williams,
Ciarrochi, & Deane, 2010).
Exercise and fitness training is believed to counteract
police officer stress (Gerber, Kellmann, Hartmann, & Puehse,
2010). A survey of 852 officers in Australia suggested that law
enforcement personnel who work long hours tend to engage in
u nhealthy life style behavi ors and exe rc ise infrequ e ntly
(Richmond, Wodak, Kehoe, & Heather, 1998). Police officers
may be less fit than half of all U.S. citizens, even though fitness
is a job prerequisite (Quigley, 2008). It is possible that failure to
remain physically fit is tied to demanding work hours; for
example, it is not uncommon for new officers to be placed on
the midnight shift.
Law enforcement personnel may benefit from using coping
strategies targeted at stress management that are accessible and
easy to implement (Gore, 2003). Simple yogic breathing tech-
n i ques pe rformed wh ile on patrol may enable offi c e rs to
respond from a place of calm and may increase their resilience
to stressors in the field (Brown & Gerbarg, 2005; Miller, 1991;
Yoga as an Intervention
Yoga integrates the use of physical postures and movement,
breathing techniques, deep relaxation, and meditation to culti-
vate mind–body awareness and mindfulness. These strategies
are found to promote mental, emotional, and physical fitness
and well-being (NIH, NCCAM, 2012). Yoga has been shown to
reduce symptoms of stress (Chong, Tsunaka, Tsang, Chan, &
Cheung, 2011; Parshad, 2004), anxiety (Kirkwood, Rampes,
Tu ffrey, Ri chardson, & Pilki ng ton, 2005), and depre ss i on
(Pilkington, Kirkwood, Rampes, & Richardson, 2005), and may
offer effective coping strategies for managing stress and lead to
improved resilience (Ranta, 2009; Van Puymbroeck, Payne, &
Mindfulness practices consisting of self-awareness and
acceptance cultivate an awareness of muscular movements,
postural alignment, mental states, and breath (Lavretsky, 2009).
Ideally, yoga and mindfulness techniques are learned from
qualified instructors and are supported in a class environment.
However, basic relaxation techniques, such as a body scan and
focusing on the breath, are context independent and can be
practiced anywhere, making them accessible and practical.
Williams et al. (2010) posited that mindful awareness and
acceptance provide an alternative to maladaptive, avoidant cop-
i ng str ate gies. Re searche rs who exam i ned whe ther use of
acceptance or avoidance strategies at the time of recruit train-
ing predicted well-being 1 year after the onset of active duty
found that lack of mindfulness or emotional awareness predict-
ed depression at follow-up. A review of 12 studies (8 random-
ized, controlled trials) that compared the effects of yoga to
those of exercise found that in healthy and in clinical popula-
tions, persons practicing yoga fared the same as or significantly
better than non-yoga practitioners in terms of health-related
measures, such as improved quality of life and stress (Ross &
Thomas, 2010). Yoga provides the added benefit of promoting
mindful awareness (Cohen, Warneke, Fouladi, Rodriguez, &
Chaoul-Reich, 2004; Jeter, Dagnelie, Khalsa, Haaz, & Bittner,
2012; Shelov, Suchday, & Friedberg, 2009) and improving cop-
i ng and re s il i e nc e str ate gies (Hartfi el, Have nhand, Khalsa ,
Clarke, & Krayer, 2011; Van Puymbroeck et al., 2007).
Few studies have examined whether yoga practices can
reduce stress, improve mood, and increase mindful awareness
in police academy trainees. This study used a pre–post design
to examine whether participation in a Kripalu yoga program
would reduce stress, tension, and fatigue; improve mood; and
increase mindfulness among trainees. We hypothesized that
participants would demonstrate pre- to postintervention reduc-
tions in perceived stress and related symptoms and demonstrate
improved mood and increased mindful awareness immediately
following the yoga intervention.
Psychological Benefits of Yoga for Police Recruits25
Participants were cadet trainees enrolled in a comprehensive
800-hour, 20-week police academy training program conduct-
ed in Springfield, Massachusetts. The program was divided
between classroom instruction and hands-on training to devel-
op the required knowledge, skills, and abilities for police work
( Executive Office of Public Safe ty and Secu rity, 2011).
Acceptance into the program requires that recruits pass a civil
service test, background check, and medical, psychological, and
agility tests. Forty-two cadet trainees (39 male) who were
enrolled in the police academy training program were recruited
for the study, and all agreed to participate. They were given the
choice to engage in the study either after training activities were
completed or be dismissed for the day during the course of
training. The police commissioner and the directors of the
police academy approved a human subjects research protocol
and provided ethical oversight.
Informed consent was obtained from all study participants.
T he conse nt form cl early stated that con fi d e ntial ity was
ensured, participation was strictly voluntary, no compensation
would be offered, and that individuals who refused to partici-
pate or dropped out would not be penalized. They were also
informed that the study posed minimal risk, and participants
were free to refuse to respond to any or all questionnaire items.
The yoga instructor administered consent forms, and respons-
es were kept confidential. These procedures minimized the
potential influence of group pressure or coercion.
The 42 police academy cadets enrolled in the six-class yoga
program as part of the basic police-training curriculum. Mean
age was 28.29 (±4.57) years, and the sample was ethnically
diverse (64% White, 24% Hispanic, 7% Black, and 5% Asian).
Two male cadets were dismissed from the police academy dur-
ing the program because of medical reasons and academic fail-
ure. An additional male cadet did not attend the final day and
did not complete the postintervention assessment, resulting in
data from 39 cadets included in the final analysis. Class atten-
dance for 40 cadets was 99.2%.
The yoga intervention consisted of six 75-minute classes held
during the 20-week police academy training. Because of sched-
uling constraints, the first class was held during Week 6 of
training and the second was held 3 weeks later during Week 9.
Classes 3 and 4 were held during Week 10 and Classes 5 and 6
were held during Week 11. The six classes were held during a
noncontinuous 4-week period. All but the final yoga class
occurred following rigorous physical police-training sessions.
Classes were taught in the Kripalu yoga tradition, which
emphasizes conscious awareness, breathing exercises, yoga pos-
tures, deep relaxation, and meditation (e.g., noticing the breath,
drawing attention inward). Postures focused on developing
strength and flexibility and included standing and balancing,
forward and backward bending, spinal twists, and lateral bends
(see Table 1 for details). Postures were performed standing, sit-
ting, and lying on the floor. Trainees were taught breath aware-
ness techniques that could help them manage stress outside the
classroom. The yoga instructor was a retired detective lieu-
tenant from the Massachusetts State Police and a certified
Kripalu yoga instructor. Police cadet instructors and police
academy staff were excluded from yoga classes to create a more
relaxed and comfortable atmosphere for recruits.
The primary outcome measures included the following:
Profile of Mood States-Short Form (POMS-SF; Curran,
Andrykowski, & Studts, 1995). This self-report questionnaire
provides a global Total Mood Disturbance score and six affec-
tive dime ns i on sub scales: Te ns i on / An x i e ty, De pre ss i on /
Dejection, Anger/Hostility, Vigor/Activity, Fatigue/Inertia, and
Confusion/Bewilderment. The 30 items are used to measure
affective mood states during the past week, including today, on
a 5-point Likert scale ranging from 0 (not at all) to 4 (extreme-
ly); Cronbach’s ? = 0.80–0.91.
Pe rc e ived Stre ss Scale (PSS; Cohen, Kamarck, &
Mermelstein, 1983). This 10-item scale measures perceived
stress during the past month on a 5-point Likert scale ranging
from 0 (never) to 4 (very often). The self-report questionnaire
has been validated for clinical and and nonclinical populations,
and its internal consistency is well established: Cronbach’s ? =
0.85 (Baer et al., 2008; Gaylord, Palsson, & Garland, 2011;
Labott, Ahleman, Wolever, & Martin, 1990; Leung, Lam, &
Five Facet Mi nd ful ne ss Qu e sti on nai re (FFMQ; Ba e r,
International Journal of Yoga Therapy — No. 23 (1) | 201326
Kripalu Yoga Sequence
5 mins Centering and meditation
Breathing, which included deep belly
breathing and counting breaths.
Included a joint-freeing series such as neck
and shoulder rolls, six movements of the
spine (front, back, side to side, right and left
twists), cat and cow stretch, ankle and feet
circles, lazy frog, pigeon, and downward
facing dog poses.
Included Ardha Uttanasana (standing half
forward bend), Padangusthasana (big toe
pose), Prasarita Padottanasana (wide-legged
forward bend), Parsvottanasana (intense side
stretch pose), Ardha Chandrasana (half moon
pose), and Vrksasana (tree pose).
Supine or seated poses
Supta Matsyendrasana (supine spinal twist),
knee down spinal twist, Pavanmuktasana
(wind reliever pose), and Setu Bandha
Sarvangasana (bridge pose)
Guided relaxation: softening from face to toes
or toes to face (body scan) and Sivasana.
Smith, Hopkins, Krietemeyer, & Toney, 2006). The 39-item
FFMQ includes a global mindfulness score and five subscales
representing five distinct facets of mindfulness: Observing,
De sc ribi ng, Aw are ne ss, Nonju d gi ng, and Non rea cti ng ;
Cronbach’s ? = 0.85.
Foll owi ng the inte rve nti on, cadets compl e ted an ev aluati on
of the yoga pro gr am that inclu d ed qu e sti ons devel oped by the
stu dy team. Parti c ipants we re asked to ind i cate how strongly they
felt about 10 qu e sti ons by us i ng a visual analogue scale (VAS )
r angi ng from 0 (not at all) to 10 (ve ry much so). The conti nu ous
scale of the VAS has been shown to captu re subjective phe nome-
na more accu r ately than does a disc re te scale (Aitken, 1969; Gi ft ,
1989). Sample qu e sti ons inclu d e, Did you find the yoga pro gram
be ne fic ial for you in gene ral? and Did you find the practice of med-
itation in the cla sses be ne fic ial ? In additi on, one fi nal qu e sti on
provi d ed an opportu n ity for the re spond e nts to desc ribe the i r
e x pe ri e nce of the pro gr am in an ope n - e nd ed format .
All qu e sti on nai res we re administe red be fore the fi rst class
and immed iately after the last class. An ev aluati on qu e sti on nai re
w as administe red after all cadets compl e ted the yoga pro gr am .
A paired samples t-test was conducted to compare pre- and
postintervention mean-level differences for the POMS, PSS,
and FFMQ scales and subscales (Table 2). Scaled scores were
normally distributed, suggesting that use of a paired samples t-
test was appropriate. Significant pre- to postintervention differ-
ences were observed for the POMS global score, t(38) = 3.78, p
= 0.001, and the PSS, t(38) = 2.31, p = 0.03, indicating a reduc-
ti on in pe rc e ived stre ss and ove r all mood distu r banc e.
Statisti cally sign i fi cant improve me nts we re fou nd for the
Tension/Anxiety and Fatigue/Inertia POMS subscales, t(38) =
6.69, p = 0.000 and t(38) = 2.29, p = 0.028, respectively. A trend
for improvement in the Anger/Hostility POMS subscale,t(38) =
1.88, p = 0.067, was also detected. No significant differences
over ti me we re fou nd for the De pre ss i on / De jecti on ,
Vigor/Activity, or Confusion/Bewilderment POMS subscales or
the FFMQ mindfulness scores, with the exception of a margin-
al trend for the FFMQ-Observing subscale (p = 0.10).
Cadets’ ratings of the yoga intervention revealed the pro-
gram to be moderately beneficial overall (M = 5.4, SD = 2.8)
and specific to the focus of their training (M = 5.2, SD = 2.9). A
subset of the questions (Questions 1–3) pertaining to perceived
benefit is displayed in a histogram in Figure 1 to demonstrate
the distribution of responses for 39 cadets. Although they found
the three main components of the yoga practice (physical pos-
tures, meditation, and breathing exercises) beneficial (Mean
range = 5.6-6.4, respective SD range = 3.3–2.4), they were only
slightly more likely to continue the physical and breathing exer-
cises (M = 5.4, SD = 3.2 and M = 5.4, SD = 3.3, respectively)
than the meditation practice in the future (M = 4.8, SD = 3.1) or
as a result of the program in general (M = 3.8, SD = 2.9). Open-
ended comments revealed that 5 of 24 cadets found the pro-
gram beneficial, relaxing, and stress relieving; however, 5 indi-
cated they were resistant to the program because they felt that
yoga was inconsistent with typical paramilitary police training.
Results of this preliminary study suggest that participation in
the yoga intervention was associated with improvements in
cadets’ perceived stress and mood. Total mood disturbance,
tension/anxiety, and fatigue/inertia decreased significantly after
the six-class yoga program, consistent with results from similar
studies that have addressed the impact of yoga and mindfulness
pr a ctices on stre ss redu cti on (Hartfi el et al., 2011; Speca ,
Carlson, Goodey, & Angen, 2000). Given the lack of a control
group, it’s not possible to rule out the potential influence of
other factors. The improvement in the POMS Anger/Hostility
Psychological Benefits of Yoga for Police Recruits 27
Mean Outcome Measure at Pre- and Post-Yoga Program (N = 39, Mean ± SD)
PSS Global Scale 14.85 (6.40)
POMS-Global Scale23.95 (18.53)
POMS-Tension 9.18 (4.05)
POMS-Depression 3.26 (3.80)
POMS-Vigor (reverse scored) 9.72 (4.54)
POMS-Fatigue 9.46 (4.43)
POMS-Confusion 5.46 (2.80)
FFMQ-Global Scale140.13 (17.53)
FFMQ-Observing 25.31 (6.20)
FFMQ-Describing 29.74 (5.36)
FFMQ-Nonreacting 23.03 (3.90)
Note.aPostintervention vs baseline paired samples t-test; **p <0 .05, *p < 0.10. PSS = Perceived Stress Scale; POMS = Profile
of Mood States; FFMQ = Five Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire.
subscale, though modest (p = 0.07), may be important in that
police recruit anger at baseline has been shown to predict post-
traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms and subsequent
PTSD diagnoses after 1 year of service (Meffert et al., 2008).
This may be particularly relevant given the intense demands of
this 800-hour, 20-week police-training program.
There is evidence that behaviors such as partner abuse and
hyperaggression that increase with chronic stress (Gershon et
al., 2009) may be mitigated by maintaining a yoga practice
(Ranta, 2009). According to the “anger aggression theory,” as
chronic stress among law enforcement personnel increases, the
pe rc e pti on of th reat and sub sequ e nt aggre ss ive re sponse s
become more likely (Griffin & Bernard, 2003). The potential of
yoga practice to ameliorate stress, perception of threat, and
aggressive behavior warrants further investigation.
No significant pre- to postintervention change was noted
in the POMS Depression/Dejection scores. This is likely an arti-
fact of the low baseline scores, which offered limited variability
to detect effects over time (Brody et al., 2000; Lavey et al., 2005).
Statistically significant change was also not detected for the
Confusion/Bewilderment and Vigor/Activity subscales. Low
scores for this sample suggest that these scales may lack the sen-
sitivity to detect significant change or that these items may not
be suitable for the law enforcement population.
Although previous studies have reported an increase in
mindfulness after a yoga intervention (Cohen et al., 2004;
Shelov et al., 2009), only a trend toward increases in the FFMQ
Observing subscale was detected. It is possible that this inter-
vention was not long enough to elicit effects. Extant research
suggests that a minimum of 8 weeks of practice, often with
more than one class per week (Shelov et al., 2009; Sherman,
Cherkin, Erro, Miglioretti, & Deyo, 2005; Streeter et al., 2010),
may be necessary to facilitate change. Carmody and Baer (2008)
demonstrated that improvements in mindfulness and well-
being were directly related to the frequency of practice in mind-
fulness techniques (Carmody & Baer, 2008). The six classes
offered in our study were limited by scheduling constraints
imposed by the police academy training program. It is possible
that the lack of class consistency may have undermined treat-
ment effects. Future studies may benefit from offering more fre-
quent yoga instruction over a greater length of time as part of
the police academy training.
Cadets’ evaluation of the yoga program suggested that
most experienced the program as beneficial; however, the
nature of these benefits varied across individuals. While one
cadet preferred the breathing exercises, another favored the
stretching component. Many reported yoga to be effective for
relieving stress, and at least one expressed an interest in a longer
program. Some trainees found it difficult to participate in a
yoga class immediately after the physical training component of
the academy. Injury can be cause for dismissal from the acade-
my and is a concern among cadets. Although no adverse events
were reported during the yoga program, it is possible that if
injuries occurred, they were minimized or not reported.
Some trainees evidenced resistance to the program and
raised questions regarding the relevance of yoga to law enforce-
ment training. For purposes of this study, it was important to
International Journal of Yoga Therapy — No. 23 (1) | 201328
The distribution of the frequency of responses for per-
ceived benefit of the yoga program for Questions 1, 2, and
3, are represented in this histogram. The median is repre-
sented in gray and an approximate mean (based on a con-
tinuous scale on the x-axis) is represented by the dotted
line. (N = 39).
adhere to the Kripalu yoga protocol, which emphasizes con-
scious awareness, breathing, yoga postures, deep relaxation,
and meditation to determine its effectiveness for this sample. A
didactic component explaining the potential benefits of a regu-
lar yoga practice may be useful for future studies among law
enforcement personnel. The use of police wellness programs
beyond cadet training may also be warranted.
Recruits reported that they were more likely to continue
the physical postures and breathing practices rather than the
meditation aspects of the yoga program. Certain yoga tradi-
tions emphasize asanas and other physical practices to prepare
the individual for meditative conditioning of the mind (Iyengar,
1995). For beginning practitioners, the physical practices of
yoga may be easier to accept before exploring the meditative
component. We experienced very little negative feedback from
police cadets during the yoga program, and most were willing
to voluntarily complete the questionnaires. As such, the Kripalu
yoga program was feasible in the police academy setting.
T h is stu dy was limited by seve r al factors. The la ck of a con-
trol group atte nuated our abil ity to draw defi n itive conclus i ons
re g ard i ng the direct assoc iati on be tween yoga and changes in
stre ss, mood, or behavi or, or to rule out nonspec i fic factors asso-
c iated with change that we re unrelated to the inte rve nti on. Yo g a
can be equal to or sign i fi cantly be tter than other forms of exe r-
c ise relative to a nu mber of ind i cators of health (Ro ss & Thomas ,
2010), yet the effects of the phy s i cal fitne ss re gi men embed d ed
in the police aca d e my tr ai n i ng pro gr am can not be rul ed out .
Last, administr ati on of qu e sti on nai res immed iately foll owi ng
the fi nal yoga class may have yi el d ed prox i mal effects of the yo g a
pr a ctice rather than sustai ned change over ti me. Outc ome meas-
u res we re limited to sel f - re port qu e sti on nai res. Futu re re search
would be ne fit from objective measu res of stre ss.
T h is prel i m i nary stu dy provides initial evi d e nce of the be n-
e fit of Kripalu yoga to reduce pe rc e ived stre ss, ange r, te ns i on ,
and fatigue among police aca d e my tr ai nees. Futu re longitu d i nal
r and om i z ed controll ed trials are need ed to ev aluate yo g a’s full
pote ntial as a pe rmane nt compone nt of police aca d e my tr ai n i ng.
Aitken, R. C. (1969). Measurement of feelings using visual analogue
scales. Proceedings of the Royal Society of Medicine, 62(10), 989.
Baer, R. A., Smith, G. T., Hopkins, J., Krietemeyer, J., & Toney, L. (2006).
Using self-report assessment methods to explore facets of mindfulness.
Assessment, 13(1), 27–45.
Baer, R. A., Smith, G. T., Lykins, E., Button, D., Krietemeyer, J., & Sauer,
S.(2008). Construct validity of the five facet mindfulness questionnaire in
meditating and nonmeditating samples. Assessment, 15(3), 329–342.
Brody, B. L., Williams, R. A., Thomas, R. G., Kaplan, R. M., Chu, R. M., &
Brown, S. I. (2000). Age-related macular degeneration: A randomized
clinical trial of a self-management intervention. Annals of Behavioral
Medicine: A Publication of the Society of Behavioral Medicine, 21(4),
Brown, J., & Campbell, E. (1990). Sources of occupational stress in the
police. Work and Stress, 4, 305–318.
Brown, R. P., & Gerbarg, P. L. (2005). Sudarshan Kriya yogic breathing in
the treatment of stress, anxiety, and depression: Part I-neurophysiologic
model. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 11(1),
Carmody, J., & Baer, R. A. (2008). Relationships between mindfulness
practice and levels of mindfulness, medical and psychological symptoms
and well-being in a mindfulness-based stress reduction program. Journal
of Behavioral Medicine, 31(1), 23–33.
Chong, C. S. M., Tsunaka, M., Tsang, H. W. H., Chan, E. P., & Cheung, W.
M. (2011). Effects of yoga on stress management in healthy adults: A sys-
tematic review. Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, 17(1),
Cohen, L., Warneke, C., Fouladi, R. T., Rodriguez, M. A., & Chaoul-
Reich, A. (2004). Psychological adjustment and sleep quality in a ran-
domized trial of the effects of a Tibetan yoga intervention in patients with
lymphoma. Cancer, 100(10), 2253–2260.
Cohen, S., Kamarck, T., & Mermelstein, R. (1983). A global measure of
perceived stress. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 24(4), 385–396.
Collins, P. A., & Gibbs, A. C. C. (2003). Stress in police officers: A study
of the origins, prevalence and severity of stress-related symptoms within a
county police force. Occupational Medicine (Oxford, England), 53(4),
Crank, J., & Caldero, M. (1991). The production of occupational stress
among police officers: A survey of eight municipal police organizations in
Illinois. Journal of Criminal Justice, 19(4), 339–350.
Curran, S., Andrykowski, M., & Studts, J. (1995). Short Form of the
Profile of Mood States (POMS-SF): Psychometric information.
Psychological Assessment, 7(1), 80.
Executive Office of Public Safety and Security. Municipal police training
basic recruit overview. (2011). Retrieved December 18, 2012, from
Gaylord, S., Palsson, O., & Garland, E. (2011). Mindfulness training
reduces the severity of irritable bowel syndrome in women: Results of a
randomized controlled trial. The American Journal of Gastroenterology,
Gerber, M., Kellmann, M., Hartmann, T., & Puehse, U. (2010). Do exer-
cise and fitness buffer against stress among Swiss police and emergency
response service officers? Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 11(4),
Gershon, R., Barocas, B., & Canton, A. (2009). Mental, physical, and
behavioral outcomes associated with perceived work stress in police offi-
cers. Criminal Justice and Behavior, 36(3), 275.
Gift, A. G. (1989). Visual analogue scales: Measurement of subjective
phenomena. Nursing Research, 36, 286–288.
Gore, M. M. (2003). Physiological responses to Omkar and Gayatri
mantra recitation in police trainees. Yoga Mimamsa, 35(3), 263–266.
Griffin, S., & Bernard, T. (2003). Angry aggression among police officers.
Police Quarterly, 6(1), 3.
Hartfiel, N., Havenhand, J., Khalsa, S. B., Clarke, G., & Krayer, A. (2011).
The effectiveness of yoga for the improvement of well-being and
resilience to stress in the workplace. Scandinavian Journal of Work
Environment & Health, 37(1), 70–76.
Hickman, M., Fricas, J., Strom, K., & Pope, M. W. (2011). Mapping police
stress. Police Quarterly, 14(3), 227–250.
Iyengar, B. K. S. (1995). Light on yoga. New York, NY: Schocken Books.
Jeter, P. E., Dagnelie, G., Khalsa, S. B. S., Haaz, S., & Bittner, A. K. (2012).
Yoga for persons with severe visual impairment: A feasibility study.
Alternative Medicine Studies, 2(1).
Kirkwood, G., Rampes, H., Tuffrey, V., Richardson, J., & Pilkington, K.
(2005). Yoga for anxiety: A systematic review of the research evidence.
British Journal of Sports Medicine, 39(12), 884–91; discussion 891.
Kitaeff, J. (2011). Handbook of police psychology. New York, NY: Taylor &
Kohan, A., & O’Connor, B. P. (2002). Police officer job satisfaction in
relation to mood, well-being, and alcohol consumption. The Journal of
Psychology: Interdisciplinary and Applied, 136(3), 307–318.
Psychological Benefits of Yoga for Police Recruits
Labott, S., Ahleman, S., Wolever, M., & Martin, R. (1990). The physiolog-
ical and psychological effects of the expression and inhibition of emotion.
Behavioral Medicine (Washington, DC), 16(4), 182–189.
Lavey, R., Sherman, T., Mueser, K. T., Osborne, D. D., Currier, M., &
Wolfe, R. (2005). The effects of yoga on mood in psychiatric inpatients.
Psychiatric Rehabilitation Journal, 28(4), 399–402.
Lavretsky, H. (2009). Complementary and alternative medicine use for
treatment and prevention of late-life mood and cognitive disorders. Aging
Health, 5(1), 61–78.
Leung, D. Y., Lam, T.-H., & Chan, S. S. (2010). Three versions of
Perceived Stress Scale: Validation in a sample of Chinese cardiac patients
who smoke. BMC Public Health, 10, 513.
Liberman, A., Best, S., Metzler, T., Fagan, J., Weiss, D., & Marmar, C.
(2002). Routine occupational stress and psychological distress in police.
Policing: An International Journal of Police Strategies & Management,
McCafferty, F. L., McCafferty, E., & McCafferty, M. A. (1992). Stress and
suicide in police officers-paradigm of occupational stress. Southern
Medical Journal, 85(3), 233–243.
Meffert, S. M., Metzler, T. J., Henn-Haase, C., Mccaslin, S., Inslicht, S.,
Chemtob, C., . . . Marmar, C. R. (2008). A prospective study of trait anger
and PTSD symptoms in police. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 21(4),
Miller, R. (1991). The psychophysiology of respiration: Eastern and
Western perspectives. International Journal of Yoga Therapy, 2(1), 8–23.
National Institutes of Health, National Center for Complementary and
Alternative Medicine. (2012). What is CAM? Retrieved December 27,
2012, from http://nccam.nih.gov/health/whatiscam
Parshad, O. (2004). Role of yoga in stress management. Journal of Western
Indian Medicine, 53(3), 191–194.
Pilkington, K., Kirkwood, G., Rampes, H., & Richardson, J. (2005). Yoga
for depression: The research evidence. Journal of Affective Disorders,
Quigley, A. (2008). Fit for duty? The need for physical fitness programs
for law enforcement officers. Police Chief, 75(6). 62–64.
Ranta, R. (2009). Management of stress and coping behaviour of police
personnel through Indian psychological techniques. Journal of the Indian
Academy of Applied Psychology, 35(1), 47–53.
Ranta, R., & Sud, A. (2008). Management of stress and burnout of police
personnel. Journal of the Indian Academy of Applied Psychology, 34(1),
Ri ch mond, R., Wodak, A., Kehoe, L., & Heathe r, N. (1998). How healthy
are the police? A su rvey of life - style factors. Addiction, 9 3(11), 1729–1737.
Ross, A., & Thomas, S. (2010). The health benefits of yoga and exercise:
A review of comparison studies. Journal of Alternative and
Complementary Medicine (New York, NY), 16(1), 3–12.
Shelov, D. V., Suchday, S., & Friedberg, J. P. (2009). A pilot study measur-
ing the impact of yoga on the trait of mindfulness. Behavioural and
Cognitive Psychotherapy, 37(5), 595–598.
Sherman, K. J., Cherkin, D. C., Erro, J., Miglioretti, D. L., & Deyo, R. A.
(2005). Comparing yoga, exercise, and a self-care book for chronic low
back pain: A randomized, controlled trial. Annals of Internal Medicine,
Speca, M., Carlson, L. E., Goodey, E., & Angen, M. (2000). A random-
ized, wait-list controlled clinical trial: The effect of a mindfulness medita-
tion-based stress reduction program on mood and symptoms of stress in
cancer outpatients. Psychosomatic Medicine, 62(5), 613–622.
Streeter, C. C., Whitfield, T. H., Owen, L., Rein, T., Karri, S. K., Yakhkind,
A., . . . Jensen, J. B. (2010). Effects of yoga versus walking on mood, anxi-
ety, and brain GABA levels: A randomized controlled MRS study. Journal
of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 16(11), 1145–1152.
Van Puymbroeck, M., Payne, L., & Hsieh, P. (2007). A phase I feasibility
study of yoga on the physical health and coping of informal caregivers.
Evidence Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 4(4), 519.
Violanti, J. M. (1992). Coping strategies among police recruits in a high-
stress training environment. The Journal of Social Psychology, 132(6),
Violanti, J. M. (1993). What does high stress police training teach
recruits? An analysis of coping. Journal of Criminal Justice, 21(4),
Violanti, J. M., & Aron, F. (1993). Sources of police stressors, job atti-
tudes, and psychological distress. Psychological Reports, 72(3, Pt. 1),
Violanti, J., Marshall, J., & Howe, B. (1985). Stress, coping, and alcohol
use: The police connection. Journal of Police Science & Administration.
Wang, Z., Inslicht, S., Metzler, T., Henn-Haase, C., McCaslin, S., Tong, H.,
. . . Marmar, C. R. (2010). A prospective study of predictors of depression
symptoms in police. Psychiatry Research, 175(3), 211–216.
Williams, V., Ciarrochi, J., & Deane, F. P. (2010). On being mindful, emo-
tionally aware, and more resilient: Longitudinal pilot study of police
recruits. Australian Psychologist, 45(4), 274–282.
We respectfully acknowledge Commissioner William J. Fitchet
and Captain C. Lee Be n ne tt of the Spri ngfi eld Pol i c e
Department, Springfield, MA, for their permission and help in
facilitating this study during the police academy program. We
also acknowledge the support of the Institute for Extraordinary
Living of the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health.
The authors PEJ and SC have no personal or financial interests
to disclose; author SBSK has received consultant fees and
research funding from the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health.
International Journal of Yoga Therapy — No. 23 (1) | 201330