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Year : 2019  |  Volume : 51  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 41-42

Qualitative analysis in yoga research: Quantifying the experiential phenomena

Editor-in-Chief, Yoga MimamsaJoint Director of Research, Kaivalyadhama Yoga Institute, Lonavla, India

Date of Submission26-Nov-2019
Date of Acceptance26-Nov-2019
Date of Web Publication09-Dec-2019

Correspondence Address:
Ranjeet Singh Bhogal
Editor-in-Chief, Yoga MimamsaJoint Director of Research, Kaivalyadhama Yoga Institute, Lonavla
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DOI: 10.4103/ym.ym_20_19

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How to cite this article:
Bhogal RS. Qualitative analysis in yoga research: Quantifying the experiential phenomena. Yoga Mimamsa 2019;51:41-2

How to cite this URL:
Bhogal RS. Qualitative analysis in yoga research: Quantifying the experiential phenomena. Yoga Mimamsa [serial online] 2019 [cited 2020 Jun 2];51:41-2. Available from:

Although quantitative analyses bring the objective nature of yoga toward its wider acceptance as a science of health and healing, an overemphasis on it in yoga research, pathetically, overlooks the very essential nature of yoga which, as Swami Kuvalayananda, inarguably, the pioneer of scientific research in yoga, has put so succinctly, “….the physical side is only a minor aspect of yoga which is chiefly mental and spiritual.” We have already discussed, in our editorial pages, how difficult it is increasingly becoming to preserve, protect, and promote the essential nature of yoga and save it from becoming extinct in its essence, if modern trends in yoga research, training, and therapy have any indications. Time has come to free yoga from the shackles of an overly objective approach, seen worldwide today.

While objectivity is most welcome, yet care should be taken to give subjective, individual, and experiential expressions their due importance. Visionary par excellence as Swami ji was, he envisioned the need of experiential phenomena in yoga way back in 1924, when he set the following objective, to realize the goal of wedding the modern scientific methods and spiritual aspect of yoga so that even “man on the street” is helped toward self-realization: “To develop the objective character of the Indian philosophy by subjecting the individual experiences of man to experimentation.” Now, let us ask, honestly, as to do we sufficiently know the individual experiences, even plausibly, so as to employ scientific measures to quantify the same to a tolerable extent? This, arguably, seems to be the reason why research into experiential aspects of yoga interventions draws blank. Unless the purity of yogic intervention is discovered and maintained, how we can have desirable effects of yoga as mentioned in ancient yogic literature? With all sophistications getting added constantly, the extant scientific instrumentation cannot satisfactorily measure the subjective phenomena of yoga, as of now. Should we wait indefinitely for such dream instrumentations to arrive? While we are hopeful such innovations can be a reality in the near future, it should not prevent us to first standardize the yogic methods on the experiential lines. Thus, we may be by then hopefully ready with well-defined experiential interventions once such advances in scientific gadgets are possible.

  How Can We Start? Top

The constructs such as Citta Vishranti, Citta Prasadanam, Drashta bhava, Samadhi bhava, Pratyaya, Samyama, Nada, Bindu, Kala, Bija Mantras, Cakra, and Prana Samayaman may be first interpreted acceptably well with the joint concerted efforts of Sanskrit grammarians, long-term yoga practitioners, and scientists of the caliber of Dr. Vijay Bhatkar, who has a sound computational approach to the experiential phenomena of yoga, and Dr. Bhushan Patwardhan, Universal Grants Commission (Government of India), who has a great passion for meditational research.

Once we identify the key constructs of the desired experiential phenomena, we need to design appropriate qualitative research tools for assessing these. Yoga, being holistic in nature, evokes holistic expressions. Therefore, qualitative research seems most appropriate for assessing the subtle experiences and feelings of yogic nature.

Qualitative analysis is committed to naturalistic perspectives and to the interpretative understanding of human experience. Qualitative research involves finding out what people think, how they feel, what they say they think, and how they say they feel. This kind of information is essentially subjective. It involves feelings and impressions and experiences, rather than numbers. A qualitative analyst is adept at performing a large number of diverse tasks ranging from interviewing to observing, to interpreting personal and historical documents, to intensive self-reflection and introspection, as well as, trying to cull out the nuances of one's attitudes, values, and idiographic personality characteristics. The researcher will connect the parts to the whole, stressing the meaningful relationships that operate in individual responses, situations, and social worlds being studied.

Qualitative analysis can be of immense help in ascertaining whether a practitioner has understood the instructions properly and is practicing a yoga technique in a valid way; whether he/she is getting desired effects during and after the practice; and also whether he/she is actually getting cumulative effects, claimed for in ancient yogic literature. Qualitative analysis will help frame valid test blanks; checklists; structured, semi-structured, and unstructured questionnaires and conduct interviews, projective tests, and so on for the purpose. Most significantly, it can help to measure the extent of the accuracy and extent of experiential phenomena of the practice in question. This may help to standardize the a priori informational contents of the instructions of yogic practices satisfactorily. Once this is done, bio-mechanical and psycho-physiological principles may be employed for tolerably standardizing the yoga techniques. Neuro-psychological parameters such as signal detection methodology would further analyze the practices in deciding the exact practice dosage of yoga modules appropriate to the therapeutic conditions of the patient. Significant strides, thus, can be made toward the standardization of yoga practices.

Qualitative analysis in the context of yoga, therefore, is the need of the hour. The vast yogic literature is replete with experiential phenomena. Right from Brahmasutra, Srimat Bhagwat, Patanjala Yoga Sutra, and Upanishads, the roots of the experiential aspects of yoga are freely available to a discerning mind. The need is to interpret these in an earnest sense of purpose.

KaivalyaDham has already a sizable basic research done to differentiate exercise effects from that of yogic effects thanks to the earnest efforts on the part of Swami Kuvalayananda, Swami Digamber Ji, Dr. S. L. Vinekar, M. V. Bhole, Dr. P. V. Karambelkar, Shri O. P. Tiwari, and so on. Appropriate qualitative tools can be framed to assess the yoga-specific experiential effects in yogic practices to show how these effects differ from that of exercise-specific effects if yoga practices are practiced on exercise–performance–pattern. Lachnitt & Bhogal (2006) have shown a significant difference, in meditative experience, in meditation group performing Hatha yogic practices of Asanas and Pranayama as compared to Hatha Yoga group that performed only Asanas and Pranayamas, during the same period of time. Thus, there are many possibilities to assess the traditional authenticity of yogic practices on the basis of experiential responses of the yoga practitioners, with the help of a well-thought-out qualitative assessment methodology. Qualitative research in yoga, thus, may open great vistas for yoga researchers worldwide. A great service can, thus, be rendered both to yoga and to the world's entire human community, at large! The kernel of truth is lying before us! Let us join hands for yet another evolutionary phase of yoga, jointly and collaboratively!

The article “Integrated Yoga Therapy for Teaching Tooth brushing Skills to Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder: A Qualitative Study of Parents' Perceptions” by Dr. R. Eswari, Dr. G. S. Prathima, Dr. A. Sanguida, Dr. Meena Ramanathan, Dr. A. B. Bhavanani and Dr. E. Harikrishnan, shows a positive and additive role of yoga, along with the regular brushing methods, for a better toothbrushing in children with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs). The study indicates ample implications of yogic practice for enhancing psychomotor abilities in children with ASD.

The experimental study entitled, “Effect of Yoga Ocular Exercises on Intra-Ocular Pressure” by Mr. Satish Kumar Gupta and Ms. S. Aparna, showed a significant reduction in intraocular pressure as an effect of yoga ocular exercises. The authors advocate yoga ocular exercises as one of the effective nonpharmacological interventions for lowering the intraocular pressure and for treating various ocular diseases such as ocular hypertension.

In their survey study, “Assessment of pradhana sharir and manas prakriti (bodily and mental constitution) in the manifestation of diabetes mellitus,” Dr. Hetalben Amin and Dr. Hitesh Vyas have found Kapha Pradhana and Tamas Pradhana Prakriti to be most likely in the manifestation of the Madhumeha, i.e., diabetes mellitus. The authors conclude that the dominant Dosha, involved in Sharirika and Manasika Prakriti of a person, is more likely to manifest the same Dosha- dominant diseases.

In his article, “Call for Global Standards in Clinical Yoga Trials,” Mr. Atul Kumar Goyal asserts the need of a global standard protocol in clinical yoga trials. The author also raises issues of exclusive ethical committee, yoga trainer qualification, insurance policy for patients, standard yoga protocols, level of compliance, and religious concerns, while evolving the global protocol for protecting the individual interests of the participating individuals in clinical yoga trials.

“Tirumūlar on Evaluating the Qualitative Standard of the Pace of Exhaling Breath in Pranayama Practitioners,” by Dr. Subramanian Saravanan and Dr. Ramakrishnan Iyankannu, is truly “an eye opener” in emphasizing the experiential phenomena in performing yogic techniques. It indicates the need of creative methods in quantifying the qualitative aspects of research into Pranayama. Tirumular's Tirumantiram, the earliest known Tamil treatise, emphasizes the quality in practicing Pranayama. This article brings out a qualitative method in quantifying the experiential phenomena involved in the practice of Pranayama. In view of the advent of technological innovations, evident today, one can expect more creative methods in quantifying yogic interventions in the near future![1]

  References Top

Lachnitt, K., & Bhogal, R. S. (2006). Experiential effects of integral meditation in comparison with that of body oriented practices of Hatha Yoga. In: Tiwari, O. P., editor. Proceedings of the 5th international conference on yoga: Research & traditions (pp. 95-102). Lonavala (India): Kaivalyadhama.  Back to cited text no. 1


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