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Communication skills can stem from yoga, study finds

Claudia Hernandez
A student practices yoga in Centennial Plaza.

Patricia Flores, doctoral student in rhetoric and composition studies, recently defended her dissertation this past Monday, Oct. 31, in which she associates yoga to an increase in interpersonal communication.

According to Flores, besides health benefits for mental illnesses that come with practicing yoga, it can also improve communication. She said this study will benefit the 55 million people in the U.S. currently practicing yoga.

The study used qualitative research methods where 19 interviews were conducted throughout El Paso for data collection purposes. Those interviewed were required to have practiced yoga regularly for a minimum of three months.

“Through the methodology and the analysis, I discovered that yoga has a positive impact on interpersonal communication or how we communicate with each other,” Flores said. “Once that data was collected and I was analyzing the response of the participants, I came up with five categories that correlate to a positive increase in interpersonal communication.”

These five categories are mindfulness, the self, acceptance,  personal growth and patience. Flores said these categories work together through yoga and help improve interpersonal communication.

Sarah Upton, assistant professor in communication, was the advisor in charge of helping Flores with framing the study and the methodology used for a solid conclusion.

“Mindfulness is this idea of being able to be present about what’s happening. If you can practice it, let’s say you are having a conversation with another person and they say something that bothers you, instead of reacting immediately and getting frustrated, you might have a moment to think about it or pause,” Upton said. “When we are mindful, then we are more present in conversations with other people and we can really practice these other skills.”

Upton also emphasized the category of acceptance by mentioning invitational theory: the idea of speaking to people with the purpose of trying to persuade them. She said by accepting ourselves and others, we can have more authentic conversations.

“With the increase of technology we are losing our communication skills, meaning that individuals and the society have become exclusive and isolated and this is why I think it is really important to find new ways in which we can develop these skills in communicating with each other,” Flores said.

Upton also described how this study is different from the rest of the literature in communication.

“When people make the choice of practicing yoga, they can really find out the personal growth in which the literature focuses on heavily, but Patty’s study shows that while you are working on that, you are also strengthening your connection with people around you and increasing those positive interactions,” Upton said.

Upton also stressed the importance of yoga on the border by recalling the teaching of Anton Mackey at El Paso’s most recent yoga festival in October. 

“He was saying the border is the place where we need yoga the most. Here, we get to decide if we are going to continue building connections, seeking community in El Paso and Juarez, or if we are going to listen to what we are hearing in the conversation around us about how borders need to be divided and militarized,” Upton said.

Samantha Turley, junior communication studies major, has been practicing yoga for nine years and recently began teaching it around a year ago. She said yoga definitely improves communication.

Turley sees yoga as therapy. She siad yoga has allowed her to get out of frustrations while working out as well as having a clear perspective of things and becoming more open minded about the world that surrounds her.

“When you are practicing yoga, you have to listen to the instructor and what happens in your body. The same way happens when we are communicating with another person, you have to listen to what the other person is saying to you,” said Turley.

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Communication skills can stem from yoga, study finds