YBIPV Research Team
Susan H. Franzblau, Ph.D., Department of Psychology, Fayetteville State University
Thomas E. Van Cantfort, Ph.D., Department of Psychology, Fayetteville State University
|Graduate Students - YBIPV Research Team
Department of Psychology, Fayetteville State University
Front row left to right; Wendy Cox, Whalnisha Verbal*, & Joy McNeil
ECU Research Group
|(From left to right) Dr. Christyn Dolbier, Graduate Assistants: Marissa Errickson, Jamieka Jefferson and Monica Raynor|
Research Coordinator at East Carolina University:
Our research group is exploring the effect of yogic breathing and testimony on self-efficacy and depression in women who have experienced interpersonal violence (IPV).
Five million acts of interpersonal violence (IPV) are committed against women every year (National Center for Injury Prevention and Control (NCIPC), 2003), for which women see mental health workers more than 18 million times, much of which represent multiple visits for each woman at a cost of over $6 billion each year. (NCIPC, 2003) Costs to each abused woman, however, go beyond money. The effects of being battered on a woman’s physical health are well-documented. Battered women represent 35% of women seeking care for any reason in emergency departments (McLeer & Anwar, 1989), and 23% of those who seek routine prenatal care. (Helton, Anderson, & McFarlane, 1987) In Canada, of those women who seek emergency room treatment for traumatic injuries, 30% report that their injuries were from intimate partner violence (IPV). (Swanson, 2000)
One way to lend support to abused women would be to give them the opportunity to tell their stories. For those whose lives are filled with trauma, talking about negative traumatic events can positively affect linguistic, emotional, and cognitive processes (Niederhoffer & Pennebaker, 2002). Researchers investigating the impact of testimony on abused African American women’s lives, suggest that telling one’s story is empowering because it allows the person to speak in her own voice, granting the testifier authority and credibility (Taylor, 2005). Testifying to abuse could allow women to move from depression and hopelessness to an awareness of possibilities (Cowling, 2005).
Researchers have found that using the simple and deliberate act of breathing in place of ruminative thinking, allows the person to substitute negative thoughts with positive ones (Segal, Williams, & Teasdale, 2002). While disclosure involves a cognitive-linguistic process (Niederhoffer & Pennebaker, 2002), learning how to control one’s breath may be a cognitive-physiological process, whose positive effects on an abused woman’s emotional health may be similar to disclosure. Weber (1996), in a study of patients clinically diagnosed with major depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia, found significant reductions in anxiety after three sessions a week of relaxation techniques involving teaching participants that deepening their breath could steady them. In a longitudinal study that applied relaxation techniques to reduce generalized anxiety disorder, Borkovec and Costello (1993) found slow-paced meditation with diaphragm breathing had a major impact on Beck Depression Inventory-II depression scores and Hamilton Anxiety Rating Scale Scores. Kim and Kim (2005) examined the effects of relaxation breathing exercises on anxiety and depression in stem cell transplant patients. Compared to the control group, the relaxation breathing exercise group’s depression, as measured by the BDI-II, decreased significantly.
Pranayama (breath control) and other mindful techniques, according to researchers Segal, Williams and Teasdale (2002), enable a person to identify negative thoughts as they arise and distance oneself from them in order to evaluate the accuracy of their content. When this happens, people often make a more positive general shift in their perceptions and feelings.
According to the literature discussed above, giving testimony about abuse, and learning how to control breathing have similar effects. Testimony brings awareness of and reflection upon the violence in abused women’s lives, moving them toward self-empowerment. Breathing techniques allow the person to take control over her body and mind. Both reduce anxiety and depression, which enable the abused woman to move from object of violence to agent of her own healing. Both processes involve distancing, reflection, and insight. Separately, each should reduce depression: Uniting the two healing techniques should be synergistic and highly beneficial to women who have experienced IPV in their lives.
The interventions explored in the current study are 1) having women give testimony about their abuse, and 2) having women learn to control their breathing by using yogic breathing techniques. Secondly, we are exploring the psychophysiology of breathing and meditation within the yoga tradition.
Franzblau, S. H., Smith, M., Echevarria, S., & Van Cantfort, T. E. (2006). Take a breath, break the silence: The effects of yogic breathing and testimony about battering on feelings of self-efficacy in battered women. International Journal of Yogic Therapy, 16, 49 - 57.