Date of Graduation

2016

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)

College/School

School of Education

Department/Program

Leadership Studies

First Advisor

Walter Gmelch

Second Advisor

Ursula Aldana

Third Advisor

Patricia A. Mitchell

Abstract

This study explored and documented the experiences of Catholic School principals in Northern California who implemented a one-month pranayama (yoga breathing) practice to help reduce their stress. The participants, four men and three women, were primary and secondary school principals at Catholic schools, including both diocesan and independent Catholic schools. This study utilized an embedded mixed methods design in which both qualitative and quantitative data were collected concurrently. Participants were asked to practice Ujjayi pranayama for eight minutes a session four times per day. Participants took the Administrator Stress Index and Perceived Stress Scale at the start of the intervention and again after it was completed. They also kept a breathing, stress, and coping journal and answered questions in an interview.

The findings included a significant correlation between average minutes per day of Ujjayi pranayama and reduction in perceived stress as measured by the Perceived Stress Scale. Four principals experienced an encouraging decrease in perceived stress after the intervention, two principals showed mixed results, and one principal had a clear increase in perceived stress. The following themes emerged most clearly from the interviews about their experiences of practicing pranayama: 1) Novelty of Pranayama, 2) Adjustment Period to the Practice, 3) Ease of Implementation, 4) Alone Time, 5) Benefits of Practice, 6) Obstacles to the Practice, 7) Shorter Breathing Sessions, and 8) Counting the Breath. The following themes presented themselves from the comparison of pranayama to their other coping techniques: 1) Ambivalence, 2) Complementary Benefit, 3) Efficiency, 4) Ease of Location, and 5) Discipline. The principals’ responses fell into the following four themes about their emotional narratives: 1) No Change, 2) Reduced Emotion, and 3) Increased Emotion. Finally, there were three categories of stressors that principals felt were particular to Catholic school principals: 1) Archbishop-based Stress, 2) Mission-based Stress, and 3) Financial Stress. Six out of the seven principals had very positive feelings towards the pranayama intervention and reported benefits ranging from increased relaxation and calm, better focus, better sense of pace, and reduced negative emotions. Because the pranayama practice reduced both anger and anxiety in principals, it was a useful tool for both emotion regulation and stress reduction.

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