The General Evaluability Theory, or GET in short, got me transfixed when it was first presented in one of our EMSEP Master thesis seminars in Leipzig by a fellow compatriot, Gosia, from the University of Thessaly (she will be writing on this further in Vol. 2). Hence, I’ll try to pen this simply to give us a notion of the GET theory. The theory sounded uncannily familiar yet I was not quite sure where to put my finger and say, “This is what the theory is supposed to posit!” Gosia’s presentation was received with many bewildered faces hollering the relevance of it in the field of Sport and Exercise Psychology. This fallacy is prevalent and usually limits one to realize that a lot of theories and frameworks in Sport and Exercise Psychology originated from other fields of psychology, even though they have been advanced both in research and applied contexts. Some theories are deemed as new only because they’ve yet to be used in a sports (and exercise) context. The animosity of the GET became more concrete after a few exchange of perspectives with Gosia during a Q & A section, before the “Ah… now I GET it” feeling sunk in. It made more sense and became very familiar to me but yet somehow the exact understanding remained elusive.
Currently I am fascinated with GET as it is yet to be challenged and studied enough to render its importance. It is a theory of, “who we are” as touted by some researchers, because we are constantly evaluating things around us before making decisions. In short, our decisions reflect greatly on what we value; what we value reflects to an extent of who we are. Regardless of the importance of those decisions, the fact is, some form of deliberation process will be undertaken. The process can be dynamic when time is at hand and subjected to some predictive value. These factors could be our prior experiences, knowledge, success or failure that stemmed from those incidences and of course, significant others. They are not exhaustive but not necessarily daunting to put forth the main convictions behind the evaluation process, why we made that decision.
How we perceived and evaluate things, events, etc., depend on the predictive value we attached to them. Consider us as students and our initial application process to the EMSEP: why did some of us chose Thessaly over Lund? or Lund over Jyväskylä and likewise, Jyväskylä over the other two? Whatever the factors influencing our decision, they carry some predictive value we had and formed of each university. Like I mentioned before, the process is dynamic when time is at hand. It allows us to find out more and confirm if our preconceived predictive value and / or feeling about studying in the chosen university is the right choice. In retrospect, would we evaluate differently if Thessaly was in Sweden instead of Greece? or after seeking the advice of some experts who endorse Lund over Jyväskylä and many others we had or never thought of.
The measurement and judgement of things can be imposed on us by outside factors. Like in the example of seeking advice of some experts or any other significant others involved in the process; altering our decisions and consequences. By now, a few of us will be thinking that this theory has something to do with decision making. Well, you are almost there…you kind of GET it already. To reiterate the notion of this theory, I shall sum up this post with the following:
“General Evaluability Theory is a theoretical framework used in decision-making. Decision-making is about making an informed outcome which entails valuing and influence by the value(s) we attached to arrive at it.”
If you have yet to get the hang of GET, stay tuned to Vol.2 by Gosia…
Faisal is currently an EMSEP student at the University of Jyvaskyla. He earned his Bachelor of Applied Science in Human Movement Studies with Honors Class II from the University of Queensland, Australia. Faisal taught Physical Education and Mathematics in Singapore and had designed the school’s PE and Health curriculum and syllabus. He had also written several Math books which are currently being adopted by 3 special needs schools in Singapore. His current research is in discourse analysis of athletic experience.
Yoga is mind and body discipline developed in India some 2000 years ago. Almost two decades ago, the fitness industry rediscovered this ancient form of physical activity and a new category called mind-body exercise was created. In a more recent article, Larkey, Jahnke, Etnier, and Gonzalez (2009) proposed the term “meditative movement” to classify exercise activities which focus on physical movements, conscious breathing, a calm state of mind, and deep states of relaxation.
As a yoga practitioner for many years and a student of sport and exercise psychology, I was thinking of ways on how to better integrate these two disciplines. I practice a dynamic form of yoga called Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga. This method was taught by the late Sri Pattabhi Jois of Mysore, India, and was passed on to him by his teacher Shri Krisnamacharya, said to be a great yogi and healer (K. Pattabhi Jois, 2009). The dynamic element of the practice called vinyasa provides a light aerobic stimulus which, based on a personal experience and some published studies (Cowen & Adams, 2005; 2007), can raise one’s heart rate up to 60% of the relative maximum. Contrary to popular belief, yoga is not only for increased flexibility and relaxation. It also increases muscular endurance, decreases perceived stress, and improves overall health perception (Cowen & Adams, 2005).
Ultimately, the goal of yoga is purely psychological. As defined in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, one of the authoritative texts in yoga, yoga is the control of the mental fluctuations and energies. In Ashtanga, the purpose of working the body out is to burn the six poisons of the heart – desire, anger, delusion, greed, envy, and sloth (The Practice, 2009). Simply put, the goal is to live a peaceful life free from hatred and negativities.
Yoga as physical activity intervention
In India, the practice of yoga can be as sedentary as sitting for hours in deep meditation or as active as the jumping transitions in Ashtanga. When we talk about yoga as physical activity, we are actually focusing on the practice of hatha yoga. The practice of hatha yoga consists of several practical techniques aimed to make the body clean, healthy, and strong. These modalities includes cleansing techniques, physical exercises, breathwork, attention focus, and attitude training. All of which, I believe, are important to physical and psychological health and well-being.
A recent review article comparing the health benefits of yoga versus conventional exercise suggests that yoga appears to be as effective as or even superior than exercise in reducing perceived fatigue and stress in addition to improving health-related outcomes like blood glucose, blood lipids, and salivary cortisol (Ross & Thomas, 2010). This review implies that yoga, in general, can be an effective alternative physical activity intervention program which not only addresses the health/fitness triad of aerobic exercise, muscular fitness, and flexibility, but also provides a number of psychological benefits such as reduced stress and anxiety.
Yoga for mental skills training
When I started teaching yoga to my university’s cheerleading team way back in 2002, I thought yoga would be a good alternative to a traditional psychological skills training program. Armed with only a 3-unit undergraduate sport psychology course and a lot of personal yoga practice, I introduced yoga to the team as a cross-training program both to enhance the athletes’ physical and mental skills. Later on, some of the athletes informed me that yoga helped them to control their performance anxiety and cope better with both athletic and academic demands.
As I pointed out earlier, yoga techniques include not only physical exercises but also breathwork, attention focus, and attitude training. Breathwork is essential to developing inner awareness which is prerequisite to relaxation and imagery. One school of yoga actually teaches a technique called yoga nidra (yogic sleep) with preparatory exercises very similar to imagery training. Attention focus in yoga includes sense withdrawal, concentration, and meditation, which are in essence centering in sport psychology language.
Yoga also teaches positive thinking. Generally, attitude training in yoga involves the practice of ethical rules and observances called yamas and niyamas, but in the context of sport psychology, attitude training in yoga means thinking positively or applying positive self-talk.
Yoga as a physical activity has many physical as well as psychological benefits. It offers a holistic approach to a physical activity intervention and an alternative strategy to enhance mental skills in sports. Yoga has a wide range of techniques designed to improve health and fitness; to teach inner awareness, breathing and relaxation; and to cultivate a positive mental state. As sport psychology is still in its infancy in some parts of the world, offering yoga as a cross-training program is a good introduction to a comprehensive mental skills training program and may assist in providing a way to gain entry into an athletic team. Traditional psychological skills techniques such as centering, imagery, and relaxation, can be incorporated into a regular yoga session which makes it a great introductory mental training package. Yoga is now a mainstream discipline that even professional NBA teams incorporate it in their training programs (Stack, 2011).
If you want to learn more about yoga, my teacher Paul Dallaghan has written many great articles which you can read at Centered Yoga’s website (www.centeredyoga.com/articles.html). You can also find there information on training programs and retreats all year-round. You can also get more information from these organizations: British Wheel of Yoga (www.bwy.org.uk) and Yoga Alliance (www.yogaalliance.org).
Cowen, V. S., & Adams, T. B. (2007). Heart rate in yoga asana practice: A comparison of styles. Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies , 11, 91–95.
Cowen, V. S., & Adams, T. B. (2005). Physical and perceptual benefits of yoga asana practice: results of a pilot study. Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies , 9, 211–219.
K. Pattabhi Jois. (2009). Retrieved January 4, 2012, from K. Pattabhi Jois Ashtanga Yoga Institute: http://kpjayi.org/biographies/k-pattabhi-jois
Larkey, L., Jahnke, R., Etnier, J., & Gonzalez, J. (2009). Meditative movement as a category of exercise: Implications for research. Journal of Physical Activity and Health , 6, 230-238.
Ross, A., & Thomas, S. (2010). The Health Benefits of Yoga and Exercise: A Review of Comparison Studies. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine , 16 (1), 3–12.
Stack, K. (2011, February 8). Yoga in the NBA: Teams add to their strength and conditioning programs. Retrieved January 14, 2012, from SLAM Online: http://www.slamonline.com/online/nba/2011/02/yoga-in-the-nba/
The Practice. (2009). Retrieved January 4, 2012, from K. Pattabhi Jois Ashtanga Yoga Institute: http://kpjayi.org/the-practice
Jonathan Cagas is a master’s degree student in Sport and Exercise Psychology at the University of Jyväskylä in Finland. He completed his Bachelor in Sports Science (1999) and M.S. in Physical Education (2005) at the University of the Philippines Diliman. Jonathan received his yoga teaching certificate from Centered Yoga in Thailand and has taught yoga as well as physical education in the Philippines and in Saudi Arabia. He is now focused on enhancing his research skills and his main area of interest is in motivation and physical activity promotion.