Thursday, 18 March 2010

Natural calamities: Yoga helps in stress management

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, March 18: Practising yoga for about a week will be useful in stress management after any natural calamity. A week of yoga will decrease sadness and anxiety in victims of natural disasters like tsunami, flash floods, cyclones and earthquakes. Yoga is a good intervention for post-traumatic stress disorder.

According to Dr Shirley Telles of the department of Yoga Research, Patanjali Yogpeeth, certain yoga exercises help in controlling heart beat, breath rate and emotional distress. Yoga, particularly Sudarshana Kriya, acts not only on the body improving physiological functions, but also relieves mental tension, stress and trauma associated with loss of life and property in a calamity.

Patanjali Yogpeeth researchers including Dr N Singh, Dr M Joshi and Dr A Balkrishna studied the effect of yoga on the victims of natural calamities including floods. The team selected two groups of victims, one performing yoga and another non-yoga group. The results showed that those who performed yoga had overcome the trauma and sadness easily. The yoga group practised yoga for 60 minutes while the non-yoga group continued with its normal work.

"A week of yoga can reduce feelings of sadness and possibly prevent an increase in anxiety after calamity," the study pointed out, adding that
since yoga includes asanas, kriyas, pranayamas and dhyana, it can be regarded as an intervention to treat stress resulting from a traumatic event.

According to the Yogpeeth team, high distress levels at the time of assault significantly predict increased levels of fear and anxiety in the following months. "Since the level of distress is strongly correlated to Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms, an attempt to decrease distress immediately following the event may result in a more positive treatment outcome.

The study noted that since interventions like trauma debriefing in the initial period will only increase the risk of PTSD symptoms, yoga practices like Sudarshan Kriya Yoga can be considered for surviving victims of natural calamities. The researchers suggest yoga activities like loosening exercises (movement of joints) for 10 minutes, asanas for 20 minutes and pranayamas for 25 minutes. The session can be concluded by five minutes of guided relaxation in shavasana.

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