Yoga helps survivors of natural disasters

CHENNAI, India (Reuters Health) - A 1-week yoga program reduced stress and anxiety among survivors of the tsunami that hit the Indian Ocean islands of Andaman and Nicobar in December 2004, researchers from India report.

Dr. Shirley Telles and her team from the Swami Vivekananda Yoga Research Foundation in Bangalore conducted a stress management program for the survivors a month after the tsunami occurred. Forty-seven adults, of different cultural backgrounds, were enrolled in an 8-day intensive “Vivekananda yoga” program consisting of loosening exercises, physical postures, regulated breathing and guided relaxation for 1 hour every day.

Self assessment of symptoms and measurements of heart rate and respiratory rate were carried out before and after the program.

Fear, anxiety, sadness, sleep disturbances and respiratory rates were significantly reduced after the yoga program, Telles and colleagues report in the journal eCAM (Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine).

Yoga modifies the body response to stress of various types, including natural calamities, Telles explained in comments to Reuters Health.

“In the intensive phase, a minimum of 7-10 days is ideal. However, there should be an attempt to carry on the program at least for 3 months, and ideally for 2 years,” she recommended.

“Yoga practice may be useful in the management of stress following a natural disaster in people with widely differing social, cultural and spiritual beliefs,” the researchers conclude.

SOURCE: eCAM - Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, December 2007.