The results of a pilot study conducted at the VA hospital in Los Angles, in collaboration with UCLA, that studied the effects of a ten minute seated yoga practice was recently published in the Journal of Yoga and Physical Therapy.
Ten patients were chosen to evaluate the impact of a daily ten minute seated yoga program. These were people who had poorly controlled diabetes for greater than 10 years. They also had chronic hypertension, high cholesterol and kidney disease. All took insulin.
The objective was this: In addition to their standard comprehensive diabetes care, what changes could be observed in 3 months of a daily seated yoga practice. Could it improve health outcomes for these patients.
The patients were taught 5 poses with deep breathing. Each pose was taught with modifications appropriate with those of varying abilities. They were given a DVD and fold out pocket guide to encourage compliance at home. Ten minutes a day- ten.
In three months the mean decrease in fasting capillary blood glucose (finger stick) was 45%. Heart rate dropped 18% and diastolic (bottom number) blood pressure dropped 29%. There were no changes in systolic (top number) blood pressure, weight or body mass index. There were no reported adverse effects.
The positive data from this small group supports the integration of mind-body techniques for those who carry a substantial health burden.
It is interesting to note that while the study group showed no weight gain during the study, in the control group there was a clear trend to weight gain.
Sure this was a very small study however it demonstrated hope for those who are often depressed and frustrated by feeling bad every day even if they take their meds and follow a diet. After years of limited activity they become deconditioned and the thought of an exercise program seems impossible. Hands are thrown into the air, shoulders shrug in hopelessness.
This approach with breathing and movement was safe and easy to do. Positive effects were visible and quantifiable within 12 weeks.
I hope this encourages physicians across our country to integrate a yoga wellness program into the standard medical care model of those living with chronic illnesses. And if you are one of those with these health issues, try yoga: deep breathing and movement. You can do it!