Can Yoga Practices Benefit Health by Improving Organism Regulation? Evidence from Electrodermal Measures of Acupuncture Meridians

By Sharma, Bhawna; Hankey, Alex et al. | International Journal of Yoga, January-June 2014 | Go to article overview

Can Yoga Practices Benefit Health by Improving Organism Regulation? Evidence from Electrodermal Measures of Acupuncture Meridians


Sharma, Bhawna, Hankey, Alex, Nagilla, Niharika, Meenakshy, Kaniyamparambil, Nagendra, Hongasandra, International Journal of Yoga


Byline: Bhawna. Sharma, Alex. Hankey, Niharika. Nagilla, Kaniyamparambil. Meenakshy, Hongasandra. Nagendra

Objectives: To document and explain Yoga's effects on acupuncture meridian energies. To understand mechanisms behind Yoga's efficacy by testing links between yoga and traditional Chinese medicine. Materials and Methods: The study compared two groups of yoga practitioners: Novice and experienced. Novices consisted of 33 volunteers from a Swami Vivekananda Yoga Anusandhana Samsthana (S-VYASA) yoga instructor training module and the experienced practitioners were 20 resident SVYASA students. The intervention was 3 weeks of a yoga training program, new for the novices, but the lifestyle of the experienced group, who were therefore assessed only once. Novices were assessed on day 2 and 23 of their program at SVYASA's Yoga Medicine Hospital, making their data a pre-post, self-as-control, prospective study. Main outcome measures were mean acumeridian energy levels assessed by AcuGraph3 measures of electrodermal resistance at acupoints; additionally, gender differences, standard deviations (SDs) of all measures, and comparison of post and experienced group data. Results: Averaged energy levels significantly improved in all 24 meridians (maximum P = 0.032, 4-P < 0.01, and 19-P < 0.001). Females improved more than males (P < 0.05), both ending at similar levels to experienced practitioners, whose SDs were lower than novices on 19/24 meridians (mean F = 3.715, P = 0.0022), and 4/5 average variables. Conclusions: AcuGraph3 electrodermal measures contain substantial information, P << 0.00001. Yoga-lifestyle practice can increase and balance acumeridian energies; long-term practice decreases group SD's. These three suggest reasons why yoga practice impacts health: One, increased prana levels are important; two and three, improved physiological regulation is the key. Further studies relating traditional Indian and Chinese medical systems are needed.

Introduction

This paper explores mechanisms behind yoga's well-documented health benefits demonstrated in many studies. [sup][1],[2],[3],[4],[5],[6],[7],[8],[9],[10],[11],[12],[13],[14],[15],[16],[17],[18],[19],[20] How practices such as yoga postures (asanas) and breathing exercises (pranayama) achieve their results is not scientifically understood, though traditional texts propose a detailed phenomenology. Research on yoga-based techniques first reached top scientific journals in the 1970's, [sup][1],[2] and for yogasanas and pranayama, with Nagendra and Nagarathna's demonstration of their benefits for asthma. [sup][3],[4] The first-named spawned two major bodies of health research: First on effects of Transcendental Meditation (TM) on such variables as anxiety, [sup][5] substance abuse, [sup][6] and hypertension; [sup][7],[8] and, second, to investigations of the 'relaxation response', [sup][9] a founding pillar of mind-body medicine. The asthma studies have since led to many specialized yoga programs for: Autism, [sup][10],[11] pregnancy, [sup][12] back pain, [sup][13] climacteric syndrome, [sup][14],[15] and oncology, [sup][16] particularly to quality of life (QoL) in breast cancer patients; [sup][17],[18] and other conditions including diabetes [sup][19] and obesity. [sup][20] Levels of potential benefit are high; back pain is primary care's highest reporting condition; [sup][13] type 2 diabetes mellitus is a modern scourge; [sup][21] obesity contributes to many serious disorders through metabolic syndrome. [sup][22] Yoga's history of published research demonstrates large effects, [sup][23] many comparable to western drug-based treatments, [sup][24] and with side-benefits. [sup][25] Official funding has supported their study: Major National Institutes of Health (NIH) grants for QoL in breast cancer patients; [sup][17],[18],[26]

$24 million from National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) for TM's effects on hypertension, [sup][27],[28] particularly in minorities. …

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