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Autonomic and Respiratory Measures in Children with Impaired Vision following Yoga and Physical Activity Programs

Shirley Telles, B. Rajesh and Srinivas
Vivekananda Kendra Yoga Research Foundation, Bangalore. India

Abstract : We conducted assessments of twenty eight children with impaired vision (VI group), with ages ranging from twelve to seventeen years and in an equal number of age-matched, normal sighted children (NS group). The VI group had significantly higher rates of breathing, heart rates, and diastolic blood pressure values, compared to the NS group (Mann- Whitney U test). Twenty four of the VI group formed pairs matched for age and degree of blindness and were randomly assigned to two groups, viz. yoga and physical activity. Both groups spent an hour each day practicing yoga or working in the garden depending on their group. After 3 weeks, the yoga group showed a significant decrease in breath rate (Wilcoxon paired signed ranks test). There was no change after the physical activity program. The results showed that the visually impaired have higher physiological arousal than the normal sighted with a marginal reduction in arousal following yoga.

Key words : visual impairment, normal sight, autonomic measures, yoga, gardening.


Young people with impaired vision have significantly higher levels of anxiety related to physical injury, compared to an age-matched group of subjects with normal vision (Ollendick et al., 1985). In addition, one study reported that in comparison to persons who have vision, persons who are blind have a significantly higher heart rate while walking along an unfamiliar route, as well as for five minutes after it (Wycherley and Wicklin, 1970). The authors ascribed this to psychological, rather than physical stress.

The purpose of the life present study was to compare the autonomic and respiratory measures of children with congenital visual impairment with those of a group of age and sex matched children with normal vision. This was the first part of the study. The second part of the present study aimed at comparing the effects of yoga practice with physical activity, in children with visual impairment. The practice of yoga, as based on relaxation (Nagendra, 1989), is able to bring about reduced sympathetic activity alongwith other physiological signs of reduced arousal (Wallace et al., 1971; Joseph et al., 198 1).

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