Abstract: The present study aimed at assessing the effects of a set of yoga practices on normal adults (n=37), children (n=86), and patients with rheumatoid arthritis (n=20). An equal number of normal adults, children, and patients with rheumatoid arthritis who did not practice yoga were studied under each category, forming respective control groups. Yoga and control group subjects were assessed at baseline and after varying intervals, as follows, adults after 30 days, children after 10 days and patients after 15 days, based on the duration of the yoga program, which they attended, which was already fixed. Hand grip strength of both hands, measured with a grip dynamometer, increased in normal adults and children, and in rheumatoid arthritis patients, following yoga, but not in the corresponding control groups, showing no re-test effect. Adult female volunteers and patients showed a greater percentage improvement than corresponding adult males. This gender-based difference was not observed in children. Hence yoga practice improves hand grip strength in normal persons and in patients with rheumatoid arthritis, though the magnitude of improvement varies with factors such as gender and age.
Key words : Hand Grip Power; Yoga; Age; Gender; Rheumatoid arthritis.
Hand grip strength has been used as an objective clinical measure in a variety of situations. For example, grip strength has been used to assess general strength in order to determine work capacity (1), for extent of injury and disease processes and the potential for and progress in rehabilitation (6).
The practice of yoga for three months was found to increase hand grip strength in male volunteers whose occupation was to teach physical education to high school students (9). This category of subjects already had 8 to 10 years of experience in physical education and sports and may have been considered to be more likely to improve their muscle power, for that reason. School children, of both sexes between 12 and 15 years of age, also showed improved hand grip strength following a yoga residential camp, which had yoga breathing, or pranayama (i.e., voluntarily regulated breathing) as the main practice (8). This improvement in hand grip strength following yoga, was also seen in patients in whom the function of gripping is abnormal due to disease. Patients with rheumatoid arthritis having pain and swelling of finger joints showed a trend of improvement in hand grip strength following a daily yoga session for 5 days a week, for 8 weeks, followed by weekly 2-hour sessions for a further 3 months (2). Hence the earlier studies, described above, investigated either selected subjects (e.g., adults with training in physical education), selected yoga practices (e.g., pranayama), or patients who were given daily sessions of yoga practice, rather than training in lifestyle change.
The present study aimed at assessing the effect of yoga training on grip strength in: (i) adults who had no special earlier physical training, (ii) children, following a ten day yoga camp without specific emphasis on any one practice, and (iii) patients with rheumatoid arthritis who were given an intensive yoga therapy practice, including suggestions for life style and mental attitude change.