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YOGA FOR REHABILITATION - AN OVERVIEW

Shirley Telles,* KV Naveen**
Vivekananda Kendra Yoga Research Foundation
No.9, Appajappa agrahar, Chamarajpet, Bangalore - 560018, India.


Yoga is an ancient Indian science and way of life. The practice of yoga has been shown to be therapeutically useful in bronchial asthma,1.2 type II diabetes Mellitus,3.4 hypertension,5 as well as other Psychosomatic ailments. The practice of yoga can also play a role in the rehabilitation of physically and mentally handicapped persons, as well as those who are socially disadvantaged.

Mentally handicapped subjects

A single case study showed that a mentally retarded woman (l.Q. = 41, on standard testing) was able to learn transcendental meditation (TM), which she practiced under close supervision for 14 months.4 This brought about significant improvements in her speech, behaviour, and social skills, though her I.Q. remained unchanged. A controlled study was carried out on 90 mentally retarded children, randomly assigned the children to two groups (yoga, control) so that there were equal numbers of mild, moderate and severely retarded children in both groups.7 The study assessed the effects of yoga practices (breathing exercises, pranayamas, loosening exercises, suryanamaskar, asanas and meditation) for a year. The moderately retarded among the yoga group performed significantly better on testing with the Binet-Kamat test (for general mental ability), Seguin form board (for co-ordination), and in the Vineland social maturity scale (to assess social adjustment and behaviour). Compared to their initial performance, as well as to that of the control group. The mild and severely retarded subjects of the yoga group had another benefit: they showed no deterioration in any score, where as the mildly retarded subjects of the control group showed negative scores on retesting. Hence yoga practices, including meditation are useful in the rehabilitation of the mentally handicapped.

Visually handicapped subjects:

Persons with impaired vision understandably often have higher levels of anxiety than those with normal vision. It has been shown that blind children learn yoga asanas with great ease. In a controlled study, it was shown that following three weeks of yoga practice (asanas and breathing practices), blind children had a significant decrease in breath rate and their abnormally irregular breathing became regular (reduced physiological signs of stress). There is also another possible area where the practice of yoga may benefit the blind. The blind are known to have a significantly better developed tactile sense than subjects with normal vision. Unfortunately this does not apply to their performance of motor skills,10 which are increasingly required today, for example to use the specially designed computer keyboards. Yoga practices help in the development of motor skills in persons with normal vision, 11 so a similar effect may be obtained in the blind. This is currently under investigation.

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