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BACKGROUND: Prolonged activation of the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal system is thought to have deleterious effects on brain function. Neuroendocrine studies suggest that brain exposure to higher cortisol concentrations contribute to cognitive deficits as we age. Mind-body techniques such as yoga have shown to improve stress levels by restoring the body's sympathetic-parasympathetic balance. The objective of this study was to determine whether yoga practice moderated the stress response resulting in improved executive function. METHODS: Sedentary community dwelling older adults (N=118, Mean age=62.02) were randomized to an 8-week yoga intervention or a stretching control group. At baseline and following 8 weeks, all participants completed measures of executive function, self-reported stress and anxiety and provided saliva samples before and after cognitive testing to assess cortisol. RESULTS: Yoga participants showed improved accuracy on executive function measures and an attenuated cortisol response compared to their stretching counterparts who showed increased cortisol levels and poor cognitive performance at follow up. The change in cortisol levels as well as self-reported stress and anxiety levels predicted performance on the running span task, n-back working memory and task switching paradigm (beta's=0.27-0.38, p's</=0.05 for yoga and beta's=-0.37-0.47, p's</=0.01 for stretching control). CONCLUSION: Eight weeks of regular yoga practice resulted in improved working memory performance that was mediated by an attenuated response to stress as measured by self-report stress and objective salivary cortisol measurements. This trial offers evidence for non-traditional physical activity interventions such as yoga that may be helpful in restoring HPA balance in older adults, thereby preventing cognitive decline.

Background: Psychiatric ill-health is prevalent among prison inmates and often hampers their rehabilitation. Rehabilitation is crucial for reducing recidivistic offending. A few studies have presented evidence of the positive effect of yoga on the well-being of prison inmates. The conclusion of those previous studies that yoga is an effective method in the rehabilitation process of inmates, and deserves and requires further attention. Aims: The current study aimed to evaluate the effect of 10 weeks of yoga practice on the mental health profile, operationalized in the form of psychological distress, of inmates. Methods: One hundred and fifty-two volunteer participants (133 men; 19 women) were randomly placed in either of two groups: to participate in weekly 90-min yoga class (yoga group) or a weekly 90-min free-choice physical exercise (control group). The study period lasted for 10 weeks. Prior to and at the end of the study period the participants completed a battery of self-reported inventories, including the Brief Symptom Inventory (BSI). Results: Physical activity (including yoga) significantly reduced the inmates' levels of psychological distress. Yoga practice improved all primary symptom dimensions and its positive effect on the obsessive-compulsive, paranoid ideation, and somatization symptom dimensions of the BSI stayed significant even when comparing with the control group. Conclusions: Yoga as a form of physical activity is effective for reducing psychological distress levels in prison inmates, with specific effect on symptoms such as suspicious and fearful thoughts about losing autonomy, memory problems, difficulty in making decisions, trouble concentrating, obsessive thought, and perception of bodily dysfunction.

The purpose of this pilot study was to evaluate the feasibility and effectiveness of a yoga program as an adjunctive therapy for improving post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms in Veterans with military-related PTSD. Veterans (n = 12) participated in a 6 week yoga intervention held twice a week. There was significant improvement in PTSD hyperarousal symptoms and overall sleep quality as well as daytime dysfunction related to sleep. There were no significant improvements in the total PTSD, anger, or quality of life outcome scores. These results suggest that this yoga program may be an effective adjunctive therapy for improving hyperarousal symptoms of PTSD including sleep quality. This study demonstrates that the yoga program is acceptable, feasible, and that there is good adherence in a Veteran population.

UNLABELLED: This study investigated whether a 7-week yoga intervention could improve physical function, perceived stress, and mental/emotional wellness in elderly participants. METHODS: 8 participants (66.5 +/- 0.3 years) attended 2 60-min Hatha yoga sessions/week for 7 weeks, and performed pre- and post-intervention assessments. Balance was assessed using a 5-test battery. Flexibility was measured by sit-and-reach and shoulder flexibility tests. Functional mobility tests included 8-ft up-and-go, 5 chair stands, and 4-m walk. Participants completed SF-12, exhaustion level, and Perceived Stress Scale (PSS) questionnaires. RESULTS: SF-12 Mental Component Summary scores, exhaustion levels, and PSS scores improved post-intervention. No differences were found for physical function measures. CONCLUSIONS: Yoga participation can improve mental/emotional wellness, exhaustion levels, and stress levels in elderly individuals, even without measurable improvements in physical function. Clinicians and health practitioners who work with the elderly should consider yoga as a potential therapeutic modality for improving important aspects of quality of life in this population.

CONTEXT: Professional musicians often experience high levels of stress, music performance anxiety (MPA), and performance-related musculoskeletal disorders (PRMDs). Given the fact that most professional musicians begin their musical training before the age of 12, it is important to identify interventions that will address these issues from an early age.OBJECTIVE: This study intended to replicate and expand upon adult research in this area by evaluating the effects of a yoga intervention on MPA and PRMDs in a population of adolescent musicians. The present study was the first to examine these effects. DESIGN: The research team assigned participants, adolescent musicians, into two groups. The intervention group (n = 84) took part in a 6-wk yoga program, and the control group (n = 51) received no treatment. The team evaluated the effects of the yoga intervention by comparing the scores of the intervention group to those of the control group on a number of questionnaires related to MPA and PRMDs. SETTING: The study was conducted at the Boston University Tanglewood Institute (BUTI). BUTI is a training academy for advanced adolescent musicians, located in Lenox, Massachusetts. PARTICIPANTS: Participants were adolescent, residential music students (mean age = 16 y) in a 6-wk summer program at the BUTI in 2007 and 2008. INTERVENTION: Participants in the yoga intervention group were requested to attend three, 60-min, Kripalustyle yoga classes each wk for 6 wk. OUTCOME MEASURES: MPA was measured using the Performance Anxiety Questionnaire (PAQ) and the Music Performance Anxiety Inventory for Adolescents (MPAI-A). PRMDs were measured using the Performance-Related Musculoskeletal Disorders Questionnaire (PRMD-Q). RESULTS • Yoga participants showed statistically significant reductions in MPA from baseline to the end of the program compared to the control group, as measured by several subscales of the PAQ and MPAI-A; however, the results for PRMDs were inconsistent. CONCLUSION: The findings suggest that yoga may be a promising way for adolescents to reduce MPA and perhaps even prevent it in the future. These findings also suggest a novel treatment modality that potentially might alleviate MPA and prevent the early disruption and termination of musical careers.

A month after the December 2004 tsunami the effect of a 1 week yoga program was evaluated on self rated fear, anxiety, sadness and disturbed sleep in 47 survivors in the Andaman Islands. Polygraph recordings of the heart rate, breath rate and skin resistance were also made. Among the 47 people, 31 were settlers from the mainland (i.e. India, ML group) and 16 were endogenous people (EP group). There was a significant decrease in self rated fear, anxiety, sadness and disturbed sleep in both groups, and in the heart and breath rate in the ML group, and in the breath rate alone in the EP group, following yoga (P < 0.05, t-test). This suggests that yoga practice may be useful in the management of stress following a natural disaster in people with widely differing social, cultural and spiritual beliefs.

OBJECTIVES: To measure trauma-related distress and evaluate the feasibility, acceptability, and preliminary efficacy of an 8-week yoga intervention (YI) in reducing trauma-related symptoms and emotional and behavioral difficulties (EBD) among children living in orphanages in Haiti.DESIGN: Case comparison with random assignment to YI or aerobic dance control (DC) plus a nonrandomized wait-list control (WLC) group. SETTING: Two orphanages for children in Haiti. PARTICIPANTS: 76 children age 7 to 17 years. INTERVENTION: The YI included yoga postures, breathing exercises, and meditation. The DC group learned a series of dance routines. The WLC group received services as usual in the institutional setting. After completion of data collection, the WLC group received both yoga and dance classes for 8 weeks. OUTCOME MEASURES: The UCLA PTSD Reaction Index and the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire were used to indicate trauma-related symptoms and EBD, respectively. A within-subject analysis was conducted to compare pre- and post-treatment scores. A post-treatment yoga experience questionnaire evaluated acceptability of the YI. RESULTS: Analyses of variance revealed a significant effect (F[2,28]=3.30; p=0.05) of the YI on the trauma-related symptom scores. Regression analyses showed that participation in either 8 weeks of yoga or dance classes suggested a reduction in trauma-related symptoms and EBD, although this finding was not statistically significant (p>0.05). Respondents reported satisfaction with the yoga program and improved well-being. CONCLUSIONS: Children with trauma-related distress showed improvements in symptoms after participation in an 8-week yoga program compared to controls. Yoga is a feasible and acceptable activity with self-reported benefits to child mental and physical health. Additional research is needed to further evaluate the effect of yoga to relieve trauma-related distress and promote well-being among children.

Research on the efficacy of yoga for improving mental, emotional, physical, and behavioral health characteristics in school settings is a recent but growing field of inquiry. This systematic review of research on school-based yoga interventions published in peer-reviewed journals offers a bibliometric analysis that identified 47 publications. The studies from these publications have been conducted primarily in the United States (n = 30) and India (n = 15) since 2005, with the majority of studies (n = 41) conducted from 2010 onward. About half of the publications were of studies at elementary schools; most (85%) were conducted within the school curriculum, and most (62%) also implemented a formal school-based yoga program. There was a high degree of variability in yoga intervention characteristics, including overall duration, and the number and duration of sessions. Most of these published research trials are preliminary in nature, with numerous study design limitations, including limited sample sizes (median = 74; range = 20-660) and relatively weak research designs (57% randomized controlled trials, 19% uncontrolled trials), as would be expected in an infant research field. Nevertheless, these publications suggest that yoga in the school setting is a viable and potentially efficacious strategy for improving child and adolescent health and therefore worthy of continued research.

Yoga therapy is a mind-body intervention that can be an important solution in the treatment of anxiety. Yoga therapy alleviates the hyperarousal of the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) and the hypervigilance of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis that occurs in anxiety. Yoga therapy activates the parasympathetic branch of the nervous system, replacing SNS overdrive, or the flight-or-fight response, with the relaxation response and balancing the nervous system. Yoga therapy increases positive coping skills and builds self-esteem without harmful side effects. The results of this case study have demonstrated the clinical efficacy of yoga therapy in the treatment of anxiety and panic disorder (PD) in an adolescent female. Treatment consisted of 4 wks of individual sessions (60-min session/wk) and 6 wks of group sessions (90-min session/wk) with daily home practice. The results of the case study are significant because growing numbers of youth in the United States are presenting with anxiety and seeking nonpharmacological options.

This article outlines the rationale and best practices for helping young people recover from the trauma of sexual abuse using integrative and therapeutic Yoga practices. As a model for such work, we describe a specific program, Healing Childhood Sexual Abuse with Yoga, currently offered by the authors in the Portland, OR area. The program serves both girls and boys and has a teen leadership component to allow older youth to serve as role models for preteens. This article outlines the necessary steps for working with this population, including self-inquiry, training, program design, teaching strategies, and integration with other therapies and services. A full eight-week curriculum is described, with focal points for each class, as well as suggested poses, mantras, creative activities, and mindfulness practices. The article also addresses specific contraindications and risk factors and ways they can be mitigated. Finally, it covers observed outcomes from two sequential eight-week sessions of the Healing Childhood Sexual Abuse with Yoga program.
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