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Yoga can destress caregivers, says study

29 nurses have been given month-long basic yoga

YOGA helps patients, but what about the stressed out relatives who take care of the patients?

A study by the National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences (Nimhans) has revealed that many caretakers were under immense stress but a 30-minute yoga session helped them acquire a calm state of mind even during trying situations.

The study, conducted by an MS psychiatric nursing student Umadevi P was focused on the caregivers of patients with neurological disorder admitted at the Nimhans. It indicated that caregivers who did yoga showed significant decrease in anxiety and depression compared to those who did not undergo the yoga session.

“Most hospital-based studies focus on improving the quality of life of patients but the caregivers are overlooked. Even they undergo a lot of stress as they have to take care of every need of the patient,” said Dr Shivaram Varambally, co-guide of the study and associate professor, Department of Psychiatry. Dr Ramachandra, associate professor nursing, was another mentor in the study, along with a help from Dr Mariamma Philip from Biostatistic Department and Dr Navin, a yoga therapist. 

Dr Umadevi took a month-long training from Advanced Centre for Yoga at Nimhans, before taking up the research. Later, the researchers randomly divided about 60 caregivers of severely ill patients into two groups and they were assessed between August 2009 and January, this year.

“I told the caregivers that attending the 10-day yoga session was mandatory. A few discontinued. However, 20 people came regularly. Once they completed the session, I asked them to continue with the yoga everyday. Almost all of them did it for at least 30-45 minutes a day,” she recalled. 

The training included Tadasana, Bhujangasana and Pranayams like Nadi Shuddhi, and Sheethali. A month later the caregivers was assessed by using Hospital Anxiety and Depression scale and the quality of life as scaled by WHO Quality of Life-BREF. What they found was an impressive reduction in anxiety level among people who continued yoga. “Say, if anxiety level was 9.45 in the rating scale, it came to 1.9. Similarly, depression which was rated at 14 dropped to 3.45,” said Dr Varambally. In the meantime, the group of caregivers who did not perform yoga, the rating scale for anxiety and depression showed marginal drop.

Dr Umadevi believed that yoga helped the caregivers cope with emotions and improved their quality of life. As a matter of fact, a woman whose husband suffered from Myasthenia Gravis, a neuromuscular disease, felt benefited by the exercise and even taught her children and neighbours.

Taking the cue
Dr Shivaram said that they were now creating a similar yoga module for caregivers of Schizophrenic patients in the hospital. As a first step, 29 nurses have been given a month-long basic yoga course in the last six months, who in turn have been teaching it to the patients in their respective wards. 

(Published in Deccan Herald on 10th October, 2010)

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