Scientists unraveling the science behind yoga

Yoga has been practiced in India since the ancient times and the practice of this traditional method for wellbeing is well documented. Nowadays, scientists in India have been trying to decode the science behind the benefits of Yoga.

Scientists in national institutions like Defence Research and Development Organisation,  All India Institute of Medical Sciences as well as international researchers have been trying to decode the secret behind the use of the well being method in a range of lifestyle and fitness disorders.

 In recent years, celebration of June 21 as International Yoga day coupled with programmes like Science and Technology of Yoga and Meditation (SATYAM) supported by the Department of Science and Technology have brought focused attention to the study of the traditional method and its science.

 Scientists working on disease like depression, arthritis, back pain, hypertension, breast cancer, obesity have confirmed that the regular practice of yoga and meditation even for short duration can help to improve mind–body communications to enhance neuroplasticity in the brain of both healthy individuals and patients with neuropsychiatric conditions.

This they say decreases the risk of dementia, age-related chronic medical problems, reduce blood pressure, heart rate and also enhance cognitive flexibility which may further reduce stress, anxiety, and pain, thereby improving quality of life.

Researchers are also working on effect of Yoga on female biological processes like menstruation pregnancy and menopause. These regular biological processes become a challenge when women have to carry out their day to day activities; household as well as professional despite these processes. Moreover, balancing professional life along with household responsibilities is a challenge in itself. Yoga can help in overcoming these challenges and in maintaining psychological balance while carrying out all responsibilities. Studies have revealed the effect of Yoga in relaxing different muscle systems, nerve and hormonal systems which ameliorates the problems, pains faced during these processes.

In India, the teenager population is approximately 243 million. Systematic review in India indicates that prevalence of psychiatric disorders among adolescents ranged from 0.48 - 29.40%.

Regular practice of Yoga can help teenagers to lower the stress and deal with the overwhelming emotional, biological and physical changes. Yoga helps them to enhance their physical and psychological strength for smooth transition into adult phase.

While many scientists try to unravel the scientific mysteries of the numerous benefits, the connection between this traditional method and science has started to establish itself. A group of scientists at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore have found a method to measure whether the Yogic asanas is being performed in a correct manner or not. Supported by the SATYAM programme of the Department of Science and Technology they have developed a new mathematical metrics to quantify the expertise in terms of stability and steadiness. The metrics is based on sEMG or Surface electromyography (sEMG) signals.  The sEMG signals are a measure of muscle activity which records and differentiates between the electric activity of groups of muscles at rest and during activity.

The SATYAM programme of the Department of Science and Technology supported sixteen Projects in the year 2018-19. These projects will explore different dynamics of yoga and meditation on human body, mind and consciousness. Some studies will analyse effect of yoga on diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, motor function, schizophrenia and mild cognitive impairment. Yoga intervention will be given to elderly for better balance. Efficacy of Iyengar yoga will be studied to improve muscle functions and gait characteristics in children with cerebral palsy. In one project brain activity during audio guided meditation will be mapped using fMRI. In other project efficacy of yoga based intervention for opioid dependence will be checked.

Such efforts of scientists can be very effective in establishing the science behind the benefits derived from Yoga as a traditional wellness method.