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The performance in a maze learning task was assessed in adults of either sex (n = 31) before and after 30 days of yoga training and in an age and gender matched control group of subjects who did not receive training in yoga. Subjects were blind folded and used the dominant hand to trace the path in a wooden pencil maze. At each assessment, subjects were given 5 trials, without a gap between them. Performance was based on the time taken to complete the maze and the number of blind alleys taken. The time and error scores of Trial 1 were significantly less after yoga (two-factor ANOVA, Tukey test). Repeating trials significantly decreased time scores at Trial 5 versus Trial 1, for both groups on Day 1 and for the control group on Day 30. Hence the yoga group showed improved performance in maze tracing at retest 30 days later, which may be related to this group being faster learners and also the effect of yoga itself. Yoga training did not influence maze learning, based on the performance in 5 repeat trials.
The present study was conducted to evaluate a statement in ancient yoga texts that suggests that a combination of both "calming" and "stimulating" measures may be especially helpful in reaching a state of mental equilibrium. Two yoga practices, one combining "calming and stimulating" measures (cyclic meditation) and the other, a "calming" technique (shavasan), were compared. The oxygen consumption, breath rate, and breath volume of 40 male volunteers (group mean +/- SD, 27.0 +/- 5.7 years) were assessed before and after sessions of cyclic meditation (CM) and before and after sessions of shavasan (SH). The 2 sessions (CM, SH) were 1 day apart. Cyclic meditation includes the practice of yoga postures interspersed with periods of supine relaxation. During SH the subject lies in a supine position throughout the practice. There was a significant decrease in the amount of oxygen consumed and in breath rate and an increase in breath volume after both types of sessions (2-factor ANOVA, paired t test). However, the magnitude of change on all 3 measures was greater after CM: (1) Oxygen consumption decreased 32.1% after CM compared with 10.1% after SH; (2) breath rate decreased 18.0% after CM and 15.2% after SH; and (3) breath volume increased 28.8% after CM and 15.9% after SH. These results support the idea that a combination of yoga postures interspersed with relaxation reduces arousal more than relaxation alone does.