Sahaja yoga mediation of some benefit in asthma treatment

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – Asthma patients who participate in a program of Sahaja yoga have improved airway hyperresponsiveness and show improvement in some measures of asthma-related quality of life and mood compared with controls, according to a report in the February issue of Thorax.

In Sahaja yoga, mediation is practiced to achieve a meditative state called "thoughtless awareness," or "mental silence." In this state subjects are alert and aware of their environment but free from unnecessary mental activity, according to Dr. G. B. Marks, from the Institute of Respiratory Medicine, Camperdown, Australia, and colleagues.

The researchers randomized 59 patients with moderate to severe asthma to a program of Sahaja yoga or control intervention. Patients in the yoga group attended weekly instructional meditation sessions and were encouraged to meditate for 10 to 20 minutes twice daily. The control arm participated in sessions that included cognitive behavior-like exercises, group discussions and relaxation techniques. All subjects remained on their asthma management medications.

At the end of the 4-month treatment period, 21 of the 30 patients in the Sahaja yoga program were available for analysis, as were 26 of the 29 patients in the control group.

Patients in the Sahaja yoga group had an improvement in airway hyperresponsiveness compared with controls, (p = 0.047 for the difference between the groups), they note.

Although the differences in the asthma-related quality of life and combined asthma scores were not significantly different between the groups, the mood subscale of the asthma-related quality of life did improve in patients in the Sahaja yoga group compared with controls, Dr. Mark's group reports.

The summary Profile of Moods States score also improved in the Sahaja yoga group compared with controls. However, after 2 months of follow-up there were no significant differences between the groups, the Australian team found.

Dr. Marks's team concludes that "this randomized controlled trial has shown that, in patients who express an interest in nonpharmacological treatments for asthma, the practice of Sahaja yoga does have limited beneficial effects on some objective and subjective measures of the impact of asthma."

"While many will be skeptical of the yogic explanation for these observations, it is possible that further study of the effect of yogic meditation practices and altered breathing patterns in subjects with asthma may elucidate new nonpharmacological strategies to assist in the control of the manifestations of this condition," they add.

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