Scientific Results of Yoga: The Science of Yoga [Part 2 of 3]

Scientific Results of Yoga: The Science of Yoga [Part 2 of 3]


Narrator: Drs. Salem and Sherman were
interviewed in their research labs in Los Angeles, California and Seattle, Washington. ♪ Music ♪ My name is George Salem. I’m an associate professor and researcher in the division of biokinesiology and physical therapy here at the University of Southern California. So, I am interested in exercise. I have been studying exercise for the past 30 years and using biomechanics force platforms, high speed cameras to understand how exercise targets the musculoskeletal system. So, our primary objective in the current study, “Yoga Empowers Seniors Study”, is to
provide information for instructors who are going to be
designing programs for seniors. However, this information is also going to be very useful for the clinician or therapist so that
they can design individualized programs for their patients. Yes, we believe yoga is good and it has its place along with other forms of exercise, but what we want to do is make sure that the programs are tailored for the senior who may be participating in yoga for the very first time. To my knowledge, nobody has
quantified the biomechanics, the forces, the muscle recruitment patterns, the joint movements or torques that are created during yoga in healthy seniors. It’s very innovative,
it’s very different. It’s, it’s creative and
that’s what makes it exciting. We recreate their poses and show
them what their skeletal system would look like. Skeletons actually performing the yoga poses–asanas– and they get to see their muscles light up and do different things. It’s very exciting
for our participants. The challenge is that I we work
within a laboratory with lights, with force plates. Our subjects have
to be instrumented. We put reflective
balls on their joints. We put wires across their muscles, they have tape and all kinds of electronics associated with them. And yet we need them to feel comfortable and so we always do our studies with a yoga instructor present. We always take them
through an actual yoga program. They are not just standing there posing but rather they are performing yoga. They have a warm up period. They have a cool down period, we incorporate breathing and concentration, meditation techniques as well. We do have some
preliminary results and what, what’s fascinating and, and neat
about the project is that many of those results were not intuitive. Poses we thought were targeting certain muscle groups actually are targeting completely different muscle groups. Poses we thought were relatively safe are actually generating rather large loads and joint torques at joints in which older adults can get into trouble. So, if I could I’d like to give you an example of a pose which we thought was going to be doing one thing but now we’ve learned it’s doing something very different. And that would or those poses
would be the warrior poses. And the warrior poses, it’s often thought that these are very important poses for increasing balance in, in individuals and in fact it
intuitively that makes sense. You’re in a position
with an extended base. Your legs are spread far apart. We call that an abducted position. And we always hypothesized that that pose would be targeting the outer muscles of the thighs the gluteus medius muscle or the abductor muscles. We found that as opposed to
targeting the abductor muscles, they were actually targeting the inner muscles of the thigh the adductor muscles. A better pose for that
might be the tree pose, for example, which we know from our biomechanical investigation does target the hip abductors. It’s likely to increase one’s balance control because those hip abductors are important for balance. One of the things we’re learning is that some of these poses are really not intuitive. This information then will ultimately be disseminated perhaps in a book or perhaps online, and instructors can then go and bring
down then take this information and design a program that is going to be safe and effective. As we analyze our current results we will be expanding our studies to include other groups of individuals, both healthy individuals and those with disabilities. As yoga participation has
increased in recent years though, we understand that this is an area
that really is under-researched, and in discussing and
working with my colleague at UCLA, Gail Greendale, we
really decided that, hey, here is an opportunity for us
to use these very unique tools, these, these very tech, high tech tools to better understand what yoga is actually doing, how it’s targeting the physiology the
biological processes of our body. ♪ Music ♪ My name is Karen Sherman, and I’m a senior scientific investigator
at Group Health Research Institute. I started researching yoga because
I actually was quite interested in complementary medicine
treatments for back pain. Back pain, as you know, is the
number one reason why people search outside of the conventional
med, medical area for some relief, and at the time that I began
my work here at Group Health, there was actually no formal studies
that had been published on yoga. No solid research out
there at that time, and I thought, wow, this is
natural kind of thing to do, so I jumped on it. So, we started our first yoga study was funded in 2005 and the first thing that we did before
we even did the clinical trial is we had to sort of design it. So, one of the things that we had to ask ourselves is what should the yoga intervention look like? And we chose to focus on postures and breathing with some of the relaxation elements explicitly added. We chose to use a style
of yoga called vini yoga. The idea of vini yoga being that
you adapt the posture to the person. So, how are you going
to design your study? What are you going to compare it to? We said there’s really two
things we’re very interested in. One is, “how does it
compare to usual care?” That is to say what
people would normally do? And we augmented our usual
care with a self-care book. And that was sort of a
basic standard of comparison. And then we were just curious, how is yoga different from sort of conventional exercise? I have to say that back pain researchers often find that nothing works so I was actually surprised that yoga did work. It was clearly superior to usual care at all time points and it was better than the exercise at a couple of time points. Not enormously better but statistically significant and intriguing. We’ve moved on to do two things. One is to try to confirm those
results in a much larger population. Secondly, to try to
understand, what’s really going on? How is yoga working? Is it simply lots of stretching and strengthening or are there other elements that are really important the relaxation kind of stress reduction sorts of things. In thinking about how this research is actually going to help the clinician and the patient, I do think research is very important for people with back pain. There are over a hundred
treatments for back pain out there, most of them have not been tested and what’s the poor clinician or what’s the poor patient to do? Caring for people with low-back pain is actually quite challenging for the conventional physician. Turns out that most people don’t
have an identifiable lesion on x-ray and so docs don’t have a really
great idea of what to give people other than drugs or maybe a referral to physical therapy and those aren’t terribly effective. So what happens is the
patient is often frustrated, and the doctor feels badly because they can’t really help the patient very well, and so it’s not a pleasant situation. I think that’s one of the values
of complementary therapies is that patients report at
least subjectively, that they’re quite helpful and that’s the value of doing this research is to really find out how helpful they are from a more objective perspective. It’s very interesting that we actually have found people do continue to practice their yoga. In fact at the very last inter,
interview which is about 3 months after the classes are over, about two-thirds of the people in both of our studies reported that they had practiced yoga in the prior week so that’s a very nice confirmation that for many people it’s quite accessible. It’s very interesting that people
want to know what the magic pose is, but it turns out that a sequence of
poses is actually quite important in the vini yoga tradition. And also the poses that can be most helpful might differ from person to person. For example if somebody
needs to learn to relax, the wheel pose and associated very gentle relaxing poses would be extremely important. If a person is weak in some area, they’ll need to have some more strengthening kinds of poses, for example. The ones that strengthen the hip muscles so it just depends on the individual. Our posture sequence was designed to provide all of that so people could get an idea what would be helpful for them.