Hart, CEF and Tracy, BL. Yoga as steadiness training: effects on motor variability in young adults. J Strength Cond Res 22(5): 1659-1669, 2008-Exercise training programs can increase strength and improve submaximal force control, but the effects of yoga as an alternative form of steadiness training are not well described. The purpose was to explore the effect of a popular type of yoga (Bikram) on strength, steadiness, and balance. Young adults performed yoga training (n = 10, 29 ± 6 years, 24 yoga sessions in 8 weeks) or served as controls (n = 11, 26 ± 7 years). Yoga sessions consisted of 1.5 hours of supervised, standardized postures. Measures before and after training included maximum voluntary contraction (MVC) force of the elbow flexors (EF) and knee extensors (KE), steadiness of isometric EF and KE contractions, steadiness of concentric (CON) and eccentric (ECC) KE contractions, and timed balance. The standard deviation (SD) and coefficient of variation (CV, SD/mean force) of isometric force and the SD of acceleration during CON and ECC contractions were measured. After yoga training, MVC force increased 14% for KE (479 ± 175 to 544 ± 187 N, p < 0.05) and was unchanged for the EF muscles (219 ± 85 to 230 ± 72 N, p > 0.05). The CV of force was unchanged for EF (1.68 to 1.73%, p > 0.05) but was reduced in the KE muscles similarly for yoga and control groups (2.04 to 1.55%, p < 0.05). The variability of CON and ECC contractions was unchanged. For the yoga group, improvement in KE steadiness was correlated with pretraining steadiness (r = −0.62 to −0.84, p < 0.05); subjects with the greatest KE force fluctuations before training experienced the greatest reductions with training. Percent change in balance time for individual yoga subjects averaged +228% (19.5 ± 14 to 34.3 ± 18 seconds, p < 0.05), with no change in controls. For young adults, a short-term yoga program of this type can improve balance substantially, produce modest improvements in leg strength, and improve leg muscle control for less-steady subjects.
Department of Health and Exercise Science, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado
Address correspondence to Brian L. Tracy, firstname.lastname@example.org.