Purpose/Hypothesis: The purpose of this study was to assess the benefits of a therapeutic yoga program on one group of community dwelling elderly individuals. A second purpose of the study was to determine the effects of yoga on the confidence levels of participants while performing specific activities of daily living.
Number of Subjects: Nine community dwelling elderly adults (aged 62–83) participated in the program. All subjects were female. Four community dwelling elderly adults (aged 63–84) served as control subjects. Control subjects were evenly divided, two male and two female.
Materials/Methods: All subjects signed an informed consent prior to participating in the study. Subjects were then evaluated using the Tinetti Balance Scale and the Falls Efficacy Scale. Subjects participating in the therapeutic yoga received one-hour of yoga for four consecutive weeks. The yoga program consisted of: Pranayama (concentrated breathing), warm-ups, asana (physical poses, with props and modifications as needed), and meditation. In addition, participants received a detailed home therapy program that included several of the postures performed during the therapeutic yoga session. Control subjects received no intervention. After four weeks, all subjects were re-tested on both measures. A single tester performed all evaluations and was blinded to subjects' group assignment.
Results: Paired t-tests were used to assess change scores on the Tinetti Balance Scale. The Mann Whitney U Analysis was used to assess change scores on the Falls Efficacy Scale. The intervention group showed a statistically significant increase on the Tinetti Balance Scale (p = .001). The control group showed no significant change. There was no statistically significant change on the Falls Efficacy Scale for either group.
Conclusions: The effects of therapeutic yoga on balance, strength and flexibility have not been thoroughly studied. This study showed a statistically significant change with a relatively short intervention program. This study supports the use of therapeutic yoga for improving functional balance in community dwelling older adults.
Clinical Relevance: Recent studies reveal that more than half of community-dwelling elderly individuals over the age of 62 report a fear of falling. Other studies indicate that higher levels of physical activity, including strength, flexibility and balance training, may improve mobility and balance and subsequently reduce falls. Some researchers propose that community-based exercise programs may reduce the likelihood of falls. In addition, by the year 1990, Americans spent approximately 13.7 billion dollars on complementary and alterative health care. To that end, exercise programs that are community based and include balance, strength and flexibility training but also consider the body/mind connection could prove effective in reducing falls and improving function. Physical therapists are ideal individuals to administer community based, alternative therapy programs and monitor participants improvements and changes as they relate to function and quality of life.