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Yoga Practitioners Had Lower Stress, Anxiety and Depression During Covid-19 Lockdown: IIT Delhi Study

The researchers in Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi conducted a study on the effectiveness of Yoga in handling stress related problems thereby giving an empirical evidence to the widely perceived notion that Yoga helps in maintaining peace and well-being. This was carried out in extreme times like pandemic induced lockdowns.

According to the study conducted in both English and Hindi in online mode and was published in PLOS ONE, “Yoga practitioners had lower stress, anxiety and depression, higher wellbeing and a higher peace of mind during 4-10 weeks of lockdown due to COVID-19 outbreak last year as compared to the non-practitioners.” The study which was conducted on 668 participants is titled ‘Yoga an effective strategy for self-management of stress-related problems and wellbeing during COVID-19 lockdown: A cross-sectional study’.

In a statement Pooja Sahni said, “While yoga has been recommended as one of the ways to manage stress during COVID-19, there was lack of empirical evidence to support the claims. Our study has mapped the effect of yoga on the cognitive and emotional problems of COVID-19, besides showing beneficial effects of yoga on general wellbeing during adversity. Evidence supports that yoga was found as an effective self- management strategy to cope with stress, anxiety and depression, and maintain wellbeing during COVID19 lockdown”, said Dr. Pooja Sahni.

The research was conducted by the National Resource Centre for Value Education in Engineering (NRCVEE) between April 26 and June 8, 2020 with academics affiliated to the center – Dr Pooja Sahni; Nitesh Sharma, Dr Kamlesh Singh, Professor at Humanities and Social Sciences Department, IIT Delhi and Prof Rahul Garg, Head, NRCVEE.

The participants were identified as “yoga practitioners”, “other spiritual practitioners”, and “non-practitioners” and was observed that the long term practitioners reported higher personal control and lower illness concern in contracting COVID-19 than the mid-term or beginner group. The long- term and mid-term practitioners also reported perceiving lower emotional impact of COVID-19 and lower risk in contracting COVID-19 than the beginners. Similarly, the general wellbeing was reported higher by the long term and mid- term practitioners than the beginners group. Further, the long term practitioners were found to have highest peace of mind, lowest depression and anxiety with no significant difference in the mid-term and the beginner group.

As we know that the World Economic Forum estimated about 2.6 billion people around the world vulnerable to the stress-related disorder epidemic in the second half of 2020 due to the lockdown. Similarly, the World economic forum estimated the huge impact of the lockdown on mental health. There was a survey by the Indian Psychiatric Society which showed that two-fifth of the people are experiencing common mental disorders, due to lockdown and the prevailing COVID19 pandemic in India.

The researchers feel that it was an indication to find an urgent solution or action to reduce the adverse effects of the COVID19 lockdown on the general well-being of people.

To the best of their knowledge the empirical investigation for the effects of yoga and other spiritual practices on illness perception and wellbeing related problems experienced by people during COVID19 has not been examined so far. According to the academics this study is going to give impetus in the healthcare practices and make way for including yoga as an alternate therapy for self-management and proposed its inclusion in the higher education curriculum.

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