Improve the Psychological Well-Being of the Chronically Ill with Yoga
By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.
“Yoga can reduce stress, anxiety, and fatigue in people living with chronic illness, and it can improve immune function. Yoga can also stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system (the part of the nervous system that helps you to rest and heal).” – Kayla Kurin
Chronic diseases are long-term illnesses that last more than a year, limit the individual’s ability to conduct their lives, and require medical attention. These include cancer, cardiovascular diseases, digestive diseases, skin diseases, diabetes, pulmonary diseases, neurological diseases, arthritis, chronic pain, obesity, and mental illness. Chronic diseases affect approximately 40% of the total adult population. As such they put a tremendous strain on the medical systems not to mention on individuals and families.
People with chronic diseases often also suffer from chronic fatigue, pain, stress, and mood disorders especially depression. They also have difficulty working and have a decreased quality of life. So, it is very important to find effective means of treating patients with chronic illnesses. Yoga practice has been found to be helpful for patients with many of these illnesses. But it is important to further study the effectiveness of yoga practice for patients with chronic illnesses.
In today’s Research News article “Mental Wellbeing, Quality of Life, and Perception of Chronic Illness in Yoga-Experienced Compared with Yoga-Naïve Patients.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6542302/), Telles and colleagues recruited patients with chronic noncommunicable diseases and asked if they practiced yoga. They were measured for their perception of their disease, mental well-being, and quality of life, including psychological, environmental, and total facets.
They found that the experienced yoga practitioners had significantly greater mental well-being, perceived control over their illnesses, and in their psychological, environmental, and total quality of life. They also found that the longer that the patients had been practicing yoga the higher the scores on perception of their illness, mental well-being, and quality of life.
These findings are not due to active manipulation and it is possible that patients who chose to practice yoga are characteristically different from patients who do not. These findings need to be replicated in a randomized controlled trial. With this caveat in mind the results suggest that yoga practice is beneficial for patients with chronic noncommunicable diseases, improving their perception of their illness, mental well-being and quality of life. Chronic diseases are difficult to deal with. So, it is important to find the potential of yoga practice to help relieve at least some of their suffering.
So, improve the psychological well-being of the chronically ill with yoga.
“a consistent practice of yoga and meditation often helps people who are dealing with illness by reducing stress, alleviating symptoms of the disease and side effects of medication, boosting the immune system, and increasing overall comfort.” – Julie Eisenberg
CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies
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Telles, S., Gupta, R. K., Kumar, A., Pal, D. K., Tyagi, D., & Balkrishna, A. (2019). Mental Wellbeing, Quality of Life, and Perception of Chronic Illness in Yoga-Experienced Compared with Yoga-Naïve Patients. Medical science monitor basic research, 25, 153–163. doi:10.12659/MSMBR.914663
Perception of chronic illness and a positive outlook improve recovery, and yoga can improve wellbeing. This study aimed to compare perception, mental wellbeing, and quality of life in yoga-experienced compared with yoga-naïve patients with chronic illness and to determine whether the duration of yoga practice in the yoga-experienced group had any correlation with the perception of illness, mental wellbeing, and quality of life.
A cross-sectional comparative study recruited 419 patients with chronic non-communicable disease. Yoga-experienced patients (n=150) (mean age, 41.9±13.6 years) and yoga-naïve patients (n=269) (mean age, 41.2±12.6 years) were assessed for the perception of their illness, mental wellbeing, and quality of life using the Warwick-Edinburgh mental wellbeing scale (WEMWBS) and the World Health Organization quality of life (WHOQOL-BREF) self-reporting questionnaire.
The yoga-experienced group had significantly increased mental wellbeing, personal control as a dimension of their perception of illness, and psychological and environmental quality of life compared with the yoga-naïve group (all, p<0.05), when comparisons were made using the Mann-Whitney U test. The duration of yoga practised in months was positively-correlated with mental wellbeing and different aspects of quality of life. There was a negative correlation with the perception of illness suggesting that the illness was perceived to be less severe (all, p<0.05) when correlations were made using Spearman’s rank correlation coefficient.
In patients with chronic illness, yoga improved mental wellbeing, aspects of quality of life, and resulted in a positive perception of illness.