Reduce Fear of Falling in the Elderly with Yoga

Reduce Fear of Falling in the Elderly with Yoga

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Yoga makes you have a strong core, so when moving around in your daily life, you are not just flapping around. You are stable, in control.” – Anne Bachner

 

The process of aging affects every aspect of the physical and cognitive domains. Every system in the body deteriorates including motor function with a decline in strength, flexibility, and balance. Impaired balance is a particular problem as it can lead to falls. In the U.S. one third of people over 65 fall each year and 2.5 million are treated in emergency rooms for injuries produced by falls. About 1% of falls result in deaths making it the leading cause of death due to injury among the elderly.

 

Falls, with or without injury, also carry a heavy quality of life impact. A growing number of older adults, fear falling and, as a result, limit their activities and social engagements. This can result in further physical decline, depression, social isolation, and feelings of helplessness. It is obviously important to discover methods to improve balance and decrease the number of falls in the elderly. Yoga practice helps to develop strength, flexibility, and balance. It would seem likely, then, that practicing yoga would reduce the likelihood of falling by the elderly.

 

In today’s Research News article “A mixed methods evaluation of yoga as a fall prevention strategy for older people in India.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5928579/ ), Keay and colleagues recruited elderly participants (> 60 years of age) and provided them with 2 1-hour yoga classes per week for 3 months. The program emphasized standing poses that develop balance. The participants were measured before and after training for overall health, body size, fear of falling, history of falls, physical performance, and blood pressure. At the end of training the participants also attended focus groups with discussion focused on “perceptions of the yoga program, perceived benefits of yoga and understanding fall injury/reporting falls.”

 

They found that there were no adverse events and no falls reported during the program. After the 3-month yoga program the elderly participants were significantly faster in the sit-stand test, had increased stride length while walking, and significantly lower body weight and fear of falling. Hence, participation in a yoga program improved the physical abilities of the elderly. It should be noted that there wasn’t a control or comparison condition so conclusions should be reached cautiously.

 

The results suggest that practicing yoga is beneficial for elderly men and women. These results are sufficiently encouraging to support conducting a large randomized controlled trial. The participants in the present study were quite healthy at the beginning of the trail, so ceiling effects may have prevented the detection of further benefits. Indeed, the participants all successfully passed the most difficult balance test during the baseline test, leaving no room for improvement, In a future trial, it would be good to include participants whose health and physical abilities weren’t quite as good. Regardless, the results suggest that yoga practice is beneficial for the elderly.

 

So, reduce fear of falling in the elderly with yoga.

 

“the number of falls in older adults declined 48 percent in the six months after they began attending yoga classes compared to the six months prior.” – Breann Schossow

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Keay, L., Praveen, D., Salam, A., Rajasekhar, K. V., Tiedemann, A., Thomas, V., … Ivers, R. Q. (2018). A mixed methods evaluation of yoga as a fall prevention strategy for older people in India. Pilot and Feasibility Studies, 4, 74. http://doi.org/10.1186/s40814-018-0264-x

 

Abstract

Background

Falls are an emerging public health issue in India, with the impact set to rise as the population ages. We sought to evaluate the acceptability, feasibility and likely impact of a yoga-based program aimed at improving balance and mobility for older residents in urban India.

Methods

Fifty local residents aged 60 years and older were recruited from urban Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh. They were invited to attend a 1-h yoga class, twice weekly for 3 months. Mixed methods were used to evaluate the acceptability and feasibility (qualitative) and likely impact (quantitative). Two focus groups and eight interviews with participants were conducted to evaluate the acceptability and feasibility of a yoga program. Thematic analysis was conducted in context of perceptions, barriers and benefits of yoga participation and fall ascertainment. Physical performance using the Short Physical Performance Battery, fear of falling, blood pressure and weight loss were measured before and after the program.

Results

The interviews and focus groups provided insights into the preferred format for classes, including session times, level of supervision and location. Improvements were seen in the Short Falls Efficacy Scale-International (Short FES-I (15.9 ± 4.0 vs 13.8 ± 2.1 s, p = 0.002)), the number of steps taken in the timed 4-m walk (T4MW (9.0 ± 1.8 vs 8.6 ± 1.8, p = 0.04)), Short FES-I scores (9.4 ± 2.9 vs 8.6 ± 2.9, p = 0.02) and weight (63.8 ± 12.4 vs 62.1 ± 11.6, p = 0.004) were lower. No changes were seen in standing balance, blood pressure or T4MW time.

Conclusion

Yoga was well accepted and resulted in improved ability to rise from a chair, weight loss, increased step length and reduced fear of falling. These results provide impetus for further research evaluating yoga as a fall prevention strategy in India.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5928579/

 

Improve Movement and Flexibility in Older Women with Tai Chi

Improve Movement and Flexibility in Older Women with Tai Chi

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

Practising the ancient martial art of Tai Chi is so beneficial to elderly people’s health that it should be “the preferred mode of training” – The Telegraph

 

The process of aging affects every aspect of the physical and cognitive domains. Every system in the body deteriorates including motor function with a decline in strength, flexibility, and balance. Impaired balance is a particular problem as it can lead to falls. In the U.S. one third of people over 65 fall each year and 2.5 million are treated in emergency rooms for injuries produced by falls. About 1% of falls result in deaths making it the leading cause of death due to injury among the elderly. It is obviously important to discover methods to improve balance and decrease the number of fall in the elderly.

 

Tai Chi training is designed to enhance and regulate the functional activities of the body through regulated breathing, mindful concentration, and gentle movements. It includes balance training and has been shown to improve balance and coordination. Because it is not strenuous, involving slow gentle movements, and is safe, having no appreciable side effects, it is appropriate for an elderly population. So, it would seem that tai chi practice would be well suited to improving balance and coordination in seniors and thereby reduce the likelihood of falls.

 

In today’s Research News article “Effect of Yang-Style Tai Chi on Gait Parameters and Musculoskeletal Flexibility in Healthy Chinese Older Women.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5968961/ ), Zou and colleagues recruited elderly women (> 65 years of age) and randomly assigned them to either a Tai Chi practice or no-treatment control conditions. Tai Chi was practiced under the supervision of a Tai Chi master for 90 minutes, 3 times per week for 8 weeks. They were measured before and after practice for physical activity and hip and foot flexibility. They also walked a short distance and their movements of the knee, hip, and ankle were analyzed through a kinematic analysis.

 

They found that the Tai Chi group and not the control group after the 8-week practice period had significant improvements in their walking including stride length, gait speed, stance phase, swing phase, and double support time. They also had significant improvements in their hip and foot flexibility and range of motion of the knee, hip, and ankle. No adverse events as a result of Tai Chi practice were reported by the participants.

 

These findings conclusively document the ability of Tai Chi practice to help maintain the flexibility and range of motion of elderly women. This is particularly important as it suggests that these women would be less likely to fall and maintain a high quality of life. In addition, as Tai Chi is gentle and safe, is appropriate for all ages including the elderly and for individuals with illnesses that limit their activities or range of motion, is inexpensive to administer, can be performed in groups or alone, at home or in a facility, and can be quickly learned. In addition, it can be practiced in social groups. This can make it fun, improving the likelihood of long-term engagement in the practice. So, Tai Chi practice would appear to be an almost ideal gentle exercise to maintain the health and well-being of the elderly.

 

So, improve movement and flexibility in older women with Tai Chi.

 

“Unlike other exercises, TCE may contribute to improving the quality of life and reducing depression in patients with chronic diseases.” – X. Wang

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Zou, L., Wang, C., Tian, Z., Wang, H., & Shu, Y. (2017). Effect of Yang-Style Tai Chi on Gait Parameters and Musculoskeletal Flexibility in Healthy Chinese Older Women. Sports, 5(3), 52. http://doi.org/10.3390/sports5030052

 

Abstract

The purpose of the present study was to examine the effect of Yang-style Tai chi (TC) on gait parameters and musculoskeletal flexibility in healthy Chinese female adults. Sixty-six female adults aged >65 years were randomly assigned to either an experimental group (67.9 ± 3.2 years of age) receiving three 90-min simplified 24-form TC sessions for eight weeks, or a control group (67.4 ± 2.9 years of age) who maintained their daily lifestyles. All study participants were instructed to perform a selected pace walking for recording gait parameters (stride length, gait speed, swing cycle time, stance phase, and double support times) at both baseline and after the experiment. Low-limb flexibility and range of motion at specific musculoskeletal regions (hip flexion, hip extension, and plantar flexion, as well as anterior and lateral pelvic tilts, pelvic rotation, and joint range of motion (hip, knee, and ankle)) were also assessed in the present study. Multiple separate 2 × 2 Factorial Analysis of Variance (ANOVA) with repeated measures were used to examine the effects of TC on the abovementioned outcomes between baseline and posttest in the two groups. When compared to those in the control group, older female adults who experienced the 8-week Tai chi intervention demonstrated significant improvements in most of the outcome measures. More specifically, positive changes in the TC group were found, including gait parameter (p < 0.001 for all; stride length (1.12 to 1.24, +8.6%), gait speed (1.06 to 1.21, +13.9%), stance phase (66.3 to 61.8, −5.5%), swing phase (33.7 to 38.4, +10.1%), double support time (0.33 to 0.26, −21.1%)), flexibility-related outcomes (hip flexion (90.0 to 91.9, 22.6%, p < 0.0001), single hip flexor (6.0 to 2.0, −61.5%, p = 0.0386), and plantar flexion (41.6 to 49.7, +17.5%, p < 0.0001)), and range of motion (anterior pelvic tilt (9.5 to 6.2, −34.7%, p < 0.0001), lateral pelvic tilt (6.6 to 8.3, +23.8%, p = 0.0102), pelvic rotation (10.3 to 14.7, 28.2%, p < 0.0001), hip range of motion (29.8 to 32.9, +13.5%, p = 0.001), and ankle range of motion (28.0 to 32.6, +11.1%, p < 0.0001)). The present study supports the notion that the practice of TC has a positive effect on healthy older female adults in improving gait parameters and flexibility, counteracting the normal functional degeneration due to age.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5968961/

 

Slow Age-Related Physical Decline with Tai Chi

Slow Age-Related Physical Decline with Tai Chi

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“This peaceful type of moving meditation is primarily used to improve strength, balance, flexibility and posture. Recent studies of Tai Chi shows that this mind-body practice is able to alleviate pain, improve mood, increase immunity and support heart health.” – World Health net

 

We celebrate the increasing longevity of the population. But, aging is a mixed blessing. The aging process involves a systematic progressive decline of the body and the brain. Every system in the body deteriorates including motor function with a decline in strength, flexibility, and balance. It is inevitable. In addition, many elderly experience withdrawal and isolation from social interactions. There is some hope as there is evidence that these declines can be slowed. For example, a healthy diet and a regular program of exercise can slow the physical decline of the body with aging. Also, contemplative practices such as meditation, yoga, and tai chi or qigong have all been shown to be beneficial in slowing or delaying physical and mental decline.

 

Tai Chi has been practiced for thousands of years with benefits for health and longevity. Tai Chi training is designed to enhance function and regulate the activities of the body through regulated breathing, mindful concentration, and gentle movements. Only recently though have the effects of Tai Chi practice been scrutinized with empirical research. But, it has been found to be effective for an array of physical and psychological issues. It appears to strengthen the immune systemreduce inflammation and increase the number of cancer killing cells in the bloodstream. Because Tai Chi is not strenuous, involving slow gentle movements, and is safe, having no appreciable side effects, it is appropriate for all ages including the elderly and for individuals with illnesses that limit their activities or range of motion. Tai Chi has been shown to help the elderly improve attentionbalance, reducing fallsarthritiscognitive functionmemory, and reduce age related deterioration of the brain.

 

In today’s Research News article “Effect of Taichi Softball on Function-Related Outcomes in Older Adults: A Randomized Control Trial.” See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5397616/, Lou and colleagues recruited individuals from a senior living community (mean age 63 years) and randomly assigned them to either receive Tai Chi Softball Training for 7 weeks, four times a week, for 90 minutes each, or a no-treatment control group. Tai Chi Softball Training requires practitioners to hold a racket and control a softball on the surface of the racket while performing Tai Chi. Participants were measured before, at 7 weeks, and after training for lower limb strength and balance, and upper limb shoulder mobility, handgrip strength, and fine motor control.

 

They found that while the control group had deterioration in all measures, the participants in Tai Chi Softball Training had significant improvements in these same measures, including fine motor control, fine motor function, handgrip strength, hand and forearm strength, shoulder mobility, leg strength, and dynamic balance. The practice was found to be safe, as there were no significant adverse effects observed for participation in Tai Chi Softball Training.

 

These are wonderful results demonstrating that Tai Chi Softball Training is very effective in improving physical functional health in the elderly. This is particularly important as the progressive decline in motor ability in this group impacts their quality of life, health, and even their longevity. It would be interesting in future research to compare Tai Chi Softball Training to regular Tai Chi practice and other exercise programs to determine if one is superior to the others. Hence, Tai Chi because it is effective and gentle, is almost an ideal program for the elderly.

 

So, slow age-related physical decline with tai chi.

 

“tai chi may be an easier and more convenient than brisk walking as an anti-aging choice. Previous studies have shown tai chi also improves balance and may help boost brain functioning.” – Linda Melone

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Lou, L., Zou, L., Fang, Q., Wang, H., Liu, Y., Tian, Z., & Han, Y. (2017). Effect of Taichi Softball on Function-Related Outcomes in Older Adults: A Randomized Control Trial. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine : eCAM, 2017, 4585424. http://doi.org/10.1155/2017/4585424

 

Abstract

The purpose of this present study was to examine the effect of Taichi softball (TCSB) on physical function in Chinese older adults. Eighty Chinese older adults were randomly assigned into either an experimental group experiencing four 90-minute TCSB sessions weekly for seven consecutive weeks or a control group. At baseline and 7 weeks later, all participants were asked to perform physical functional tests for both lower and upper limbs. Multiple separate Analyses of Variance (ANOVA) with repeated measures were applied to evaluate the effects of TCSB on function-related outcomes between baseline and postintervention in the two groups. The findings indicate that a short-term and intensive TCSB training program does not only improve low limb-related physical function such as dynamic balance and leg strength, but also strengthen upper limb-related physical function (e.g., arm and forearm strength, shoulder mobility, fine motor control, handgrip strength, and fine motor function). Health professionals could take into account TCSB exercise as an alternative method to help maintain or alleviate the inevitable age-related physical function degeneration in healthy older adults. In addition, researchers could investigate the effect of TCSB exercise on physical function in special populations such as patients with different chronic diseases or neurological disorder (e.g., Parkinson’s disease).

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5397616/

Slow Age-Related Physical Decline with Tai Chi

Slow Age-Related Physical Decline with Tai Chi

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“This peaceful type of moving meditation is primarily used to improve strength, balance, flexibility and posture. Recent studies of Tai Chi shows that this mind-body practice is able to alleviate pain, improve mood, increase immunity and support heart health.” – World Health net

 

We celebrate the increasing longevity of the population. But, aging is a mixed blessing. The aging process involves a systematic progressive decline of the body and the brain. Every system in the body deteriorates including motor function with a decline in strength, flexibility, and balance. It is inevitable. In addition, many elderly experience withdrawal and isolation from social interactions. There is some hope as there is evidence that these declines can be slowed. For example, a healthy diet and a regular program of exercise can slow the physical decline of the body with aging. Also, contemplative practices such as meditation, yoga, and tai chi or qigong have all been shown to be beneficial in slowing or delaying physical and mental decline.

 

Tai Chi has been practiced for thousands of years with benefits for health and longevity. Tai Chi training is designed to enhance function and regulate the activities of the body through regulated breathing, mindful concentration, and gentle movements. Only recently though have the effects of Tai Chi practice been scrutinized with empirical research. But, it has been found to be effective for an array of physical and psychological issues. It appears to strengthen the immune systemreduce inflammation and increase the number of cancer killing cells in the bloodstream. Because Tai Chi is not strenuous, involving slow gentle movements, and is safe, having no appreciable side effects, it is appropriate for all ages including the elderly and for individuals with illnesses that limit their activities or range of motion. Tai Chi has been shown to help the elderly improve attentionbalance, reducing fallsarthritiscognitive functionmemory, and reduce age related deterioration of the brain.

 

In today’s Research News article “Effect of Taichi Softball on Function-Related Outcomes in Older Adults: A Randomized Control Trial.” See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5397616/, Lou and colleagues recruited individuals from a senior living community (mean age 63 years) and randomly assigned them to either receive Tai Chi Softball Training for 7 weeks, four times a week, for 90 minutes each, or a no-treatment control group. Tai Chi Softball Training requires practitioners to hold a racket and control a softball on the surface of the racket while performing Tai Chi. Participants were measured before, at 7 weeks, and after training for lower limb strength and balance, and upper limb shoulder mobility, handgrip strength, and fine motor control.

 

They found that while the control group had deterioration in all measures, the participants in Tai Chi Softball Training had significant improvements in these same measures, including fine motor control, fine motor function, handgrip strength, hand and forearm strength, shoulder mobility, leg strength, and dynamic balance. The practice was found to be safe, as there were no significant adverse effects observed for participation in Tai Chi Softball Training.

 

These are wonderful results demonstrating that Tai Chi Softball Training is very effective in improving physical functional health in the elderly. This is particularly important as the progressive decline in motor ability in this group impacts their quality of life, health, and even their longevity. It would be interesting in future research to compare Tai Chi Softball Training to regular Tai Chi practice and other exercise programs to determine if one is superior to the others. Hence, Tai Chi because it is effective and gentle, is almost an ideal program for the elderly.

 

So, slow age-related physical decline with tai chi.

 

“tai chi may be an easier and more convenient than brisk walking as an anti-aging choice. Previous studies have shown tai chi also improves balance and may help boost brain functioning.” – Linda Melone

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Lou, L., Zou, L., Fang, Q., Wang, H., Liu, Y., Tian, Z., & Han, Y. (2017). Effect of Taichi Softball on Function-Related Outcomes in Older Adults: A Randomized Control Trial. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine : eCAM, 2017, 4585424. http://doi.org/10.1155/2017/4585424

 

Abstract

The purpose of this present study was to examine the effect of Taichi softball (TCSB) on physical function in Chinese older adults. Eighty Chinese older adults were randomly assigned into either an experimental group experiencing four 90-minute TCSB sessions weekly for seven consecutive weeks or a control group. At baseline and 7 weeks later, all participants were asked to perform physical functional tests for both lower and upper limbs. Multiple separate Analyses of Variance (ANOVA) with repeated measures were applied to evaluate the effects of TCSB on function-related outcomes between baseline and postintervention in the two groups. The findings indicate that a short-term and intensive TCSB training program does not only improve low limb-related physical function such as dynamic balance and leg strength, but also strengthen upper limb-related physical function (e.g., arm and forearm strength, shoulder mobility, fine motor control, handgrip strength, and fine motor function). Health professionals could take into account TCSB exercise as an alternative method to help maintain or alleviate the inevitable age-related physical function degeneration in healthy older adults. In addition, researchers could investigate the effect of TCSB exercise on physical function in special populations such as patients with different chronic diseases or neurological disorder (e.g., Parkinson’s disease).

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5397616/

Consolidate Motor Memories with Mindfulness

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By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Meditation provides an atmosphere of deep relaxation beneficial to the mind and body, offering myriad physiological effects such as lower blood pressure and a slower heart rate. When the body is extremely relaxed, the mind, nerves and muscles work at an optimum level, allowing for the enhancement of a variety of motor performance skills.” – EOC Institute

 

When most people think of memory they think of verbal memory or episodic memory. They rarely think about motor memory. But, this is a very import facet of human behavior. If they do think of motor memory they usually think of athletic performance. This is indeed a motor memory but is the tip of the proverbial iceberg. In fact, the bulk of our behavior from walking to talking involves motor memory. The memories there are so deep that we are generally not aware of them. But pay attention for a moment to the movements involved when you’re walking and you’ll see just how automatized it is, just how much it’s a learned behavior that is stored in motor memory.

 

The process by which what we have learned motorically is transferred to a long-term storage is called consolidation. This process is poorly understood. But, it is known that consolidation works best when there are no competing memories produced shortly after the primary memory. So, rest and even sleep, appear to promote the consolidation of motor memory. Mindfulness training has been shown to improve verbal memory ability. But, little is known regarding the effects of mindfulness practice on motor memory or motor memory consolidation.

 

The ability of meditation to influence the consolidation of motor memory was explored in today’s Research News article “Post-training Meditation Promotes Motor Memory Consolidation.” See:

https://www.facebook.com/ContemplativeStudiesCenter/photos/a.628903887133541.1073741828.627681673922429/1428975463793042/?type=3&theater

or see summary below or view the full text of the study at:

http://journal.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/fpsyg.2016.01698/full?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Psychology-w45-2016

Immink recruited practiced meditators (between 2 to 25 years of practice, mean = 9 years) and had them learn to press a set of six keys in three unique sequences. Repeated over 120 trials. This was completed at 8:00 in the morning. The participants were then randomly assigned to either a 30-minute yoga nidra meditation condition or a light work (chores) condition that was conducted at noon. At 5:00 in the afternoon participants were tested for performance of the three learned sequences and two new sequence that they had not been previously trained on. They were measured for errors, reaction time to start the sequence and time to complete it.

 

During motor training the two groups did not differ in the number of errors committed, reaction time, and time to complete the sequence. During later testing, the participants who meditated at noon were significantly faster in reacting to and performing the previously learned sequences than the control group but did not differ with the new (untrained) sequences. Hence, meditation appeared to specifically help preserve the previous motor learning, while not affecting new learning. In fact, the meditation group did not lose any speed between training and testing while the control group was 35% slower.

 

These are clear and interesting results. They suggest that meditation promotes the consolidation of motor memories, that is, it tended to protect the memories from deterioration over time. So, mindfulness training appears to promote both verbal and motor memory. This might suggest that meditation might be helpful in preserving all kinds of other motor memories including athletic performance and perhaps physical therapy. It will require further research to examine these speculations.

 

So, consolidate motor memories with mindfulness.

 

“Meditation in sport is not only helpful for performance, but can also aid athletes who experience anxiety, depression, and other mental health illnesses. The practice can help athletes through injury, as well as overcome challenges such as the transition back into sport or out of sport (e.g., retirement).” – Kristin Keim

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts

 

Study Summary

Immink MA (2016) Post-training Meditation Promotes Motor Memory Consolidation. Front. Psychol. 7:1698. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2016.01698

 

Following training, motor memory consolidation is thought to involve either memory stabilization or off-line learning processes. The extent to which memory stabilization or off-line learning relies on post-training wakeful periods or sleep is not clear and thus, novel research approaches are needed to further explore the conditions that promote motor memory consolidation. The present experiment represents the first empirical test of meditation as potential facilitator of motor memory consolidation. Twelve adult residents of a yoga center with a mean of 9 years meditation experience were trained on a sequence key pressing task. Three hours after training, the meditation group completed a 30 min session of yoga nidra meditation while a control group completed 30 min of light work duties. A wakeful period of 4.5 h followed meditation after which participants completed a test involving both trained and untrained sequences. Training performance did not significantly differ between groups. Comparison of group performance at test, revealed a performance benefit of post-training meditation but this was limited to trained sequences only. That the post-training meditation performance benefit was specific to trained sequences is consistent with the notion of meditation promoting motor memory consolidation as opposed to general motor task performance benefits from meditation. Further, post-training meditation appears to have promoted motor memory stabilization as opposed to off-line learning. These findings represent the first demonstration of meditation related motor memory consolidation and are consistent with a growing body of literature demonstrating the benefits of meditation for cognitive function, including memory.

http://journal.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/fpsyg.2016.01698/full?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Psychology-w45-2016

 

Yoga Helps the Blind Maintain Balance

“One of the many misconceptions about the blind is that they have greater hearing, sense of smell and sense of touch than sighted people. This is not strictly true. Their blindness simply forces them to recognize gifts they always had but had heretofore largely ignored. – Rosemary Mahoney
Falls are a standard of slapstick comedy and Americas Funniest Home Videos. But, falls are far from funny. They can cause serious injury and even death. “One out of five falls causes a serious injury such as broken bones or a head injury. Each year, 2.5 million older people are treated in emergency departments for fall injuries. Over 700,000 patients a year are hospitalized because of a fall injury, most often because of a head injury or hip fracture. Each year at least 250,000 older people are hospitalized for hip fractures. More than 95% of hip fractures are caused by falling,6 usually by falling sideways. Falls are the most common cause of traumatic brain injuries (TBI). Adjusted for inflation, the direct medical costs for fall injuries are $34 billion annually.” (Centers for Disease Control). Approximately 9,500 deaths in older Americans are associated with falls each year, making falls the leading cause of death from injury among people 65 and older.

 

Physical and sensory fitness and balance are important for the prevention of falls. The visual system is particularly important for maintaining balance and avoiding obstacles. Hence, it is not surprising that the visually impaired are 1.7 times more likely to have a fall and 1.9 times more likely to have multiple falls compared with fully sighted populations. The odds of a hip fracture are between 1.3 and 1.9 times greater for those with reduced visual acuity. So, finding methods to improve balance in the visually impaired may greatly reduce falls and subsequent injury.

 

Yoga has been shown to improve muscular strength, endurance, and flexibility (see http://contemplative-studies.org/wp/index.php/2015/08/11/improve-physical-health-with-yoga/) and to improve balance (see http://contemplative-studies.org/wp/index.php/2015/12/26/improve-physical-well-being-with-bikram-yoga/). So, it would seem reasonable to predict that yoga training may improve coordination, flexibility, and balance in the visually impaired and as a result reduce injuries.

 

In today’s Research News article “Ashtanga-Based Yoga Therapy Increases the Sensory Contribution to Postural Stability in Visually-Impaired Persons at Risk for Falls as Measured by the Wii Balance Board: A Pilot Randomized Controlled Trial”

https://www.facebook.com/ContemplativeStudiesCenter/photos/a.628903887133541.1073741828.627681673922429/1159236467433611/?type=3&theater

http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0129646

Jeter and colleagues developed and pilot tested a yoga program for the legally blind and compared the results to those obtained from a wait-list control group. The participants practiced yoga once a week with an instructor and twice a week at home for eight weeks. As expected yoga produced an increase in lower body strength and flexibility. Using a balance on an unstable platform test they found that after yoga training the blind participants were better able to use somatosensory and vestibular information to maintain balance.

 

These findings suggest that yoga improves blind individuals physically and increases their balance by making them more sensitive to the information provided by touch and by the balance (vestibular) system. There was no direct test of propensity to fall, but the results suggest that the yoga training would improve balance and thereby lower the likelihood of a fall. It will take further research to directly test this conclusion.

 

It is clear, however, that yoga can improve sensitivity of the tactile and vestibular stimuli that are important for balance. So, practice yoga to improve balance in the blind.
“To be blind is not miserable; not to be able to bear blindness, that is miserable.”

John Milton
CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies