By Kristin Logan
A recent pilot test by UNO health education professor Manoj Sharma suggests various benefits to healthy practitioners in the structured practice of Kundalini yoga.
This success has yielded a study of the possible advantages to chronic illness sufferers as well.
Sharma’s study, published in the *International Journal of Yoga Therapy in December 2001, was conducted in Omaha.
His 31 volunteers were taught standardized approaches to Kundalini yoga: low-impact physical activity postures, breathing techniques, relaxation and meditation.
The group met weekly for six weeks, each instruction period lasting 75 minutes. Beyond that, his subjects were encouraged to practice some form of the four-part regimen for a minimum of 45 minutes a day.
“What many schools [of yoga] have not done is they have not standardized their dosage,” Sharma said. “I was trained as a physician, so I like to standardize before I start testing for efficacy.”
In yoga, the term *efficacy is defined as a form that is successful when studied under pre-determined ideals. Having accomplished that, Sharma’s study is to advance to the “real world” test of effectiveness — that is, whether people will react positively to treatment without special preparation.
During the efficacy trial, structured Kundalini yoga showed improved functioning in all four areas studied.
Relying on the self-report of the 31 participants, the report showed elevated perceived knowledge of yoga, outcome expectations, self-efficacy and frequency of practice.
Other benefits included improved flexibility, performance, stress reduction, attainment of inner peace and self-realization.
“Meditation is the hallmark of Kundalini yoga,” Sharma said.
Of the three basic types of yoga, Kundalini is considered “formless.” Basically, he said, this means you are meditating on an inner energy that cannot be put into words.
Sharma has made a video and compact disc set under the non-profit organization Health For All, which offers instruction on this form of yoga to any interested practitioner. He said this has been helpful to persons wishing to become structured in their regimen of Kundalini.
Next up is a two-part study in which the benefits of this type of yoga will be compared with that of clinical massage. Some people have already suggested the benefits of this form of yoga as being similar to massage.
Sharma said his study seeks “whether you want to spend $50 going to a massage therapist and getting a massage, or can you get that same benefit self-induced by this relaxation technique?”
Teaming with Sharma in the comparative study are the following: David Bouda, UMNC oncologist; Amy Musser, UNL architectural engineer; and Alex Holloway, UNO physicist.
Sharma said they are planning the study and trying to allocate funding from the National Institute of Health. They should know by the end of this year if the NIH plans to grant funds.
“Stress is a major problem in our society and more so in college students,” Sharma said. “So for stress relief … this is among the more popular and more effective techniques, that much I can say with complete confidence. That is why students should learn some of these mind-body techniques.”
Beyond just stress relief, there are the hypothesized possibilities of maintaining health, preventing illness and even treating diseases.
“We are not saying that this will replace cancer treatment … you try this and you see whether your relapse occurs or whether you remain in remission,” Sharma said.
Another area in which there are hypothesized benefits is rheumatoid arthritis, or any other chronic illness. One such benefit may be that the patient is able to relax, thereby perceiving their situation as being less painful or uncomfortable.
Sharma said his director, David Blanke, and Dean John Christensen have each been very helpful in his research process.
He also commended his students and faculty that participate in yoga.
“I have really benefited from it a lot and that’s partly my reason for teaching it to others.”