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Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine
Volume 4, Issue 4, Pages 519-529
http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/ecam/nem075
Original Article

A Phase I Feasibility Study of Yoga on the Physical Health and Coping of Informal Caregivers

1Recreation, Park, and Tourism Studies, Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana 47405-7109, USA
2University of Illinois, USA
3Indiana University, USA

Received 27 June 2006; Accepted 31 May 2007

Copyright © 2007 Marieke Van Puymbroeck et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Abstract

Family and friends who provide unpaid care to an individual with a disease or disability (known as informal caregivers) experience numerous threats to their physical health as a result of providing care. In spite of evidence that participation in physical and leisure activities can be health promoting, informal caregivers have reported diminished or completely absent leisure participation. Hatha yoga has documented therapeutic benefits, including reduced anxiety, as well as improved muscle strength and endurance and flexibility. The purpose of this study was to determine the feasibility of conducting an 8-week yoga program with informal caregivers, and to gather pilot data on the effects of yoga on the physical fitness and coping of informal caregivers. Caregivers were randomized into a yoga intervention (n = 8) or control group (n = 9). The yoga sessions were 2.5 hours/week for 8 weeks and consisted of a variety of pranayama (breathing) and asana (postures) activities and were led by a certified yoga instructor. Four caregivers (two in each group) dropped out of the study. After the conclusion of the 8-week yoga program, lower body strength increased significantly for those in the yoga group and other notable trends occurred in terms of coping, upper body strength and aerobic endurance. Caregivers in the control group experienced an unexpected increase in lower body flexibility. These findings indicate that caregivers in a yoga program may receive some benefits. Future studies are encouraged to test the efficacy of yoga as an intervention for caregivers.