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How regular yoga practice led to peace of mind, less anxiety during lockdown — IIT Delhi study

People residing in the makeshift camp at Yamuna sports complex in Delhi perform yoga earlier this week
People residing in the makeshift camp at Yamuna sports complex in Delhi perform yoga in April 2020 | Representational image | PTI

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New Delhi: Those who regularly practice yoga had lower levels of stress and anxiety, and better peace of mind during the nationwide lockdown imposed in March last year, according to a study by IIT Delhi. However, it did not mention if the same applied to people who performed other physical exercises.

The study — which was carried out by a team of scientists from the National Resource Centre for Value Education in Engineering (NRCVEE), an academic centre at IIT Delhi — collected responses on stress management and well-being during the Covid-19 lockdown from 396 yoga practitioners, 113 ‘spiritual’ practitioners (those involved with religious practices), and 134 non-practitioners.

The yoga practitioners were further categorised as long-term (more than 5 years), mid-term (from 1 to 4 years) and beginners (those who started during lockdown).

According to the study, long-term yoga practitioners reported higher personal control and lower illness concern about Covid-19, when compared to mid-term or beginner levels.

Furthermore, long- and mid-term practitioners also reported a general sense of well-being and lower emotional impact over Covid-19, with the former showing highest peace of mind, lowest depression and anxiety.

These two groups were also confident about their immunity, due to their regular yoga practice, and as a result, believed they had a lower chance of contracting the virus.

The study, led by Dr Pooja Sahni, was published recently in the Plos One journal. The data was collected through an online questionnaire between 26 April and 8 June 2020.

Also read: N440K Covid variant spreading more in southern states, CCMB study shows

Drawbacks of study

The study, however, does not clarify if replacing yoga with other forms of physical exercises will offer the same benefits. Previous studies have shown improved Covid outcomes because of regular physical exercise.

ThePrint reached the study authors for a clarification on the same but they did not respond till the publishing of this report.

According to Dr Abby Philips from the Institute of Liver & Biliary Sciences, who writes on yoga and naturopathy, the study is a single-time observation with a myriad of descriptions, without any significant conclusions.

“The authors have utilised two very different groups, without any proper matching at the baseline to clear confounders. For example, they compared yoga practitioners to ‘other’ spiritual practices. None of these can actually be compared to yoga, per say. This comparison between groups is erroneous at the outset,” Philips told ThePrint.

He added: “The authors should have instead performed a longitudinal study, between yoga practitioners vs practitioners of other mind-body activity (for example Tai Chi or Qigong) versus no practice and followed these persons prospectively to identify actual health and well being benefits.”

Also read: India’s R rises to 0.93, infection rate in 3 states with high active cases above 1


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