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Yoga has benefitted slum dwellers: survey

Here’s some food for thought. A government survey claims pranayam and yoga improved the mental health of 90.5 per cent people living in slums in the Capital. Jaya Shroff reports.

tech reviews Updated: Jun 05, 2008 00:52 IST
Jaya Shroff

Here’s some food for thought. A government survey claims pranayam and yoga improved the mental health of 90.5 per cent people living in slums in the Capital. The study was conducted by the Department of Psychiatry at Ram Manohar Lohia (RML) Hospital in association with the Central Council for Yoga and Naturopathy and the Union Health Ministry’s Department of Ayurveda, Yoga & Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy (AYUSH).

A total of 350 randomly selected households were surveyed in 2007 for the study. “An overwhelming 91 per cent adults and 97-98 per cent adolescents felt yoga and pranayama are beneficial, and most wanted to practice if given a chance,” said Dr. Smita Deshpande, head of department of psychiatry at RML.

“It was most interesting that these people with the least exposure to the outside world were well aware of this healing form and believed that it could improve their lives manifold,” she adds.

Among the respondents, 87.2 per cent adults and 65.2 per cent adolescents were aware that mental illnesses could follow drug or tobacco addiction. A large section of the adolescent population knew of somebody—friends, family or relatives — who were mentally ill.

Both correct and incorrect beliefs about causes of mental illnesses were more common among adults than adolescents. The majority of adults, as compared to adolescents, believed stress to be a major cause of mental illnesses, and a significant majority — more than adolescents — believed that mental illnesses might run in the family.

“What came as a pleasant surprise to us was the fact that despite knowing various taboos associated with mental illnesses, a large population was forthcoming to try and take medication alongside yoga to work on their conditions,” said Dr Deshpande.

The mental health clinic at RML offers yoga sessions for its patients and the observation so far has provided encouraging results. Even when the centre introduced yoga practice to patients coming in with metal disorders, they were only inclined towards introducing a kind of discipline to their lives.

“It was something that would enable them breathe well and make them more receptive to learning. Although there are no statistics to suggest quantitative improvement, the study conducted in the slum as well as our observation of patients gives me the hope that a simple therapy like yoga can do wonders to the lives of our patients,” she adds.