Yoga could relieve stress in caregivers

Many people feel stress when caring for relatives with conditions such as dementia, and yoga can play an important role in relieving that stress, new research has suggested. Following on from a recent University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) study, Dr Helen Lavretsky, a Professor of Psychiatry at the UCLA Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior, found scientific reasons for why this is so.

Dr Lavretsky and colleagues demonstrated dementia caregivers who took part in Kirtan Kriya Meditation saw 68 of their genes responding differently, which meant inflammation of the immune system - a contributor to numerous chronic health problems - was reduced.

It was noted older caregivers, who report higher levels of stress and depression, often have higher levels of the biological markers of inflammation.

Dr Lavretsky observed: "The incidence and prevalence of clinical depression in family dementia caregivers approaches 50 per cent. Caregivers are also twice as likely to report high levels of emotional distress."

Yoga might therefore offer an effective way for people to reduce the stress of looking after others when they would not otherwise have the time or energy to do so.

Chartered Psychologist Dr Kate Sparks comments:

"Yes, yoga helps with stress levels partly due to the deep and regular breathing that one does as part of the asanas (positions). Also, the gentle stretching can relieve physical tension in the body, which we are often unaware of when stressed.

"A key factor that may be operating here in this study is the 'time-out' that the carers got, away from their role of caring, giving them a break and also some time to focus on themselves for a change, rather than the sometimes constant attention to the person they are caring for - unless, of course, there was a control group also given 'time-out'.