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Indian J Physiol Pharmacol 2006; 50 (2) : 187–190

SHORT COMMUNICATION

EFFECT OF A ONE-MONTH YOGA TRAINING PROGRAM ON


PERFORMANCE IN A MIRROR-TRACING TASK

SHIRLEY TELLES*, P. PRAGHURAJ, ABHIJIT GHOSH


AND H. R. NAGENDRA

Swami Vivekananda Yoga Research Foundation,


Bangalore – 560 019
( Received on May 20, 2005 )

Abstract : The performance in a mirror star tracing task was assessed


in two groups of volunteers (yoga and control) with 26 people in each
group, and age range between 18 and 45 years. The star to be traced was
six pointed and the outline was made up of 60 circles (4 mm in diameter).
At the end of one month the yoga group showed a significant improvement
in terms of an increase in the number of circles crossed (P<0.001, Wilcoxon
paired signed ranks test) for both hands and a decrease in the number of
circles left out for the right hand (P<0.05). The control group showed a
significant increase in number of circles crossed for the left hand alone
(P<0.05) at the end of a month attributed to re-test. The study suggests
that one month of yoga improved reversal ability, eye-hand co-ordination,
speed and accuracy which are necessary for mirror star tracing.
Key words : mirror tracing task yoga reversal ability
speed accuracy

INTRODUCTION performance in a repetitive motor task (i.e.,


finger tapping) implying a decrease in
A mirror tracing task requires reversal fatigability (4), and in a task requiring skill
ability, eye-hand coordination and motor and speed (i.e., the O’Connor tweezer
learning (1). The practice of yoga techniques dexterity task) (5).
have been shown to improve a number of
motor abilities. The present study was aimed at
evaluating the effects of yoga practice on
Following ten days of yoga practice the performance in a mirror star tracing task.
static motor performance or hand steadiness This aim was to understand (i) whether yoga
improved in school children (2) and in young practice influences mirror star tracing and
adults (3). An improvement in hand (ii) whether the performance in the task
steadiness suggests better eye-hand co- changes if a volunteer repeats it after a
ordination, concentration, and decreased month (with no specific intervention in-
anxiety. Yoga practice for a month improved between). The control group served to

*Corresponding Author : Swami Vivekananda Yoga Research Foundation, #19, Eknath Bhavan, Near
Gavipuram Circle, K.G. Nagar, Bangalore – 560 019, India. Ph.: 91-80-26612669;
Fax : 91-80-26608645; E-mail : anvesana@gmail.com
188 Telles et al Indian J Physiol Pharmacol 2006; 50(2)

answer the second question, i.e., whether of a six-pointed star while looking in a
mirror star tracing is influenced by re- mirror to observe the movements of the hand
testing. Hence this is not a randomized (7). A shield prevented the subject from
controlled trial and the control group served looking directly at the pattern which was
solely to understand the re-test effect. placed on a board and was visible in the
mirror (Anand Agencies, Pune, India). The
METHODS
outline of the star consisted of 60 circles,
Subjects each circle approximately 4 mm in diameter.
The star was placed so that two points faced
There were two groups, Yoga and up or down and one point faced right or left.
Control. The yoga group consisted of 26 Alternate subjects were asked to begin
subjects (12 female) who had elected to join tracing with either the right hand or with
a one-month residential yoga training the left hand. This order was kept the same
program. Their ages ranged between 18 and at the final assessment. Tracing with either
45 years (group average age ± S.D., hand began from mid-way between the two
25.7 ± 7.1 years). The control group of 26 lower points, and then proceeded either
subjects (11 female), were within the same clockwise (with the left hand) or anti-
age range as the yoga group. All subjects clockwise (with the right hand).
had normal health based on a routine
clinical examination and were right hand The volunteers were asked to trace the
dominant based on the Edinburgh outline of the star passing through as many
handedness inventory (6). The two groups circles as possible within one minute. Hence
were not matched in any other way. Hence the total number of circles crossed in one
the control group served to assess the re- minute need not be 60, i.e., they may not
test effect on performance in the task. The have been able to pass through all the circles
volunteers of both groups had all completed in one minute. The numbers of circles crossed
their graduation (minimum) and were all and left out were calculated from the point
office (‘white collar’) workers. of starting till the end-point, i.e., the circle
reached at the end of one minute. In the
Design process of moving along the outline volunteers
would (i) cross circles which is what they
Assessments were made at the beginning are meant to do, and (ii) leave out circles -
(initial) and end (final) of a thirty day period which is considered as an error. The
during which the yoga group received variables noted were: (i) number of circles
training in yoga while the control group crossed, and (ii) number of circles left out.
carried on with their routine activities.
For both groups the testing (pre and post) Training in yoga
was between 10.00 a.m. and 12 noon. The
The yoga group received training in
project was reviewed and approved by the
physical postures (asanas, 90 minutes),
Institutional Ethics Committee.
cleansing practices (kriyas, 30 minutes),
Assessment yoga voluntarily controlled breathing
(pranayama, 60 minutes), meditation (60
The task involved filling in the outline minutes), devotional sessions (90 minutes)
Indian J Physiol Pharmacol 2006; 50(2) Yoga Improves Mirror-Tracing 189

and lectures on the theory of yoga (60 showed a significant decrease in the number
minutes). of circles left out when using the right hand,
at the final assessment (P<0.05). The Control
The asanas which were practiced
group showed a significant increase in the
every day included: ardhacati cakrasana,
number of circles crossed using the left hand
ardha cakrasana, padahastasana, ardha
at final assessment compared to the initial
matsyendrasana, paschimottanasana,
assessment (P<0.05). There was no change
ustrasana, matsyasana, salabhasana, and
cakrasana. The kriyas were: trataka (daily) for the right hand or for the number of
and jala neti and vaman dhauti (twice in a circles missed (for both hands) at the final
week). The pranayama practices included assessment compared to the initial values.
brahmari, nadisuddhi, sitali, sitkari, and There was no significant difference between
sadanta pranyamas, as well as sectional the initial values of the two groups (P>0.05,
breathing (with attention shifting from the for all comparisons, Mann-Whitney U test).
abdomen, to the chest, and to the clavicular The group average values ± S.D. are given
(upper) part. in Table I.

Data analysis DISCUSSION


The non-parametric Wilcoxon paired
The Yoga group showed a significant
signed ranks test was used for Initial-Final
improvement in the performance in a mirror
comparisons of the data of the two groups.
tracing task at the end of a one-month
This test was selected as the data did not
program, in terms of an increase in the
have equal variance and a normal distribution.
number of circles crossed (when using either
RESULTS hand) and a decrease in the number of
circles left out using the right hand. The
The Yoga group showed a significant control group showed an increase in the
increase in number of circles crossed for both number of circles crossed using the left hand
the right and the left hands at the final at the end of thirty days.
assessment compared to the initial values
(P<0.001, in both cases). The Yoga group also There has been no study on the effect of

TABLE I : N u m b e r o f c i r c l e s t r a c e d a n d m i s s e d i n o n e m i n u t e during a mirror star tracing task


before and after a month in yoga and control groups. Values are group Mean±S.D.

Number of circles traced Number of circles missed

Groups Right hand Left hand Right hand Left hand

Before After Before After Before After Before After

Yoga 18.7±12.4 36.2±15.5*** 22.7±13.4 42.7±18.8*** 0.4±0.7 0.1±0.3* 1.0±1.4 0.9± 1.2
(n=26)
Control 19.3±10.2 23.1±9.6 21.9±12.5 27.3±12.6* 1.5±3.6 1.0±1.3 1.7±3.3 2.0± 2.0
(n=26)

*P<0.05, ***P<0.001, Wilcoxon paired signed ranks test, for ‘After’ values compared to ‘Before’.
190 Telles et al Indian J Physiol Pharmacol 2006; 50(2)

yoga practice on performance in a mirror have influenced their performance in the


tracing task. However mirror tracing was mirror star tracing task. However it has to
used not as a motor task but as one of three be emphasized that since a detailed account
laboratory stressors in practitioners of of their activities was not noted hence this
transcendental meditation (TM), and the possibility cannot be ruled out.
salivary cortisol levels were measured (8).
The practice of TM was associated with The yoga group showed an increase in
lower plasma cortisol suggesting that the number of circles traversed in a minute
meditation reduced the ‘stress’ associated suggesting an improvement in speed. The
with performing the mirror tracing task. other change following yoga was a decrease
in the number of circles left out during the
The fact that the control group also one-minute traverse. This reduction suggests
showed an improvement (though of a lesser an improvement in accuracy.
magnitude) in the task performance can be
explained as a beneficial effect of practice In a previous study the motivation to
on testing. This was also shown in an earlier learn yoga was found to influence the
study where the improvement seen in a performance in a tweezer dexterity task (5).
mirror tracing task over twelve repeat Hence higher motivation levels in yoga-
sessions was retained four months later (9). learners may have also contributed to the
Also, the initial improvement (i.e., after 1 improved performance in the mirror tracing
or 2 trials) was greater for the non-dominant task.
hand. The fact that the non-dominant hand
improves with re-testing may explain why In summary, the present results suggest
the left hand performance showed an that a month of yoga training brings about
improvement in the control group. The an improvement in a mirror tracing task The
control group consisted of office workers in motivation to learn yoga may have also
offices and factories close to the yoga center. influenced the results. However further
There is no reason to expect that their studies using a randomized controlled design
routine activities at work or at home could could substantiate these preliminary findings.
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