Easy Does It® Yoga

Yoga is a health-promoting activity that can be enjoyed by anyone - even those whose physical activity is limited due to age, disability, recovery from substance abuse, or chronic illness. Developed in the 1960s by Alice Christensen, Easy Does It® Yoga has gained national recognition for its effectiveness as a safe, health-promoting, self-motivating and enjoyable fitness program for the elderly or anyone with physical limitations. Our student's manual, The American Yoga Association's Easy Does It Yoga, provides a comprehensive routine of exercise, breathing, and meditation, many of which are designed for chair or bed. Our Easy Does It Yoga Trainer's Guide is a step-by-step guide for anyone who works with older adults or others with physical limitations.

Research on Easy Does It Yoga

Researchers of the Easy Does It Yoga (EDY) program in the past 20 years have included:

  • Durand F. Jacobs, Ph.D, Veterans Administration Medical Center, Loma Linda, California.
  • Roger N. Hess, Ph.D, Douglas Schultz, Ph.D, and Robert W. Scott, M.D. with the support of a matching grant by the Cleveland Foundation and the American Yoga Association.
  • David Haber, Ph.D, formerly of the University of South Florida, Tampa, supported by an Administration of Aging Title IV-B research grant and the Older Americans Act, Title III.

Research on the EDY program by the Veterans Administration Medical Center showed strong evidence that simple Yoga techniques can reduce somatic and psychological complaints. Participants being evaluated reported improvements in several areas. Our students found a marked reduction in problems resulting from an unhealthy musculoskeletal system, such as pain in the back, arms, and legs, as well as cramps. In addition, students noticed a general improvement in the functioning of the respiratory system, with less running or bleeding noses, or constant coughing. Many students experienced having an overall improvement of the nervous system. They reported fewer problems of numbness and tingling in the arms and legs, fewer severe headaches, reduced dizziness, and less twitching in the face, head, and shoulder area. Students involved in the program also experienced positive emotional changes. There were large reductions in anxiety symptoms such as nervousness, being easily irritated, and impulsive behavior. Self esteem increased, and some older students have also reported a renewed interest in sex.

The Cleveland Foundation study explored the effectiveness of the EDY program in augmenting traditional hypertension treatments. Seventy people over the age of 55 who suffered mild to moderate hypertension participated in the project. Half of the participants were assigned to the EDY program, and half to a traditional exercise-to-music program. Both groups met twice weekly for 12 weeks. Clinical status was determined before and after the 12 weeks, and was also continued for an additional 12 week follow-up period. Both the EDY program and exercise-to-music program led to reductions in blood pressure, with the Yoga program participants experiencing a statistically significant change. Both groups lost some weight, though neither was significant. As for pulse, both groups reduced pulse rate significantly over the entire 24-week period. A 29-item symptoms checklist included anxiety, depression, tiredness, nervousness, trouble sleeping, stiff joints, and muscle weakness. Results of the symptoms checklist for every comparison in the two groups showed improvement among the Yoga students, which was sustained over the follow-up period. For the controls, although all of the comparisons showed some improvement, only two of the differences were significant, and both of them appeared only at the end of the follow-up period. In summary, both programs led to an improvement in physical well-being, but the features of the Yoga training resulted in a greater feeling of general well-being.

Two senior centers in West Central Florida were chosen for an exploratory study, supported by the Administration of Aging, to evaluate the use of Yoga as a preventative health care program. The study was community based, using white volunteers at the SS Center, and black volunteers at the JJ Center. At each site older persons were equally distributed between a Yoga class or a control activity, such as a film series or an art class. Classes were held once a week for 10 weeks at a community site, with daily homework assignments by the students on their own at home. Compared to other group programs with minority elders, drop-out rates were quite low. Yoga participants reduced their systolic blood pressure level in comparison to control persons at the SS Center at the .09 level of significance. Yoga participants at the JJ Center did not lower blood pressure levels in comparison to control persons. Among SS Yoga participants, self-assessed health status improved, as did psychological well-being, in comparison to the control group. At the JJ Center, Yoga participants did not improve on the self-assessed health status measurement or the psychological well-being scale in comparison to the control group. Though equivalent procedures were implemented at both centers, black older students were unable to be motivated to practice Yoga on their own at home. While older students at both centers attended the weekly class on a regular basis the SS participants practiced Yoga an additional five times per week on average, while the JJ participants practiced only one additional time per week on average. It was concluded that the psychological response to Yoga in the black community may need to improve before we can determine the potential benefits of Yoga with high blood pressure or hypertension. One future direction for low-income, minority elders is to increase class contact from one to three or four times a week. Some analysts believe that more frequent, direct leadership with minority elders is necessary to encourage them to intervene on their own behalf.

The Older Americans Act (Title III) provided funding for a recreation-fitness program for older rural and urban residents of Florida's Tampa Bay Area. Over 100 people, divided into two groups, participated in independent, controlled studies of the impact of Easy Does It Yoga on physical and emotional health. Group I consisted of predominantly white, middle-class female high school graduates living with their spouses, and Group II was nearly one-half black, predominantly female, middle to lower class, junior high school graduates. Within each group about half the participants were randomly assigned to the EDY treatment group, and the other half to the control group. A battery of tests were given to assess the frequency of somatic and nonsomatic complaints (Hopkins Symptom Checklist), to ascertain present levels of tension and nervousness (Spielberger's State Trait Anxiety Inventory), to ascertain present feelings of self-worth (Rosenberg's Self-Esteem Scale), to measure opinions about feelings of accomplishment (Neugarten's Life Satisfaction Index), and to monitor blood pressure. Additional demographic and health care behavior variables were measured. Also, measurements were recorded for the average number of minutes per day and days per week that the Yoga techniques were performed at home. The results of Group I test battery scores showed that the EDY group out-performed the control group on every measure except the somatic and nonsomatic complaints. As well, all changes in mean scores for the EDY group were in a positive direction, except for the life satisfaction score. However, the indicated decrease in life satisfaction was 50% greater for the control group. Test scores for Group II showed that the EDY group did better on every measure compared to the control group. Group I participants practicing the EDY regimen of exercise, breathing, relaxation and meditation techniques at home reported practicing an average of 35 minutes per day. In Group II, EDY participants practiced an average of 32 minutes per day.

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