How do you deal with the stress of driving a train in Mumbai, India, where rail travel is the “lifeline” of the city? Well, the nationally funded Kaivalyadhama Yoga Institute thinks yoga can help. Through a three-month course in yoga, the Institute will monitor the effects of yoga on the stress levels of 80 motormen. For a rail system that transports over 6.1 million commuters on a daily basis, it would seem that stress management is imperative. These men drive trains, which are often overcrowded with close to 5000 passengers packed into a 1700 passenger space, which definitely puts the two grumpy little one’s in the back seat of my air conditioned station wagon into perspective.
Though most of us have experienced the fact that yoga helps us deal with our stress, the proof is somewhat subjective, i.e. the way we “feel” is rarely equated with scientific proof. The institute in conjunction with Bangalore-based organization-FAITH (Foundation for assessment and Integration of health systems) will empirically measure certain chemical markers of stress through a series of biochemical tests like lipid profile, cortisol, protein reaction, polygraph, lung capacity, hand grip, sleep rating, spirometry, and reaction time. These tests will first be administered prior to beginning the three- month yoga program and will be given periodically during the study.
The motormen are required to attend an hour and a half yoga class everyday. Counseling is also available to address individual issues, and a daily home yoga practice is required as well. The requirements have all the makings of a pretty serious physical and mental discipline, which is often the hardest part of committing to a yoga practice. It will be interesting to see if the intention is evidenced in an objective outcome. Those of us that practice yoga daily, even though it’s sometimes tough to work our practice into our hectic lives, know that without it the quality of our hectic lives would be much less.
So the next time you are in bumper-to-bumper traffic after a long day at work, and the kids are in the back seat tired and hungry, think of the motormen in India and their 5000 passengers. It may help put things into perspective, and if that doesn’t work, try taking a deep breath, relaxing your grip on the wheel, and sink in to the experience. Hopefully as the tension fades, replaced instead with the steady rhythm of your breath, you can add this experience to a study of your own. One where unscientific proof concludes beyond a shadow of a doubt that yoga really does help us deal with stress.