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Effect of Practising Charkha Spinning on Cognitive Development in Children: A Pilot Study

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Abstract

The increasingly competitive life of modern age has added to increased incidence of psychological problems in all the societies around the world. There is an increase in stress levels, psychosomatic disorders and suicide rates amongst children and youth. Efforts are needed to identify solutions like empowering children and young people by giving them the tools to develop self-reflection, self-protection, self-regulation, and holistic self-development. There are several types of meditative practices that serve as tools-Mindfulness Meditation being one amongst them. For the present study, it was hypothesized that charkha spinning, an age-old practice of spinning cotton thread is a way of practicing mindfulness meditation with measurable cognitive development and mental health benefits. It helps improve intelligence, concentration, multitasking abilities, patience, motor activity, mind-body coordination, processing speed, self-awareness amongst its practitioners. It was intended to evaluate the changes before and after regular spinning of charkha measured using psychological tools. The present study has added that Mindfulness Meditation can also be practiced by spinning 'charkha'. The study undertaken as a pilot project in children has shown encouraging results in improving the IQ, logical abilities, concentration, processing speed and overall development of the brain. Also, the spirituality quotient and feeling of 'being' is enhanced after continuous attention to charkha spinning.
Effect of Practising Charkha Spinning 109
April–June 2021
Effect of Practising Charkha
Spinning on Cognitive Development
in Children: A Pilot Study
Subodh Kumar
Meena Mishra
Alok K Mishra
ABSTRACT
The increasingly competitive life of modern age has added to increased incidence
of psychological problems in all the societies around the world. There is an
increase in stress levels, psychosomatic disorders and suicide rates amongst
children and youth. Efforts are needed to identify solutions like empowering
children and young people by giving them the tools to develop self-reflection,
self-protection, self-regulation, and holistic self-development. There are several
types of meditative practices that serve as tools- Mindfulness Meditation being
one amongst them. For the present study, it was hypothesized that charkha
spinning, an age-old practice of spinning cotton thread is a way of practicing
mindfulness meditation with measurable cognitive development and mental
health benefits. It helps improve intelligence, concentration, multitasking
abilities, patience, motor activity, mind-body coordination, processing speed,
self-awareness amongst its practitioners. It was intended to evaluate the changes
before and after regular spinning of charkha measured using psychological
tools. The present study has added that Mindfulness Meditation can also be
practiced by spinning ‘charkha’. The study undertaken as a pilot project in
children has shown encouraging results in improving the IQ, logical abilities,
concentration, processing speed and overall development of the brain. Also, the
spirituality quotient and feeling of ‘being’ is enhanced after continuous attention
to charkha spinning.
Key words: Charkha spinning, mindfulness meditation, mental health,
cognitive development
Gandhi Marg Quarterly
43(1): 109–120
© 2021 Gandhi Peace Foundation, New Delhi
http://gandhimargjournal.org/
ISSN 0016—4437
110 GANDHI MARG
Volume 43 Number 1
Introduction
“TAKE TO SPINNING to find peace of mind. The music of the
wheel will be as balm to our soul. I believe that the yarn we spin is
capable of mending the broken warp and woof of our life. The charkha
(spinning wheel) is the symbol for nonviolence on which all life, if it
is to be real life, must be based”.1
The increasingly competitive life of modern age has added to
increased incidence of psychological problems in all the societies
around the world.2 It is estimated that approximately 800,000 people
die by suicide worldwide.3 Death by suicide accounts for 8.5% of all
deaths among adolescents and young adults (15–29 years) and is a
leading cause of death among youth worldwide.4
The daily struggle to excel at every stage of life is undeniable and
sadly the major brunt is borne by the children and youth of the society.
Expectations of parents and teachers, peer pressure, interpersonal
problems, academic stress, worries about the future, and home
environment are some of the stressful issues faced by adolescents.5
Another emerging stressor is the rampant use of smartphones that
have become an integral part of our lives. Addiction to smartphones
has also become a serious problem.6 Researchers revealed that
smartphone addiction has a negative impact on individuals’
psychological and physical health as well as academic and work
performance.7-9 Healthcare professionals have identified media as a
cause of mental illness, dependency, obsessive–compulsive behaviors,
concentration problems, and other attention disorders. Besides these
physical and mental risks, safety concerns are being raised in media-
heavy communities; issues such as cyberbullying, young children being
exposed to violence, and sexually explicit material, as well as extreme
or inappropriate behaviors, are being highlighted. The current
scenario is challenging for both teachers and parents, as well as for
children, to foster a positive mental health status. These stressors
could lead to psychosomatic disorders in children and adolescents
(between 10% to 25%), mental health problems including adjustment
disorder, anxiety, depression, and suicide.10,11
Efforts are needed to identify solutions like empowering children
and young people by giving them the tools to develop self-reflection,
self-protection, self-regulation, and holistic self-development. The
ancient practice of yoga is empowering and may help children and
young people cope with stress and contributes positively to mental
health.12 Yoga is a way of life that consists of certain postures (asanas),
regulated breathing techniques (pranayamas), hand poses (mudras),
and meditation. Meditation mentioned here is not just ordinary
Effect of Practising Charkha Spinning 111
April–June 2021
concentration but a special type of internal concentration. Meditation
consists of many forms, most of which originated in ancient religious
and spiritual traditions. A meditating person uses certain techniques,
such as a specific posture, focused attention, and an open attitude
towards distractions.13
There are several types of meditative practices- Mindfulness
Meditation being one amongst them. Mindfulness entered the Western
Society in the year 1979 with its roots in Buddhist meditation.
Mindfulness consists of maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness
of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding
environment, through a gentle, cultivating outlook.14 During
mindfulness meditation, the meditator’s goal is to maintain attention
to current internal and external experiences with a nonjudgmental
view, manifesting acceptance, inquisitiveness, and openness.15
Meditation is generally done with the eyes closed where the subjects
are instructed to focus on a thought, breath, body part etc. and
internalize their thoughts and feelings.
The spinning of charkha (India’s generic term for any spinning
wheel or hand-cranked spinning machine) is hypothesized to be a
form of meditation where the eyes are open. Gandhian Philosophy
with spinning of ‘charkha’ at its core played a vital role during the
freedom struggle of India by showing the path for living a valuable
life with dignity, power and self-respect. Spinning charkha is
considered to fulfil a moral requirement and regenerate physical
capacities.16
In this study an attempt was made to address one component of
meditation where the eyes are open but the mind is focused on a
task.
The spinning of charkha can be an indigenous form of mindfulness
meditation with added health benefits along with the established
historical objective of self-reliance. The present study was undertaken
to test this hypothesis and is the only study in the world conducted
to bring out the cognitive development and mental health benefits of
spinning Charkha regularly.
MATERIAL AND METHODS
Subjects
Thirty female children, aged 10 to 18 years (13.60±2.11) studying in
5th to 12th grade in a government school, participated in this study.
However, at the end of 1 month of training, there were 28 children
because of 2 drop-outs. All the children belonged to a balika ashram
based in Delhi. Written permission to conduct this study was obtained
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from the authority of the balika ashram prior to the start of this research
study. All the students who participated in the research study were in
apparent good health.
Research Design
Quasi experimental pre and post design was used for conducting this
research study. The subjects were assigned into the experimental group
(n=30) using purposive sampling. Subjects were assessed on the first
day and after 1 month of the intervention. The subjects then underwent
a training of Charkha spinning, under the supervision of a charkha
trainer, for one hour everyday in the evening for a total period of 1
month. All the subjects were provided the same environment during
the study as they were living in a balika ashram.
Assessment
The following tests were administered to assess the pre and post
intervention effect:
Raven’s Standard Progressive Matrices (John C. Raven, 1936)17: This is a
nonverbal test used to measure general human intelligence and abstract
reasoning. It is one of the most common tests administered to both groups
and individuals ranging from 5-year-olds to the elderly. It comprises 60
multiple choice questions, listed in order of increasing difficulty. All
questions were black patterns on a white background. In each test item,
the subject is asked to identify the missing element that completes a
pattern.
Multiple Intelligence Test (Howard Gardner, 1983)18: This test consists of
90 items which are used to assess nine types of intelligences based on
Howard Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences.
CNS Vital Signs neurocognitive testing: CNS Vital Signs in-office
neurocognitive testing procedure is a non-invasive clinical procedure to
efficiently and objectively assess a broad spectrum of brain function
performance or domains under challenge (cognition stress test).
Statistical Analysis
Standard methods were followed for the data extraction for each of
the variables (mentioned above). Data was analysed using paired t-
test and p value < 0.05 is considered significant. The mean values ±
SD of pre and post variables are presented in [Table-1].
RESULTS
A total of 30 subjects were selected for the study. 28/30 subjects were
suitable for analysis as 2 subjects opted out of the study citing
Effect of Practising Charkha Spinning 113
April–June 2021
compliance issues. The mean age of subjects was 13.60 (SD=2.11) years
with an age range of 10-18 years. The youngest children were students
of standard 5th, the eldest were in class 12th and 3 children were not
studying.
Table-1: Pre-test and post-test mean & S.D. values of selected
variables after 1 month of Charkha spinning training.
IQ
The mean score of IQ (pre-test) was 76.10 +/- 12.00 and mean score of
Variables Pre-test Post-test p Value
Mean SD Mean SD
IQ 76.10 12.00 87.80 11.20 0.01
Multiple Intelligence
Linguistic 29.50 3.62 27.20 5.60 0.08
Logical-Mathematical 27.20 4.38 31.70 3.62 0.01
Spatial-Visual 28.00 6.07 29.70 5.20 0.20
Bodily-Kinesthetic 28.40 5.73 28.90 4.38 0.68
Musical 30.80 5.25 30.50 3.62 0.78
Interpersonal 28.90 5.25 30.80 4.45 0.08
Intrapersonal 30.60 4.28 33.50 4.76 0.01
Naturalist 31.50 4.47 33.00 5.44 0.18
Existential 29.70 4.31 34.30 3.63 0.01
CNS
Complex attention 61.90 29.50 53.20 28.30 0.18
Processing speed 17.90 9.53 23.90 11.90 0.01
Psychomotor speed 84.80 29.30 95.70 20.50 0.08
Reaction time 792.00 264.00 825.00 184.00 0.50
Verbal memory 42.30 7.32 43.20 8.24 0.60
Visual memory 34.90 4.74 34.60 4.27 0.70
Composite memory 77.20 10.60 77.70 10.70 0.80
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IQ (post-test) was 87.80+/- 11.20. There was statistically significant
difference in the mean of IQ among pre-test and post-test scores
(Paired t-test, p-value<0.01). It showed significant improvement in
IQ.
Multiple Intelligence
Linguistic
The mean score of Linguistic (pre-test) was 29.5 +/- 3.62 and mean
score of Linguistic (post-test) was 27.2 +/- 5.60.
Logical-Mathematical
The mean score of Logical-Mathematical (pre-test) was 27.2 +/-
4.38 and mean score of Logical-Mathematical (post-test) was 31.7 +/-
3.62. There was statistically significant difference in the mean of Logical-
Mathematical among pre-test and post-test scores (Paired t-test, p-
value<0.01). It shows increased capacity to analyze problems logically.
Spatial-Visual
The mean score of Spatial Visual (pre-test) was 28 +/- 6.07 and
mean score of Spatial-Visual (post-test) was 29.7 +/- 5.20.
Bodily-Kinaesthetic
The mean score of Kinesthetic (pre-test) was 28.4 +/- 5.73 and
mean score of Kinesthetic (post-test) was 28.9 +/- 4.38.
Musical
The mean score of Musical (pre-test) was 30.8 +/- 5.25 and mean
Effect of Practising Charkha Spinning 115
April–June 2021
score of Musical (post-test) was 30.5 +/- 3.62.
Interpersonal
The mean score of Interpersonal (pre-test) was 28.9 +/- 5.25 and
mean score of Interpersonal (post-test) was 30.8 +/- 4.45.
Intrapersonal
The mean score of Intrapersonal (pre-test) was 30.6 +/- 4.28 and mean
score of Intrapersonal (post-test) was 33.5 +/- 4.76.
There was statistically significant difference in the mean of
Intrapersonal among pre-test and post-test scores (Paired t-test, p-
value<0.05). It indicates the increased ability of children to understand
themselves.
Naturalist
The mean score of Naturalist (pre-test) was 31.5 +/- 4.47 and
mean score of Naturalist (post-test) was 33 +/- 5.44.
Existential
The mean score of Existential (pre-test) was 29.7 +/- 4.31 and
mean score of Existential (post-test) was 34.3 +/- 3.63.
There was statistically significant difference in the mean of Existential
among pre-test and post-test scores (Paired t-test, p-value<0.01). It
shows the increased interconnectedness of children with the world
around them.
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CNS Vital Signs Test
Complex Attention
The mean score of Complex Attention (pre-test) was 61.9 +/- 29.5
and mean score of Complex Attention (post-test) was 53.2 +/- 28.3.
Processing Speed
The mean score of Processing Speed (pre-test) was 17.9 +/-9.53
and mean score of Processing Speed (post-test) was 23.9 +/- 11.9.
There was statistically significant difference in the mean of Processing
Speed among pre-test and post-test scores (Paired t-test, p-value<0.05).
Psychomotor Speed
The mean score of Psychomotor Speed (pre-test) was 84.8 +/-29.3
and mean score of Psychomotor Speed (post-test) was 95.7 +/- 20.5.
Reaction Time
The mean score of Reaction Time (pre-test) was 792 +/- 264.0 and
mean score of Reaction Time (post-test) was 825.0 +/-184.0.
Verbal Memory
The mean score of Verbal Memory (pre-test) was 42.3 +/- 7.32
and mean score of Verbal Memory (post-test) was 43.2+/- 8.24.
Visual Memory
The mean score of Visual Memory (pre-test) was 34.9 +/-4.74 and
mean score of Visual Memory (post-test) was 34.6 +/- 4.27.
Composite MM
The mean score of Composite MM (pre-test) was 77.2 +/-10.6 and
mean score of Composite MM (post-test) was 77.7 +/- 10.7.
DISCUSSION
Mindfulness is defined as staying in the present and being oblivious
to the thoughts, actions and emotions. It may be simply defined as
staying in the moment and focusing on the task in hand. Spinning
charkha is also a regular, rhythmic activity that requires complete
attention while practicing. For ease of explanation in the context
henceforth it will be referred to as intervention (spinning charkha). It
is remarkable that this seemingly simplistic practice can have such a
wide range of applications and effects. The theoretical framework of
mindfulness is an attempt to explain its mechanism and how it
Effect of Practising Charkha Spinning 117
April–June 2021
influences the functioning of different regions of the brain.19 Baer
tried explaining the effects of cognitive change, self-management,
relaxation, acceptance occurring as a result of mindfulness
meditation.20
Studies prove that meditation improves the Intelligence quotient
(IQ) of the practitioner.21,22 The IQ scores in our study increased after
regular charkha spinning for 1 month. IQ is a complex entity to arrive
at- attention span and logical reasoning ability being important
parameters of IQ. Repeated activity gradually improved the attention
span due to formation of neural pathways and removal of ‘noise’
signals from the brain thereby increasing attention and logical
reasoning abilities as discussed below. In our study the intrapersonal
component has shown significant improvement (p value - 0.01) post
intervention that is in congruence with the improved self-management,
relaxation and acceptance theory of Baer. Neuroimaging studies have
added objectivity to the theoretical framework of mindfulness
meditation. There is an improved cognitive function as a result of a
continuous process of spinning that focuses the attention to the task
and prevents any distracting thoughts that may occur during the
process. Continuous attention to spinning a charkha also added to
the existentialism among these children. Also, the spirituality quotient
and feeling of ‘being’ enhanced in these kids. Studies have already
demonstrated existentialism and spirituality enhancement with
mindfulness meditation practitioners, therefore another evidence that
proves that charkha spinning is a form of meditation.
The executive attention is a function of the pathway between the
fronto-insular cortex and anterior cingulate cortex.23 Brain imaging
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studies have found that cognitively challenging tasks consistently
decrease activation in the same set of brain regions.
CONCLUSIONS
The present study has added spinning of charkha as a form of
meditation. The study undertaken as a pilot project in children has
shown encouraging results in improving the IQ, concentration,
processing speed, self- awareness, logical abilities, existentialism and
overall cognitive development of the brain. The spinning of Charkha
can be introduced in the curriculum of students to promote positive
mental health and brain development with a vision to create a mentally
healthy society and nation.
Limitations of the study
The small sample size is likely deterrent to statistical significance of
variables. Having a longer follow- up period would have shown effect
on more measurable indices. Differential loss to follow-up may have
introduced a bias though less likely as the results that are statistically
significant, are individual variations that may not be affected by this
limiting factor. However, this is a pilot study that analyses the effects
of spinning charkha- the first of its kind. It is feasible to design a
large study with adequate funding to further substantiate the mental
health benefits of spinning charkha.
Declaration
The study has been funded by Gandhi Smriti and Darshan Samiti,
Ministry of Culture.
Acknowledgement
Authors are thankful to Shri Dipanker, Shri Gyan (Director, Gandhi
Smriti and Darshan Samiti) for providing the funding, Secretary
General, Bhartiya Adim Jati Sevak Sangh for allowing us to conduct
this research at his centre. Authors are grateful to Ms. Indu Bala for
providing Charkha training. Last but not the least, everyone
whosoever has contributed, directly or indirectly, to the successful
completion of this project, are thanked earnestly.
Notes and References
1. Mkgandhi.org (n.d.). Mkgandhi. <https://www.mkgandhi.org/
swadeshi_khadi/charkha.htm> accessed on 22nd Feb 2021.
2. P Gilbert, K McEwan, R Bellew, A Mills & C Gale. The dark side of
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competition: How competitive behaviour and striving to avoid inferiority
are linked to depression, anxiety, stress and self-harm. Psychology and
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147608308X379806
3. Who.int (2017). WHO. <https://www.who.int/mental_health/
prevention/suicide/suicideprevent/en/ > accessed on 22nd Feb
2021.
4. Ibid.
5. N. Mathew, D C Khakha, A Qureshi, R Sagar, & C C Khakha. Stress
and Coping among Adolescents in Selected Schools in the Capital City of
India. Indian journal of pediatrics, 2015, 82(9), 809816. https://
doi.org/10.1007/s12098-015-1710-x
6. Y Hwang, S H Jeong. Predictors of parental mediation regarding children’s
smartphone use. Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking,
2015, 18(12), 737–743. Doi:10.1089/cyber.2015.0286.
7. J Kim, M Seo, P David P. Alleviating depression only to become problematic
mobile phone users: Can face-to-face communication be the antidote?
Computers in Human Behavior, 2015, 51: 440–447. https://doi.org/
10.1016/j.chb.2015.05.030
8. N Park & H Lee. Social implications of smartphone use: Korean college
students’ smartphone use and psychological well-being. Cyberpsychology,
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doi.org/10.1089/cyber.2011.0580
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academic performance, and satisfaction with life. Computers in Human
Behavior, 2016, 57: 321–325. https://doi.org/10.1016/
j.chb.2015.12.045
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depression among adolescents: a cross-sectional study. Indian pediatrics,
2015, 52(3), 217–219. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13312-015-0609-y
11. C Mishra & J Krishna. Turbulence of adolescence. Indian Journal of
Preventive & Social Medicine, 2014, 45(1-2), 6.
12. I Hagen & U S Nayar. Yoga for children and young people’s mental
health and well-being: research review and reflections on the mental health
potentials of yoga. Frontiers in psychiatry, 2014, 5(35). Doi: 10.3389/
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13. Smchealth.org (2010). Smchealth. < https://www.smchealth.org/
sites/main/files/file-attachments/introtomeditation.pdf > accessed
on 22nd Feb 2021.
14. Berkely.edu (n.d.). Greatergood. <https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/
topic/mindfulness/definition> accessed on 22nd Feb 2021.
15. B K Hölzel, S W Lazar, T Gard, Z Schuman-Olivier, D R Vago & U
Ott. How Does Mindfulness Meditation Work? Proposing Mechanisms of
Action from a Conceptual and Neural Perspective. Perspectives on
Psychological Science, 2011, 6(6), 537–559. https://doi.org/10.1177/
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16. Nikhil Menon. Gandhi’s Spinning Wheel: The Charkha and Its
120 GANDHI MARG
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Regenerative Effects. Journal of the History of Ideas, 2020, Volume 81,
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17. J Raven. The Raven Progressive Matrices Tests: Their Theoretical Basis
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18. A Chapman. (2007). Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences.
<http://www.businessballs.com/
howardgardnermultipleintelligences.htm> accessed on 22nd
February 2021.
19. Ibid.
20. Ruth A Baer. ‘Self-Focused Attention and Mechanisms of Change in
Mindfulness-Based Treatment’, Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, 2009,
99999:1. DOI: 10.1080/16506070902980703.
21. R W Cranson, D W Orme-Johnson, J Gackenbach, M C Dillbeck, C H
Jones & C N Alexander. Transcendental meditation and improved
performance on intelligence-related measures: A longitudinal study.
Personality and Individual Differences, 1991, 12 (10), 1105-1116.
Doi: 10.1016/0191-8869(91)90040-I.
22. Y Singh, R Sharma & A Talwar. Immediate and long-term effects of
meditation on acute stress reactivity, cognitive functions, and
intelligence. Alternative therapies in health and medicine, 2012, 18(6),
46–53.
23. D Sridharan, D J Levitin & V Menon. A critical role for the right fronto-
insular cortex in switching between central-executive and default-mode
networks. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the
United States of America, 2008, 105(34), 12569–12574. https://
doi.org/10.1073/pnas.0800005105
SUBODH KUMAR is Deputy Director, Brain Behaviour Research
Foundation of India, New Delhi, India.
Email: subodh2k50@gmail.com
MEENA MISHRA is Chairperson, Brain Behaviour Research
Foundation of India, New Delhi, India.
Email: chairperson@bbrfi.org
ALOK K MISHRA is Joint Secretary (E&M), Association of Indian
Universities, New Delhi, India
Email: alokpalm@yahoo.com
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