Health and Fitness

Published on January 14th, 2010 | by Jennifer Lance


Yoga Medically Proven to Reduce Inflammation Due to Aging and Stress

Researchers at the Ohio State University (OSU) have discovered yet another benefit of weekly yoga practice.  Women who practice yoga routinely have lower levels of inflammation in response to stress. Specifically, researchers found lowers levels of cytokine interleukin-6 (IL-6) in the blood yoginis.

Photo by lululemon athleticaYoga scientifically proven to reduce inflammation

Yoga scientifically proven to reduce inflammation defines cytokines as small proteins released by cells that “trigger inflammation and respond to infections”.  Cytokines do aid our immune system and promote healing, but if they remain elevated for too long, they can “disrupt a number of the body’s systems; blood pressure and heart rate; the ability of the skin to repair minor irritation; and mood,” according to OSU doctors.

In order to conduct this study, researchers divided 50 women ages 35- to 60-years-old into two groups based upon their “novice” or “expert” yoga experience.  Novices had participated in only 6 to 12 yoga classes or videos, whereas experts had practice weekly for at least a year. A catheter placed in the women’s arms drew blood at different times during their yoga practice and during other forms of physical exercise to measure stress hormones.  According to lead investigator Janice Kiecolt-Glaser, director of the division of health psychology at the OSU College of Medicine, “What we’re hoping to show is that there are differences in inflammatory and immune responses between novices and experienced practitioners to show that yoga modulates the stress response.”

Published in Psychosomatic Medicine, the OSU study found the yoga experts responded better to stressors.

Once the blood samples were analyzed after the study, researchers saw that the women labeled as “novices” had levels of the pro-inflammatory cytokine IL-6 that were 41 percent higher than those in the study’s “experts.”

“In essence, the experts walked into the study with lower levels of inflammation than the novices, and the experts were also better able to limit their stress responses than were the novices,” Kiecolt-Glaser explained.

Ron Glasser, OSU professor of molecular virology, immunology and medical genetics, explains how the study’s positive outcomes can affect our health:

We know that inflammation plays a major role in many diseases.  Yoga appears to be a simple and enjoyable way to add an intervention that might reduce risks for developing heart disease, diabetes and other age-related diseases.

This is an easy thing people can do to help reduce their risks of illness.

As I am aging “normally”, I have two chronic areas of my body that succumb to inflammation.  Both my wrists and arthritic hip joints flare up at times, but the best defense I have discovered is yoga. I practice yoga daily for at least 30 minutes. To make it part of my routine, I have to get up at 5:30 AM to make sure I have time for my practice.  If I slack in my routine, my wrists and hips remind me that yoga is an essential part of my natural pain management plan.   This study confirms what I have discovered for my own body.  As Dr. William Malarkey, an endocrinologist at OSU Medical Center, describes, “You can’t change your gene pool, but you can change your behavior.”

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