In the U.S. alone there are just over 20 million devotees of yoga and the more we learn about it the more their devotion makes sense. Yoga is so much more than just stretching. It helps with relaxation, helps the heart rate go down, increases flexibility and strength, and according to a new study, helps reduce inflammation, too (inflammation is associated with chronic diseases like heart disease, diabetes, and arthritis).

From the article:

“Researchers looked at 200 breast cancer survivors who had not practiced yoga before. Half the group continued to ignore yoga, while the other half received twice-weekly, 90-minute classes for 12 weeks, with take-home DVDs and encouragement to practice at home.

According to the study, which was led by Janice Kiecolt-Glaser, professor of psychiatry and psychology at Ohio State University, and published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, the group that had practiced yoga reported less fatigue and higher levels of vitality three months after treatment had ended.”

Often times studies rely on self-reporting, which is less reliable. However, for this study researcher Ronald Glaser from the university’s department of molecular virology, immunology, and medical genetics, examined three cytokines (proteins in the blood) which are markers of inflammation. After three months of yoga practice, the blood tests showed all three markers for inflammation had dropped by 10 to 15 percent.

While no one is exactly sure how yoga reduced the inflammation of the breast cancer survivors, it is surmised that since cancer treatment is stressful and exhausting, which then leads to poor sleep cycles- all of which fuels inflammation- that yoga helps reduce stress, allowing people to sleep better. More sleep, more hope.

In fact, smaller studies have found, again by measuring biological markers, that expert yoga practitioners had “lower inflammatory responses to stress than novice yoga practitioners did; that yoga reduces inflammation in heart failure patients; and that yoga can improve crucial levels of glucose and insulin in patients with diabetes.” So, there’s something there.

But cancer isn’t the only thing in life that causes major stressors in people’s lives. And that means that yoga practice might be helpful for others.

More from the article:

“Maryanna Klatt, an associate professor of clinical family medicine at Ohio State University, has taken yoga into the classrooms of disadvantaged children. In research that has not yet been published, she found that 160 third graders in low-income areas who practiced yoga with their teacher had self-reported improvements in attention.”

What do you think about yoga? If your life is a ball of stress, would you be willing to try it out for a month?

Source: National Geographic