Stress & Health

Regular Yoga Practice Helps Blunt Effects of Stress

It is pretty clear that stress has many physical and mental effects that can be damaging to our health. Stress has been shown to increase markers of inflammation. High levels of inflammation has been linked to increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, and certain cancers to name just a few chronic conditions. In a study published in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine, researchers found that those who practice a restorative form of hatha yoga more often are less likely to have elevated inflammation markers compared to those with less experience with yoga. The study compared two groups of women, an expert yoga group and a beginner group. Either group received positive psychological benefits. However, the experienced yoga group had lower IL-6, a proinflammatory marker, and were less likely to have a detectable CRP, another body-wide marker of inflammation.   

Hatha yoga, a form of exercise that focuses on calming breathing techniques, uses a series of poses that stretch, strengthen, and relax muscles as well as standing poses that help with balance. It dates back thousands of years to traditional Indian medicine. It is often considered a complementary medicine practice in Western medicine. The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine of the National Institutes of health has been studying the potential health benefits of yoga. To learn more about this research and yoga, visit the website: NCCAM – Yoga.

References:

Kiecolt-Glaser JK, Christian L, Preston H, Houts CR, Malarkey WB, Emery CF, Glaser R. Stress, inflammation, and yoga. Psychosomatic Medicine. 2010;72(2):113-121. DOI: 10.1097/PSY.0b013e3181cb9377 

Author: Lona Sandon, M.Ed., R.D., Assistant Professor, UT Southwestern and American Dietetic Association spokesperson

Posted: June 13, 2011