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How can Yoga lower your stress and inflammation?

Updated: Jul 4, 2022

Yoga is a combination of physical and mental disciplines that can help you reach body and mind harmony. This can assist you in relaxing and coping with stress and anxiety. This is because Yoga induces relaxation, which is a natural antidote to stress and hence can aid in reducing stress. Yoga benefits three significant aspects of our life that are often affected by stress i.e our body, our mind and our breathing.

The essential elements of most general yoga classes are:

Yoga asanas: Yoga asanas, also known as yoga poses, are a set of motions that are used to improve strength and flexibility. Poses range in difficulty from easy to challenging. In a simple pose, you lie entirely calm on the floor. You try pushing your physical limits as a result of a problematic posture.

Breathing: Breathing control is a crucial aspect of yoga. According to yoga, controlling your breath can help you manage your body's stress and calm your mind.

Relaxation or meditation: You can add meditation or relaxation exercises to your yoga practice. Meditation can assist you in becoming more conscious and aware of the current moment while avoiding judgment.

According to several recent research studies, yoga may help to reduce the detrimental physical effects of stress and inflammation. Inflammation is a strong and consistent predictor of all-cause death in the elderly. Interleukin-6 (IL-6), tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-), and C-reactive protein (CRP) are proinflammatory cytokines that play a role in Heart disease, Type-2 Diabetes, Arthritis, Osteoporosis, Alzheimer's disease, Periodontal disease, Frailty, and functional decline.

Inflammation is influenced by behavior in ways other than exercise and weight. Even low levels of anxiety and depression symptoms can increase proinflammatory cytokine production. Furthermore, psychological stresses have been associated with continuous overproduction of IL-6, and chronic stressors have been connected to transient elevations in proinflammatory cytokines.

Yoga's popularity has grown in recent years as a result of its reputation for stress reduction and mental health benefits and data from randomized trials suggests that yoga reduces anxiety and depression symptoms. Hatha yoga, the most popular type in the western world, combines asanas (body postures), pranayama (breath control) and meditation. Reduced sympathetic nervous system tone and increased vagal activity have been highlighted as mechanistic explanations for yoga's possible mental and physical health benefits including lowering inflammation.

Researchers discovered that 12 weeks of yoga delayed cellular aging in an exploratory study published in Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity. Over the course of 12 weeks, the program consisted of 90 minutes of yoga, including physical postures, breathing, and meditation. Researchers discovered signs of reduced inflammation and significantly lower cortisol levels. The study also found more significant levels of BDNF after the yoga program implying that yoga may have brain-protective properties as well.

Practicing yoga also increases the levels of anti-inflammatory markers, whereas decreases the level of pro-inflammatory markers. Researchers also found that BDNF (Brain-derived neurotrophic factor) levels tripled after yoga practice which helped in feeling less depressed, less anxious and had fewer physical symptoms.

Yoga has been demonstrated to reduce stress by regulating the autonomic nervous system which is responsible for both the stress reaction and its opposite, the relaxation response. It accomplishes by elevating the neurotransmitter GABA, which is known to be depleted in patients suffering from anxiety disorders, depression or post-traumatic stress disorder. People who were randomly allocated to take yoga courses or walk for 60 minutes three times a week for 12 weeks reported lower stress levels and improved mood in one study. This shows that, unlike other forms of exercise such as walking, yoga has the potential to affect our stress levels - not just in terms of how we perceive stress, but also in terms of objective measures of brain function.

Yoga has also been proven to help lower cortisol levels, the key stress hormone generated in the brain during stressful situations. Cortisol can hinder our ability to learn and recall information when it is secreted over a lengthy period, as it may be for those dealing with chronic stressors. After just 10 days of yoga, persons with chronic illnesses had lower cortisol levels (and higher endorphin levels), according to one study. They also reported lower levels of the inflammatory markers interleukin-6 (IL-6) and tumour necrosis factor (TNF). Another study indicated that only one 90-minute hatha yoga session lowered college students' cortisol levels.

Meditation has also been proven to have significant impacts on the stress response, including decreased activity in the brain's famed "monkey mind" areas, which cause us to ruminate about our daily stresses. Meditation has even been related to a reduction in grey matter volume in the amygdala, the part of the brain that controls fear and anxiety.

Whether you're doing asana or sitting meditation, it's reasonable to say that yoga for stress reduction works. The routines may not be effective as stand-alone remedies for everyone, if you're extremely stressed out and have significant anxiety, you may require therapy or other treatments.

References :

(1) NIH

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