Fight Disease with Yoga

Wellness experts often talk about factors like inflammation and how stress negatively impacts health. We know that yoga can help, but what is the science backing up the claim that yoga can help fight illness? Learn how to fight the disease with yoga.

Too Much of a Good Thing

When an injury or irritant occurs in our bodies, our capillaries dilate and flood the area with white blood cells, thus causing inflammation along with other physiological responses. Inflammation is a necessary, life-saving response our bodies have developed, helps our bodies heal from injury and is a key component in our immune systems’ ability to fend off bacteria, viruses and the like. Inflammation is not only good but essential to maintaining health.

Too much inflammation, however, wreaks havoc in our bodies, and causes a myriad of disease. Out of control inflammation can be blamed, in part, on a hormone called cortisol. Here is where stress comes in; when we are under mental, emotional or physical stress, our bodies respond by flooding our systems with cortisol. Again, in appropriate amounts, cortisol is good. It regulates our inflammatory response, directing immunity support to the area in need of defense or aid.

However, too much cortisol (i.e. prolonged increased levels due to stress) reduces the effectiveness of the hormone. Our tissues become less sensitive to the hormone, and our immune system less responsive to its’ regulatory effect.

Stress and Inflammation Reduction

When it comes to fighting disease, prevention is by far the best medicine. The science seems to be clear: control stress levels, and be one step closer to reducing chronic increased levels of inflammation.  This is where yoga can help.

Meditation practices have been found to impact our health at the genetic level , as study participants engaging in a meditation practice for eight weeks were found to have reduced inflammation.

The Mayo Clinic, a leading health facility in the United States, considers yoga an effective way to manage chronic health conditions like heart disease and high blood pressure. Mayo Clinic touts yoga’s ability to not only maintain or increase fitness levels, to but reduce stress.

Yoga’s capacity to bring down stress levels is even lauded in the Ivy League, as the Harvard Medical School  states that “by reducing perceived stress and anxiety, yoga appears to modulate stress response systems.”

The best news, perhaps, is that the positive effects of yoga are immediate. Significant reduction in stress levels are achieved after a single class, and maintained through regular practice. The stress and inflammation controlling effects of yoga extend to those currently experiencing or recently suffering from illness, even cancer, as well.  Whether practiced every day, once a week, or in workshops or retreats, every time we practice yoga we promote and contribute to our health and well-being.

Yoga Fights Disease

Yoga is helpful in decreasing levels of stress, which, in turn, reduces inflammation. Reduced inflammation increases our bodies’ ability to appropriately respond effectively to disease-causing stimuli. By practicing yoga, we are helping our bodies achieve normal levels of cortisol, which allows us to use inflammation when we need it, rather than living in a constant state of elevated stress and inflammation levels.

Science is increasingly shedding new light on what yogis and yoginis already intuit: a regular yoga or meditation practice can and does have positive effects on our health. Scientists are now beginning to understand the links between stress, hormonal levels, inflammation and using yoga to fight disease on a biological level.

 

Click Here for References+

  1. Nordqvist, Christian. “What Is Inflammation? What Causes Inflammation?”Medical News Today. MediLexicon International, 12 Feb. 2015. Web. 19 May 2015. http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/248423.php
  2. Carnegie Mellon University. “How stress influences disease: Study reveals inflammation as the culprit.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 2 April 2012. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/04/120402162546.htm.
  3. Black, D, et al. “Yogic Meditation Reverses NF-κB and IRF-related Transcriptome Dynamics in Leukocytes of Family Dementia Caregivers in a Randomized Controlled Trial.” Psychoneuroendocrinology 38.3 (2013): 348-55. Psychoneuroendocrinology. International Society of Psychoneuroendocrinology, 26 June 2012. Web. 19 May 2015. http://www.psyneuen-journal.com/article/S0306-4530(12)00226-0/abstract?cc=y=
  4. Mayo Clinic Staff. “Yoga: Fight Stress and Find Serenity.” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 12 Feb. 2015. Web. 19 May 2015. http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/yoga/art-20044733?pg=1
  5. Harvard Medical School. “Yoga for Anxiety and Depression.” Harvard Health. Harvard Medical School, 23 May 2013. Web. 19 May 2015. http://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/yoga-for-anxiety-and-depression
  6. Huang, FJ. “Effects of Hatha Yoga on Stress in Middle-aged Women.” The Journal of Nursing Research 21.1 (n.d.): 59-66. National Center for Biotechnology Information. Mar. 2013. Web. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23407338
  7. Kitamura, M. “Harvard Yoga Scientists Find Proof of Meditation Benefit.”Bloomberg.com. Bloomberg, 21 Nov. 2013. Web. 19 May 2015. http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2013-11-22/harvard-yoga-scientists-find-proof-of-meditation-benefit
  8. Michalsen, A, et al. “Rapid Stress Reduction and Anxiolysis among Distressed Women as a Consequenceof a Three-month Intensive Yoga Program.”Medical Science Monitor 11.12 (n.d.): 555-61. Medical Science Monitor. 1 Dec. 2005. Web. 19 May 2015. http://www.medscimonit.com/abstract/index/idArt/438851
  9. Brink, Susan. “New Study Shows Yoga Has Healing Powers.” National Geographic. National Geographic Society, 8 Feb. 2014. Web. 19 May 2015. http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2014/02/140207-yoga-cancer-inflammation-stress/

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