If you're already doing yoga, then you know how great it can make you feel. It has an impact on your overall health, balance, flexibility, pain tolerance and many other physical factors. It helps to support your mental and emotional health while staving off stress, anxiety and depression. But new research published in the Frontiers of Immunology journal shows that it affects you right down to your cells and even at a molecular level.
This highly measurable impact makes it challenging for some skeptics to be able to cling to the thought that the impact of yoga is merely a placebo. The newly published research has only added to an ever-growing body of evidence supporting the practice of yoga – and other similar practices such as meditation and tai chi – for a spectrum of different potential benefits.
This research determined that this type of practice can measurably reverse certain molecular reactions that occur within your DNA. These reactions are linked with damage from stress which often lead to unwanted outcomes such as disease and depression. When subjected to prolonged stress, the sympathetic nervous system is triggered. This activates certain genes which are responsible for the production of cytokines, which are a type of protein. Those proteins bring about cellular inflammation.
If this happens on occasion or quite rarely, the odds are that there won't be much – if any – long term impact. However, when the stress impact is continual, the chronic inflammation heightens the risk of mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety, certain cancers and premature aging of organs, muscles, bones and even the brain.
The research found that people who take part in mind-body practices such as mindfulness, meditation, tai chi and yoga appear to have a reduced cytokine production level. This reduces inflammation and can even reduce the impact of pre-existing inflammation, decreasing the impact and risk associated with the illnesses associated with extended heightened inflammation.
The new study helps to provide a more concrete, measurable and physical form of evidence to underscore the types of impact that practicing yoga can have within the body. This helps to explain why the benefits associated with the practice are occurring and may help in the development of preventative and treatment therapies for a range of conditions into the future.
While it's already becoming increasingly commonplace for conventional doctors to recommend yoga for certain patients who suffer from various forms of pain and injury, it may also become a regular part of the protocol assigned to individuals at risk of certain mental and physical ailments as well.