Yoga practitioners are at lesser risk of developing inflammation that could lead to cardiovascular diseases, cancer and Alzheimer, a study by Indian Institute of Science (IIS) has revealed.
Inflammation is body’s response to an injury and involves secretion of pro-inflammatory cytokines (cell-signalling proteins) in the blood to combat the injury.
The study found that regular exercise in the form of yoga can help optimise the levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines– Tumour Necrosis Factor (TNF) alpha and Interleukin-6 (IL-6).
The results of the research indicate that yoga, which enhances mind-body relaxation achieved through a combination of proper breathing, meditation and physical exercises, can help keep TNF-alpha and IL-6 at optimal levels.
This is necessary for regulating the body’s immune response to an injury or infection.
At the same time, an imbalance in levels of TNF-alpha and IL-6 can be harmful as excess amounts during chronic inflammation can lead to harmful effects like pro-tumour effects. Pro-inflammatory cytokines can act as a double edged sword if not kept in check.
However, the study found pro-inflammatory cytokines do not shoot up as much if one practices yoga regularly.
The study, which was jointly conducted along with M S Ramaiah Medical College, was published in the Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research.
The researchers examined the effect of an exercise challenge on pro-inflammatory cytokine (TNF-alpha and IL- levels) on a group of yoga and non-yoga practitioners.
The results showed that yoga practitioners fared better than non-yoga practitioners when it came to pro-inflammatory cytokine levels after a moderate-to-strenuous exercise trial.
Base levels of TNF-alpha and IL-6 were lower in yoga practitioners (who have been doing yoga daily for one hour since the last five years) compared to non-yoga practitioners.
Although there was an increase in TNF-alpha and Il-6 levels in both yoga and non-yoga groups, the increase was significant in the non-yoga group.
“The research highlights that levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines proportionately decrease with the increase in the duration of yoga practice, especially when the yoga practitioner is exposed to severe physical stress in form of strenuous exercise.
“This implies that the pro-inflammatory cytokines do not shoot up as much if one practices yoga regularly,” says Ambarish Vijayaraghava, Associate Professor, Department of Physiology, of the M S Ramaiah Medical College. He is also the lead author of the paper.
Further, lipid profiles of both groups revealed that cholesterol, tryglyceride and VLDL (very low density lipoprotein) were higher in non-yoga group than yoga group while HDL (high density lipoprotein) level, also known as ‘good cholesterol’, was higher in the yoga group.
“The study illustrates that increase in levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines is less and less with longer and longer duration of yoga, when exposed to physical stress, so yoga acts as a molecular level buffer for physical stress. Yoga probably helps in acting as a cushion to absorb mental stress too, as yoga has both body and mind components”, says Vijayaraghava added.