Research: How Yoga Can Help with Immunity

Here you’ll find bullet-point summaries plus quick links to studies that have reported the following findings:

  1. Yoga leads to overall well-being (2017)
  2. Yoga, stress and autoimmune disease (2018)
  3. Greater interoceptive awareness & stress resilience
  4. Impacts immune system at molecular level (2013)
  5. Lowered inflammatory response (2010)
  6. Decreased inflammation & cardiovascular risk (2016)

Yoga leads to overall well-being (2017)  link

  • A study published in the Journal Frontiers in Immunology found decreased inflammation in those practicing mind-body exercises. It’s believed that yoga helps to reduce stress, improve mood and emotional regulation, recognized effects of reductions in cortisol.
  • Deep breathing and meditation may impact the hypothalamus, pituitary and adrenals, helping to balance the nervous system. Possible outcomes include reduced blood pressure and heart rate and a state of being both calm and alert.

Yoga, stress and autoimmune disease (2018)  link

  • A study, Association of Stress-Related Disorders with Subsequent Autoimmune Disease, found a positive link between conditions brought about by stress and the body’s immune system.
  • Though the causes are not yet understood, a higher risk of developing autoimmune disease (rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, multiple sclerosis) was found for those with stress-related disorders (PTSD, anxiety and depression).
  • As various studies have found that yoga can help with stress and stress-related disorders, the author of this article postulates that yoga should be used as self-care for managing stress and trauma.

Greater interoceptive awareness & stress resilience  link

  • According to a study published in Biological Psychology, those with poor interoceptive awareness may be less able to adapt to stressful situations.
  • Yoga, which emphasizes the integration of mind and body, may help to cultivate greater interoceptive ability and increase stress resilience.

Impacts immune system at molecular level (2013) link

  • Norwegian researchers found that a comprehensive yoga program rapidly produces internal changes on a genetic level.
  • The study confirmed earlier findings linking gene expression to the body’s immune system, and suggests this effect may be instantaneous.
  • The study was with 10 participants attending a week-long yogic retreat including asana, breathing practices and meditation.

Lowered inflammatory response (2010)  link

  • Ohio State University researchers showed that women who routinely practiced yoga had lower amounts of the cytokine interleukin-6 (IL-6) in their blood.
  • The women also showed smaller increases in IL-6 after stressful experiences. IL-6 is an important part of the body’s inflammatory response and has been implicated in heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, arthritis and a host of other age-related debilitating diseases.
  • Psych Central article link

Decreased inflammation & cardiovascular risk (2016)  link

  • Chopra Center research measured the effects of Ayurvedic practices which included group meditation and yoga.
  • Findings from the study indicate that the brief intervention led to increases in well-being as assessed by measures of spirituality, gratitude and self-compassion.
  • The study also found that these Ayurvedic practices helped decrease blood levels of metabolites associated with inflammation and cardiovascular disease risk, and helped with cholesterol regulation.
  • Chopra Center article referencing research here.

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