Monday, January 09, 2017 by Vicki Batts
Yoga is renowned for its positive effects on human health. It’s a great stress-reliever, and there are tons of options for how you want to do your yoga. It can be done at home on your own time, in your own space — or you take classes just about anywhere.
Yoga is more than just a trend, though. It provides real-life benefits to your body, and in a variety of ways that continue to be uncovered. For example, a 2011 study led by researchers from York University found that yoga helps to reduce stress hormones and helps to relieve the physical and psychological symptoms of chronic pain in women with fibromyalgia.
More recent research has revealed that yoga’s body benefits may reach even further than that. A study from Harvard University found that practicing yoga can impart a positive change on metabolic function at a cellular level. This in turn can improve things like nutrient absorption, and may assist in the prevention of chronic diseases. The results showed that overall, practicing yoga promoted better cell function across the board.
For the study, researchers utilized two groups of participants: one group that practiced yoga and mindfulness exercises, and a group that did not partake in either activity. After an eight week trial period, the scientists took blood samples from both groups. They then discovered that the yoga group exhibited changes to 2,209 genes, suggesting quite a profound effect. Of these, 1,275 were changes that led to genes being up-regulated (meaning activity increased), and 934 instances in which the changes resulted in genes that were down-regulated (meaningactivity decreased).
Writing for Fox News, Chris Kilham notes that in addition to cell metabolism, many of the changes that took place in the DNA resulted in an increased resistance to oxidative stress. Kilham writes, “Oxidative stress is associated with numerous degenerative disorders, including cardiovascular disease, neurological disorders, and more. Improved resistance to oxidative stress translates into better health overall, with reduced risk of chronic disease.”
Another study, led by researchers from the University of Calgary, found that yoga can also be a very helpful tool when it comes to cancer recovery. For the study, researchers had a group of breast cancer survivors participate in weekly yoga and mediation classes, and the participants also practiced these techniques at home. A control group that did not partake in these events was also featured in the study. Blood samples from both groups were taken at baseline and again when the study period ended, after twelve weeks.
The scientists found that the study participants who practiced the yoga and meditation exercises showcased longer telomere lengths than those seen in the control group. Longer telomere length is often associated with better post-cancer survival rates, according to many cancer specialists. This suggests that yoga can play a valuable role in cancer recovery.
In addition to providing new insights on the health effects of yoga, these studies also seem to support the widely repeated claim that yoga can improve your health and extend your lifespan.
There are many other documented health benefits to be had, if you choose to practice yoga. For example, yoga can provide a number of cardiac benefits. In addition to reducing stress, it has also been found to help lower blood pressure in people with hypertension. Some studies have also found that just doing yoga can help to improve your blood lipid profiles, in both healthy people and people with known coronary artery disease. Yoga has also been shown to help lower high blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes.
Practicing yoga can also help bolster weight loss and weight maintenance efforts. Besides the obvious benefits of exercise, some studies indicate that people who practice yoga tend to be more mindful eaters. Researchers found that practicing yoga just once a week for 30 minutes for at least four years gained less weight in middle-adulthood. They also found that people who were overweight actually lost weight. The research team attributed these benefits to mindfulness, which can help improve your relationship with your body, weight and food.
And of course, like any exercise, yoga too can help to increase your overall physical fitness, including strength, endurance, flexibility and cardio-respiratory capacity.