by Noa Glow
A new study from the University of Ohio shows yoga can help calm the body’s inflammatory responses and, as a result, decrease the likelihood of heart disease, diabetes and even cancer. Find out how yoga for inflammation can help you.
What is inflammation?
Most people think of inflammation as temporary swelling that occurs after an injury – nothing an ice pack and some R&R won’t fix. But unlike acute inflammation, which is in part how your body responds to harmful stimuli and kick-starts the healing process, chronic inflammation is a prolonged process that can do damage to your body.
It starts with the immune system. When you’re injured or sick your body dispatches an army of white blood cells to fight the infection – a totally healthy and normal response. But if this reaction occurs for no reason (i.e., when there’s no infection to fight), the white blood cells may harm perfectly healthy organs and even destroy other cells, leaving the door wide open to disease.
Unfortunately, you can’t feel or be tested for chronic inflammation. And with more and more research pointing to this condition as a pre-cursor to some very serious diseases – from hay fever to arthritis to cancer – it’s important to stay healthy and minimize your risk. Bikram Yoga can help.
University of Ohio Study on Inflammation
Researchers compared 25 women who had practised yoga regularly for at least two years with 25 novices. The beginners showed 36% more leptin – a hormone that stimulates inflammation – in their bodies than the experienced yogis. Additionally, the experienced yogis had 28% more adiponectin, an inflammation-soothing hormone. The longer the women in the experienced group had practised, the greater their ratio of anti-inflammatory to inflammatory hormones.
Additionally, the expert yogis had lower heart rates in response to stressful events than the newbies. Yoga also seemed to boost the mood of practitioners in both groups, which (as we’ll find out) can reduce inflammatory activity.
Causes of Chronic Inflammation
- WEIGHT: Extra pounds can cause well-meaning white blood cells to inflame other bulging-but-otherwise-uninfected cells. This can make healthy cells resistant to insulin, which in turn can lead to diabetes. The unneeded white blood cells may even start to leak into your bloodstream and aggravate your liver.
- STRESS: Since the parts of your brain that sense pain are also activated by social anxiety, inflammatory activity can increase under stress.
- TOXINS: Cigarette smoke and smog can pollute your body with toxins and, according to some research, encourage inflammation.
How Bikram Yoga for Inflammation Can Help
- EXERCISE: Maintaining a healthy weight means eating right and doing regular exercise, like practising Bikram Yoga.
- RELAX: Lowering your stress levels can be a key to beating chronic inflammation. According to stress expert Dr. Ken Nedd, doing Bikram Yoga releases certain stress-induced hormones, reduces tension in the muscles and relaxes the body through the stimulation of pressure points. The controlled breathing exercises in the series also enhance your ability to relax, release tension and experience a clear, focused mind.
- DETOX: Bikram Yoga keeps your body in prime toxin-fighting form, helping it to get rid of unwanted waste and fight infection effectively.
Noa Glow writes for and practices at Bikram Yoga Vancouver. This article was originally published on December 13, 2012 by Trevor Ellestad on the Bikram Yoga Vancouver Blog.