Recent research has shown that women who practice hatha yoga regularly recover from stress faster than women who are considered yoga "novices." Researchers at Ohio State University enrolled 25 women identified as yoga "experts" (practiced yoga on a regular basis once or twice weekly for at least 2 years) as well as 25 novices (participated in yoga classes or home practice with yoga videos for 6 to 12 sessions). The researchers assessed participants' cardiovascular, inflammatory, and endocrine responses before and after they took part in three activities: a yoga practice, slow walking on a treadmill, and passively watching a video. They also measured participants' physiologic responses before and after certain stress events.

Although differences in inflammatory or endocrine responses were not unique to the yoga sessions, the researchers found that the novices group of yoga practitioners’ blood had 41 percent higher levels of the cytokine interleukin-6 (IL-6) than those of the experts.

IL-6 is a stress-related compound that is thought to play a role in certain conditions such as cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. In addition, the novices' levels of C-reactive protein, which serves as a general marker for inflammation, were nearly five times that of the yoga experts. The Yoga Expert Group had lower heart rates in response to stress events than the Novice Group. Yoga also boosted mood in both groups, while the other two activities (walking, video) did not.

The researchers suggested that this study offers insight into how yoga and its related practices may affect health. Regularly practicing yoga could have health benefits, which may only become evident after years of practice and only if one maintains a consistent practice.

The Status of Yoga Research

Research suggests that yoga might:
Improve mood, decrease stress and sense of well-being
Improve cardiovascular health such as reducing heart rate and blood pressure
Improve muscle relaxation and body composition
Help with conditions such as anxiety, depression, and insomnia
Improve overall physical fitness, strength, and flexibility
Positively affect levels of certain brain or blood chemicals.

Research has shown that yoga and other types of mind-body practices can help improve patient outcomes, particularly quality-of-life. However, none have become standard of care, or are on the clinical care pathway for cancer patients.

Patients who participated in the yoga program reported that their ability to engage in everyday activities - walking up stairs or around the neighborhood, carrying groceries - all improved. Studies also found improved sleep and reduced fatigue levels, and preliminary analysis suggests lowered stress hormone levels and Yoga Weight Loss.

Author's Bio: 

Jasmine Kaloudis teaches at Synergy By Jasmine  in Philadelphia. For free images of yoga poses with tips on how to do them, email info at synergybyjasmine dot com with "Request Yoga Poses and Tips" in headline.

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