Yoga Can Help Battle Inflammation

Author credit Jennifer Dawson

The top official causes of death in the UK, the US and many other countries are cancer and heart disease, and one thing these diseases have in common is a far less discussed condition - inflammation, which occurs when the immune system recognises damaged cells. Inflammation is involved in so many conditions that can wrest from your quality of life, including arthritis - a condition affecting 350 million people worldwide. The good news for those who make yoga a part of their daily life, is that this practice has been found to lower inflammation, in a 2019 review published in Biological Research for Nursing. If you have already booked a yoga retreat to a beautiful part of the world, know that you are doing much more than providing yourself with a relaxing getaway. You are also battling inflammation in a powerful way.


What did the Review Say?

The review mentioned above involved 15 studies, taking into account various types of yoga. These studies measured the effects of yoga on the usual markers of inflammation - including C-reactive protein, which is strongly linked to heart disease. The studies showed not just significant - but ‘great improvements’ in inflammation through the practice of yoga. This is good news for those wishing to keep chronic diseases and painful joint conditions at bay.

Fighting Inflammation is an Integrated Concept

While you are on your yoga retreat, aim to consume healthy foods. The Mediterranean diet, with its emphasis on lean proteins, fruits and vegetables, and healthy Omega-3 fats, has been found in many studies (including one study by the American Society of Hematology) to lower markers of inflammation. These studies show that inflammation is a complex issue that needs to be addressed through sound dietary choices and exercise. Fruits and vegetables are particularly important. Research indicates that many are falling short of their five-a-day. To make it easy, pop your favourite fruits and green leafy veggies like raw spinach into a blender and start your day with a hearty inflammation busting smoothie that will keep you energetic throughout the day and at your next yoga session.

Yoga vs DNA Damage and Inflammation

Yoga not only fights inflammation but also goes so far as to reverse the changes to our DNA which cause inflammation and depression- according to a study published in Frontiers in Immunology. The study found that when you practice yoga regularly, the number of dangerous proteins that damage DNA function and cause inflammation - are reduced. The researchers noted that much of the damage to DNA is caused by stress. When we become stressed or feel threatened, our ‘fight or flight response’ kicks into play. While this response is useful when we are really in danger, it is very dangerous if becomes chronic. Yoga can help keep stress down thanks to its powerful combination of asanas, pranayamic breathing, and mindfulness.

Mindfulness practices like yoga and meditation are important in modern society. Stress brings about molecular reactions that affect our DNA and increase our likelihood of serious diseases like heart disease. Study after study has pointed to yoga’s ability to lower inflammation. It should therefore be seen as an important part of illness prevention, as well as an activity that can help reduce psychological stress.

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