Arquivo da tag: Yoga

New Study Shows Yoga Has Healing Powers (National Geographic)

Student Nicola Protetch ( 17) does the bow posture with a smile as she takes part in a yoga class.

Yoga practitioners, like these students in the bow posture, could experience reduced stress and better sleep.

PHOTOGRAPH BY RENE JOHNSTON, GETTY IMAGES

Susan Brink

for National Geographic

PUBLISHED FEBRUARY 7, 2014

The more we learn about yoga, the more we realize the benefits aren’t all in the minds of the 20 million or so devotees in the U.S. Yoga helps people to relax, making the heart rate go down, which is great for those with high blood pressure. The poses help increase flexibility and strength, bringing relief to back pain sufferers.

Now, in the largest study of yoga that used biological measures to assess results, it seems that those meditative sun salutations and downward dog poses can reduce inflammation, the body’s way of reacting to injury or irritation.

That’s important because inflammation is associated with chronic diseases including heart disease, diabetes, and arthritis. It’s also one of the reasons that cancer survivors commonly feel fatigue for months, even years, following treatment.

Researchers looked at 200 breast cancer survivors who had not practiced yoga before. Half the group continued to ignore yoga, while the other half received twice-weekly, 90-minute classes for 12 weeks, with take-home DVDs and encouragement to practice at home.

According to the study, which was led by Janice Kiecolt-Glaser, professor of psychiatry and psychology at Ohio State University, and published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, the group that had practiced yoga reported less fatigue and higher levels of vitality three months after treatment had ended.

Laboratory Proof

But the study didn’t rely only on self-reports. Kiecolt-Glaser’s husband and research partner, Ronald Glaser of the university’s department of molecular virology, immunology, and medical genetics, went for stronger, laboratory proof. He examined three cytokines, proteins in the blood that are markers for inflammation.

Blood tests before and after the trial showed that, after three months of yoga practice, all three markers for inflammation were lower by 10 to 15 percent. That part of the study offered some rare biological evidence of the benefits of yoga in a large trial that went beyond people’s own reports of how they feel.

No one knows exactly how yoga might reduce inflammation in breast cancer survivors, but Kiecolt-Glaser lays out some research-based suggestions. Cancer treatment often leaves patients with high levels of stress and fatigue, and an inability to sleep well. “Poor sleep fuels fatigue, and fatigue fuels inflammation,” she says. Yoga has been shown to reduce stress and help people sleep better.

Other smaller studies have shown, by measuring biological markers, that expert yoga practitioners had lower inflammatory responses to stress than novice yoga practitioners did; that yoga reduces inflammation in heart failure patients; and that yoga can improve crucial levels of glucose and insulin in patients with diabetes.

Yoga for Other Stresses

Cancer is an obvious cause of stress, but recent research has pointed to another contributing factor: living in poverty. Maryanna Klatt, an associate professor of clinical family medicine at Ohio State University, has taken yoga into the classrooms of disadvantaged children. In research that has not yet been published, she found that 160 third graders in low-income areas who practiced yoga with their teacher had self-reported improvements in attention.

“Their teachers liked doing it right before math, because then the kids focused better on the math work,” she says. “Telling a kid to sit down and be quiet doesn’t make sense. Have them get up and move.”

While it would be too complicated and intrusive to measure biological responses to yoga in schoolchildren, Klatt has done similar research on surgical nurses, who are under the daily stress of watching suffering and death. She said she found a 40 percent reduction in their salivary alpha amylase, a measure of the fight-or-flight response to stress.

And she’s about to begin teaching yoga to garbage collectors in the city of Columbus before they head out on their morning shift. At the moment, her arrangement with the city is not part of a study. She just hopes to make their lives less stressful. And she does not plan to check their inflammatory response, though she admits she’d love to.

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Mind Over Matter? Core Body Temperature Controlled by the Brain (Science Daily)

Apr. 8, 2013 — A team of researchers led by Associate Professor Maria Kozhevnikov from the Department of Psychology at the National University of Singapore (NUS) Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences showed, for the first time, that it is possible for core body temperature to be controlled by the brain. The scientists found that core body temperature increases can be achieved using certain meditation techniques (g-tummo) which could help in boosting immunity to fight infectious diseases or immunodeficiency.

Meditation. (Credit: © Yuri Arcurs / Fotolia)

Published in science journal PLOS ONE in March 2013, the study documented reliable core body temperature increases for the first time in Tibetan nuns practising g-tummo meditation. Previous studies on g-tummo meditators showed only increases in peripheral body temperature in the fingers and toes. The g-tummo meditative practice controls “inner energy” and is considered by Tibetan practitioners as one of the most sacred spiritual practices in the region. Monasteries maintaining g-tummo traditions are very rare and are mostly located in the remote areas of eastern Tibet.

The researchers collected data during the unique ceremony in Tibet, where nuns were able to raise their core body temperature and dry up wet sheets wrapped around their bodies in the cold Himalayan weather (-25 degree Celsius) while meditating. Using electroencephalography (EEG) recordings and temperature measures, the team observed increases in core body temperature up to 38.3 degree Celsius. A second study was conducted with Western participants who used a breathing technique of the g-tummo meditative practice and they were also able to increase their core body temperature, within limits.

Applications of the research findings

The findings from the study showed that specific aspects of the meditation techniques can be used by non-meditators to regulate their body temperature through breathing and mental imagery. The techniques could potentially allow practitioners to adapt to and function in cold environments, improve resistance to infections, boost cognitive performance by speeding up response time and reduce performance problems associated with decreased body temperature.

The two aspects of g-tummo meditation that lead to temperature increases are “vase breath” and concentrative visualisation. “Vase breath” is a specific breathing technique which causes thermogenesis, which is a process of heat production. The other technique, concentrative visualisation, involves focusing on a mental imagery of flames along the spinal cord in order to prevent heat losses. Both techniques work in conjunction leading to elevated temperatures up to the moderate fever zone.

Assoc Prof Kozhevnikov explained, “Practicing vase breathing alone is a safe technique to regulate core body temperature in a normal range. The participants whom I taught this technique to were able to elevate their body temperature, within limits, and reported feeling more energised and focused. With further research, non-Tibetan meditators could use vase breathing to improve their health and regulate cognitive performance.”

Further research into controlling body temperature

Assoc Prof Kozhevnikov will continue to explore the effects of guided imagery on neurocognitive and physiological aspects. She is currently training a group of people to regulate their body temperature using vase breathing, which has potential applications in the field of medicine. Furthermore, the use of guided mental imagery in conjunction with vase breathing may lead to higher body temperature increases and better health.

Journal Reference:

  1. Maria Kozhevnikov, James Elliott, Jennifer Shephard, Klaus Gramann. Neurocognitive and Somatic Components of Temperature Increases during g-Tummo Meditation: Legend and RealityPLoS ONE, 2013; 8 (3): e58244 DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0058244