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The Science of Yoga
Can Decrease Stress
Yoga is known for its ability to ease stress and promote relaxation. In fact, multiple studies have shown that it can decrease the secretion of cortisol, the primary stress hormone.
One study demonstrated the powerful effect of yoga on stress by following 24 women who perceived themselves as emotionally distressed. After a three-month yoga program, the women had significantly lower levels of cortisol. They also had lower levels of stress, anxiety, fatigue and depression.
Another study of 131 people had similar results, showing that 10 weeks of yoga helped reduce stress and anxiety. It also helped improve quality of life and mental health.
Many people begin practicing yoga as a way to cope with feelings of anxiety. Interestingly enough, there is quite a bit of research showing that yoga can help reduce anxiety.
In one study, 34 women diagnosed with an anxiety disorder participated in yoga classes twice weekly for 2 months. At the end of the study, those who practiced yoga had significantly lower levels of anxiety than the control group.
Another study followed 64 women with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which is characterized by severe anxiety and fear following exposure to a traumatic event. After 10 weeks, the women who practiced yoga once weekly had fewer symptoms of PTSD. In fact, 52% of participants no longer met the criteria for PTSD at all.
May Reduce Inflammation
In addition to improving your mental health, some studies suggest that practicing yoga may reduce inflammation as well. Inflammation is a normal immune response, but chronic inflammation can contribute to the development of pro-inflammatory diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer.
A 2015 study divided 218 participants into two groups: those who practiced yoga regularly and those who didn’t. Both groups then performed moderate and strenuous exercises to induce stress. At the end of the study, the individuals who practiced yoga had lower levels of inflammatory markers than those who didn’t.
Could Reduce Chronic Pain
Chronic pain is a persistent problem that affects millions of people and has a range of possible causes, from injuries to arthritis. There is a growing body of research demonstrating that practicing yoga could help reduce many types of chronic pain.
In one study, 42 individuals with carpal tunnel syndrome either received a wrist splint or did yoga for eight weeks. At the end of the study, yoga was found to be more effective in reducing pain and improving grip strength than wrist splinting.
Another study in 2005 showed that yoga could help decrease pain and improve physical function in participants with osteoarthritis of the knees.