September is National Yoga Month. I'm sure you've heard by now that Yoga is an effective stress reducer and may even help you lose weight, but new research shows that a certain type of chanting yoga may also be effective in warding off disease. And that is good news, indeed, for all of us wishing to live longer, healthier lives.
In a study published in the online edition of Psychoneuroendocrinology, psychiatrist Dr. Helen Lavretsky and colleagues at UCLA looked at 45 caregivers of family members with Alzheimer's and found a difference in genetic response in those asked to practice Kirtan Kriya Meditation (KKM), a type of yoga that focuses on rhythmic breathing and chanting, daily.
Study participants were divided into two groups. One group participated in a 12-minute yoga practice that included KKM, performed daily at the same time of day for eight weeks. The second group rested in a quiet place with their eyes closed while listening to relaxation music, also for 12 minutes daily for eight weeks.
Blood samples were taken from all subjects at the beginning and end of the study, and the researchers found that 68 genes responded differently in the KKM group, resulting in reduced inflammation. Both groups were "relaxing," however, only the KKM group's activity (yogic breathing and chanting) was found to deter inflammation at the cellular level.
Caregivers were optimal subjects for this study, as caregiving for an ill family member is a significant life stressor, with older adult caregivers reporting high levels of stress and depression and showing higher levels of the biological markers of inflammation than the general population.
The ability of yogic meditation to not only reduce stress but also inflammation in the body is great news for those of us wishing to reduce stress, improve our health, and lower our risk for chronic health conditions.
One of the great things about yoga, is that you don't need any special equipment to begin. "Start with basic yoga poses and build on those to ensure understanding of more advanced postures and yoga terminology for safe transition from pose to pose," says celebrity fitness trainer Kristin McGee.
Access Kristin's step by step fitness module at CoachClub.com, an online fitness and personal training service that features workout programs designed by the world's best personal trainers for in-home exercise. In honor of National Yoga Month, the site has a free trial offer.
For more about the study referenced here, see the online edition of the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology.