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Study offers insights into how yoga eases stress

Following up on earlier findings showing that practicing yoga helped reduce stress levels of people caring for patients with dementia, new research from UC Los Angeles offers insights into how the mind-body practice boosts mental health.

During the small study (subscription required), researchers chose once again to study adult caregivers, a population that tends to report higher levels of stress, depression and biological markers of inflammation. Past research has shown that the effects of psychological stress on the body's ability to regulate inflammation can promote greater risk for depression, heart disease and infectious diseases.

PsychCentral reports that in the new study:

... participants were randomized into two groups. The meditation group was taught the 12-minute yogic practice that included Kirtan Kriya, which was performed every day at the same time for eight weeks.

The other group was asked to relax in a quiet place with their eyes closed while listening to instrumental music on a relaxation CD, also for 12 minutes daily for eight weeks. Blood samples were taken at the beginning of the study and again at the end of the eight weeks.

“The goal of the study was to determine if meditation might alter the activity of inflammatory and antiviral proteins that shape immune cell gene expression,” said [senior author Helen Lavretsky, MD.] “Our analysis showed a reduced activity of those proteins linked directly to increased inflammation."

The works adds to a growing body of research exploring how psychosocial stress can impact biological processes and development of diseases, such as cancer.

Previously: Stanford health psychologist Kelly McGonigal discusses how stress shapes us, Study shows mindfulness may reduce cancer patients’ anxiety and depression and Study shows meditation may lower teens’ risk of developing heart disease
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