At the Yoga and Biomechanic Lab, we try to carry out scientific analysis of different body postures , body mechanics and balance, including those postures that are required while performing yoga asanas.The benefits of yoga are very well known. But we were trying to analyse the impact of yoga exercises on particular body functions and its role in tackling specific medical conditions.
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The Yoga and Biomechanic Lab at IISc and M S Ramaiah Medical College in Bangalore have been collaborating on this project for a long time. Together, we decided to examine the effect of yoga exercises on the body’s ability to tackle inflammatory diseases, a condition the body slips into while fighting an external injury. For the purpose of our study, we had two groups of people, 109 in each group. One group included people who were regular practitioners of yoga, performing the asanas for at least one hour every day for five years. The subjects were all taken from Dr. Omkar’s Yoga Mandir in Bangalore. The other group comprised of non-yoga performing people.
We made candidates from both groups undertake mild and strenuous exercise. The ’10 metre shuttle walk test’ was our preferred choice of exercise. The candidates had to walk back and forth on a 10 metre long path, slowly increasing their pace. On one day, the participants were asked to walk for about 7 to 8 minutes, and on another day they were made to walk for 11 or 12 minutes, which becomes quite arduous as a subject increases his speed. Blood samples of the candidates were collected just before the exercise, immediately after the mild exercise, and then after the strenuous exercise.
We observed that the yoga-performing group, in general, had lower levels of inflammatory cytokines. These are cell proteins that trigger inflammations in the body. In particular, we were studying the levels of two specific pro-inflammatory cytokines: Tumour Necrosis Factor Alpha and Interleukin-6, that play a role in coronary heart diseases, depression, diabetes, arthritis, osteoporosis, Alzheimer’s disease and periodontal (gum) disease.The rate of increase in the levels of these two cytokines (Tumour Necrosis Factor Alpha and Interleukin-6) with the increase in level of physical activity, was much higher in the non-yoga practising group. This is an indication that regular practice of yoga protects against the rise of the harmful cytokines, when people are exposed to physical stress or unaccustomed physical activity.We also observed that cholesterol, triglyceride and VLDL (very low density lipoprotein) levels were significantly low in the yoga practising group. On the other hand the level of HDL (high density lipoprotein), a good cholesterol, was significantly higher in the group. Thus, members of the yoga group were less likely to develop cardio-metabolic disorders. Our findings can have important implications in the treatment of a variety of diseases including diabetes, heart diseases and even cancer.
S N Omkar, Yoga and Biomechanic Lab, IISC, and Ambarish, M S Ramaiah Medical College, Bangalore