Yoga practitioners are at lesser risk of developing inflammation that could lead to cardiovascular diseases, cancer and Alzheimer, a study by Indian Institute of Science (IIS) has revealed. Inflammation is body's response to an injury and involves secretion of pro-inflammatory cytokines (cell-signalling proteins) in the blood to combat the injury. The study found that regular exercise in the form of yoga can help optimise the levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines-- Tumour Necrosis Factor (TNF) alpha and Interleukin-6 (IL-6). The results of the research indicate that yoga, which enhances mind-body relaxation achieved through a combination of proper breathing, meditation and physical exercises, can help keep TNF-alpha and IL-6 at optimal levels. This is necessary for regulating the body's immune response to an injury or infection. At the same time, an imbalance in levels of TNF-alpha and IL-6 can be harmful as excess amounts during chronic inflammation can lead to harmful effects like pro-tumour effects.
Pro-inflammatory cytokines can act as a double edged sword if not kept in check. However, the study found pro-inflammatory cytokines do not shoot up as much if one practices yoga regularly. The study, which was jointly conducted along with M S Ramaiah Medical College, was published in the Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research. The researchers examined the effect of an exercise challenge on pro-inflammatory cytokine (TNF-alpha and IL- levels) on a group of yoga and non-yoga practitioners. The results showed that yoga practitioners fared better than non-yoga practitioners when it came to pro-inflammatory cytokine levels after a moderate-to-strenuous exercise trial. Base levels of TNF-alpha and IL-6 were lower in yoga practitioners (who have been doing yoga daily for one hour since the last five years) compared to non-yoga practitioners. Although there was an increase in TNF-alpha and Il-6 levels in both yoga and non-yoga groups, the increase was significant in the non-yoga group.