The Scientifically Proven Healing Power of Yoga
Yoga heals. While this may seem like old news to those for whom the yoga mat is an old friend, the medical world is just starting to catch on to what yoga practitioners have long known. The therapeutic healing power of yoga asana is no longer an anecdotal wonder, but a scientifically backed phenomenon. Next time your favorite skeptic rolls their eyes at yet another one of your “healing power of yoga” stories point them towards the many studies that are telling the same tale – and the many doctors that are taking that evidence as reason to write patients a prescription for yoga.
Yes Yoga Has Healing Power, But… How?
Every regular yoga practitioner has felt the healing effects of yoga on their daily life, from physical health to psychological wellbeing. Beyond that, if you’ve practiced for a while, it’s guaranteed you’ve encountered, or experienced yourself, people who’ve experienced great healing from yoga in the face of physical or mental illness. The benefits of yoga are self-evident to those who practice it. How those benefits arise, however, is often far less clear.
The Practice Of Yoga May Reduce Inflammation in The Body
Inflammation, or rather the reduction of inflammation, may be the answer. In 2014, a large study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology discovered that regular yoga practice had a substantial effect on inflammation levels in breast cancer survivors. The study, conducted at the Ohio State University, followed 200 breast cancer survivors who had never stepped on a yoga mat before. Over the course of twelve weeks, they introduced half of the participants to yoga practice through 90-minute classes. In addition to the twice-weekly class sessions, the group was given take-home DVDs and highly encouraged to practice at home.
Three months after their treatment had ended, the participants who engaged in mat-time at least twice a week reported lower fatigue and higher energy levels than their non-practicing counterparts. Since inflammation is one of the core reasons cancer survivors often feel fatigue months or years after treatment concludes, this trend in self-reported evidence already points towards a tie between yoga practice and reduced inflammation. The study, however, didn’t rely on subject reports alone. The researchers also took blood tests before and after the trial, investigating the presence of three inflammation markers. In the subjects who practiced yoga, all three markers were lower by 10 to 15%, proving that the feeling of well-being yoga provides is not simply placebo effect.
This conclusion is not entirely new. While this is the first large study to show this effect, the influence of yoga practice on inflammation has been shown in multiple smaller studies. In one study, heart failure patients saw reduced inflammation with yoga practice. In another, expert yoga practitioners displayed far lower inflammation levels in the face of stress than their newer-to-practice companions. As the evidence piles up, it becomes increasingly clear: yoga has healing power, and reduced inflammation is at least a part of it.
So… What Does That Mean?
When we think of inflammation, we tend to think of a little redness around a cut, or soreness in a muscle. This is a natural reaction to injury or irritants, an important part of the body’s ability to heal itself. There is another type of inflammation we call silent inflammation, which you can not see or feel, at lsat not in the beginning of the process. When we notice the headache or low back pain caused by an inflammatory process chances are it has been going on for a while already and it has become chronic.
Chronic inflammation that doesn’t let up, however, is a different issue. Chronic inflammation has actually been linked to a range of diseases, including heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, stroke and cancer. Research has shown that chronic inflammation can damage heart valves and beat up on brain cells. It can also contribute to strokes and be a factor in the insulin-resistance that leads to diabetes.
- In short, science says chronic inflammation is bad news for your health.
- It also says yoga reduces inflammation.
Therefore: Science sais that Yoga has healing power.