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Inflammation, Aging and Yoga

Yoga can help decrease Inflammation

It was a scary to read in Deepak Chopra’s most article published on The Hot Connection Between Inflammation and Aging’  ( https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/hot-connection-between-inflammation-aging-deepak-chopra-md-official- ) He and his fellow authors state “inflammation may be the key to aging.” They talked about “InflammAging” where as I understand it is where our immune system secrete inflammatory chemicals that over time will injure our cells and may result in cellular death. Plus we have all either read or seen how chronic inflammation can result in people not being able to move, joints begin to deform.

Yikes, and to make it worse, this is echoed by other scientist too. Janice Kiecolt-Glaser and Ronald Glaser (2013) paper  states chronic inflammation may fuel declines in physical function leading to frailty and disability.

OMG!!!  This is terrible!  Especially considering I was diagnosed with juvenile arthritis when I was thirteen and now one of my teens is noticing inflammation in her joints too.

Do not fear. Chopra et al, 2017  encourage an anti-inflammation lifestyle. He and his co-authers make nine suggestions for decreasing inflammation.

  1. · A balanced lifestyle without extreme changes.
  2. · Good sleep.
  3. · A natural whole foods diet.
  4. · Paying attention to everyday activity, including walking and standing.
  5. · Reducing stress.
  6. · Absence of emotional upset, anxiety, and depression.
  7. · Solid family and community support.
  8. · Feeling loved and wanted.
  9. · A calm, unconflicted mind.

I shared these nine points twith my yoga clients this week. My younger clients (40 and under) just pondered my words (or were asleep). However, my 50 and up clients all laughed and said “The 9 points for a anti-inflammation lifestyle would mean I would have to live  in a utopian world.” Half  joking, I replied, I am pretty sure  the authors are just trying to tell you to keep attending yoga with me to reap the benefits of improving your quality of life by  decreasing that nasty inflammation that ages us.

For me, the goal of practicing and teaching yoga is to pamper the yogi’s whole self.  I mean to calm the business of one’s mind, body, emotions and inner most self. Resulting in an improved quality of life by decreasing the negative symptoms of  inflammation, pain, fatigue, stress, depression, etc.   This all sounds a little out there. I know. Especially coming from a former science major. However, yoga truly has many therapeutic effects.

Do not take my word. Look at the scientific evidence.

In the case of inflammation, it is well documented that inflammation increases when people are feeling stressed, fatigued and unable to get a good night’s sleep.

In 2013  there was a biological based yoga research article published in Journal of Clinical Oncology by Janice Kiecolt-Glaser professor of psychiatry and psychology at Ohio State University, and her husband  Ronald Glaserand, who works in the department of molecular virology, immunology, and medical genetics, They looked at three cytokines, proteins in the blood that are markers for inflammation. 2,000 Cancer patients blood was tested.  None of the participants had done any yoga prior to this study.  The yoga group  practiced yoga twice-weekly, 90-minute classes for 12 weeks. After three month, the yoga group’b blood tests showed all three markers for inflammation were lower by 10 to 15 percent. In addition, the yoga participants self reported feeling less fatigue and more vitality. The researches concluded , if yoga dampens or limits both fatigue and inflammation, then regular practice could have substantial health benefits.

Some of the science behind yoga is nicely explained by Desikachar, Bragdon, and Bossart (2005). With continued practice comes a gradual loosening of the muscles and connective tissues surrounding the bones and joints; this is thought to be one reason that yoga is associated with reduced aches and pains. Yoga helps to build muscle mass and/ or maintain muscle strength, which protects from conditions such as arthritis, osteoporosis and back pain.

Feeling less fatigue and more vitality was also reported by people living with schizophrenia. Approximately,  a decade ago, I facilitated the yoga portion for a research project called Diabetes Prevention in Schizophrenia. Participants, participated in  60-90 minute yoga class for ten weeks. Each week, they were asked to do self reports prior to class and after class.

Yoga is timeless and can benefit people of all ages and all socio-econimic status.

National Geographic mentions living in poverty is a great stressor. Marianna Klatt,associate professor of clinical family medicine at Ohio State University introduced  yoga to  disadvantaged third graders. (Brink, S 2014)  The teacher and 160 students reported being more attentive in math class.

While I was a nutrition break supervisor in a school that had a mix of socioeconomic backgrounds (from refugees, low income to middle income), I found similar results as Klatt. Students were more clam, alert and ready to learn with children (ranging in age from 4-9 years old.) In addition, working with students aged 12-18 years old, as a guest yoga instructor in physical education or live fit classes, the students shared they felt more relaxed and better able to learn. Many appreciated and shared they needed the time to relax their body and mind.

Conclusion: Add yoga to your life to enjoy a anti-inflamatory lifestyle 

Wayward’s 2011 paper does a great job at exploring the therapeutic effects of yoga and its ability to increase quality of life. It is worth the time to read it in its entirety. Yoga encourages the participant to relax, slow the breath and focus on the present, shifting the balance from the sympathetic nervous system and the flight-or-fight response to the parasympathetic system and the relaxation response.(McCall, 2007).

1. A balanced lifestyle without extreme changes — Yoga can help one feel more balanced

2. Good sleep – yoga can help people get a good night’s sleep waking up feeling rested

Yoga’s ability to increase relaxation and induce a balanced mental state was studied to evaluate its effect on sleep quality and improving insomnia. Regular practice of yoga resulted in a significant decrease in the time taken to fall asleep, an increase in the total number of hours slept, and in the feeling of being rested in the morning (Manjunath NK, Telles S. 2005) Additionally, yoga had a positive influence on sleep patterns in individuals with lymphoma(Cohen et al. 2004)Furthermore, participation in yoga classes improved self-reported quality-of-life as well as measures of physical function among an elderly population (Oken BS, Zajdel D, Kishiyama S, Flegal K, Dehen C, Haas M, et al. 2006).

3. A natural whole foods diet.- yoga encourages a healthy and mindful eating

4. Paying attention to everyday activity, including walking and standing. – yoga is all about being mindful in all we do. It also encourages one to practice self regulation – not harming of oneself physically or mentally.

5. Reducing stress – yoga is a great way to reduce stress

One of the main goals of yoga is to achieve tranquility of the mind and create a sense of well-being, feelings of relaxation, improved self-confidence, improved efficiency, increased attentiveness, lowered irritability, and an optimistic outlook on life. The practice of yoga generates balanced energy which is vital to the function of the immune system. (Arora S, Bhattacharjee 2008)

Mind-body interventions (MBIs) such  yoga don’t simply relax us; they can ‘reverse’ the molecular reactions in our DNA which cause ill-health and depression, according to a study ( Buric,  Farias,  Jong,  Mee, 2017). According to the study, however, people who practise MBIs exhibit the opposite effect — namely a decrease in production of NF-kB and cytokines, leading to a reversal of the pro-inflammatory gene expression pattern and a reduction in the risk of inflammation-related diseases and conditions.

6.· Absence of emotional upset, anxiety, and depression.- yoga can help reduce negative emotions, calm oneself 

While stimulation is good, too much taxes the nervous system and yoga provides relief from excess stimulation and the stressors and hectic nature of modern life (McCall, 2007). Restorative postures, savasana, pranayama, and meditation encourage pratyahara, a turning inward of the senses which enables downtime for the nervous system, the byproduct often being improved sleep. (Woodyard, 2011)

7· Solid family and community support. – by attending a group yoga class you create a yoga community/family

8. Feeling loved and wanted.– many yoga groups are very welcoming and participants report feeling of belonging

9. A calm, unconflicted mind.- yoga assists in calming the mind

Please share your experience, thoughts and research around inflammation, aging and yoga by sending an email to jayne@innovativewellness.ca

Here at my yoga den, I serve tea before all my yoga classes. On occasion I serve a couple tea shops anti-inflamatory tea.

One of my clients  shared she makes her own  Anti-Inflamatory tea

Basic Turmeric Tea Recipe

This is her  turmeric tea recipe and it makes an excellent jumping off place if you’re just starting to experiment with turmeric in your beverages. This one is very simple and very effective. As you acquire a taste for turmeric tea, you may find you can tolerate and enjoy increasing the amount of turmeric you use.

Turmeric Tea

  • Prep time: 5 Minutes
  • Cook time: 20 Minutes
  • Total time: 25 Minutes
  • Yield: 1 Serving


  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • pinch of clove
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • tsp fresh ginger (optional)
  • pinch of fresh ground black pepper* (my client says she included black pepper in this recipe as studies show it aids in the absorption of curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric. She is allergic to black pepper and so she omits it.)
  • As much turmeric as you can handle! Start with a teaspoon and go up from there.
  • 1-2 cups of water
  • Raw honey to sweeten
  • Milk sub of choice (My client says she went with fresh coconut milk, but almond and hemp would both be delicious)

Make It Like So

Slow and steady stove top method

  1. Simmer herbs and water together for 10 mins.
  2. Strain out and add honey and milk.

Fast and furious blender method

  1. Boil water in your kettle and add to blender (a blender with gradual speed increase will reduce likely hood of pressure from steam of boiled water exploding out of your blender).
  2. Add in spices and blend until smooth and unified in colour.
  3. Strain out tea and add milk and honey.



Arora S, Bhattacharjee 2008 J. Modulation of immune response in stress by yoga. Int J Yoga. 2008;1:45–55.[PMC free article] [PubMed]

Brink, Susan, 2014. National Geogrphic. http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2014/02/140207-yoga-cancer-inflammation-stress/

Ivana Buric, Miguel Farias, Jonathan Jong, Christopher Mee, Inti A. Brazil. What Is the Molecular Signature of Mind–Body Interventions? A Systematic Review of Gene Expression Changes Induced by Meditation and Related Practices. Frontiers in Immunology, 2017; 8 DOI: 10.3389/fimmu.2017.00670  (read link https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/06/170615213301.htm)

Chopra, Depak, Bushell, W,  Castle, R., Vago, D. , Tanzi, R. 2017. Link to read article https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/hot-connection-between-inflammation-aging-deepak-chopra-md-official-

Cohen L, Warneke C, Fouladi RT, Rodriguez MA, Chaoul-Reich A. Psychological adjustment and sleep quality in a randomized trial of effects of a tibetan yoga intervention in patients with lymphoma. Cancer. 2004;100:2253–60. [PubMed]

Desikachar K, Bragdon L, Bossart C. The yoga of healing: Exploring yoga’s holistic model for health and well-being. Int J Yoga Ther. 2005;15:17–39.

 Glaser-Kiecolt, J et al Yoga’s Impact on Inflammation, Mood, and Fatigue in Breast Cancer Survivors: A Randomized Controlled Trial Journal of Clinical Oncology, , , , , ,
Glaser-Kiecolt, J Ph.D., Lisa Christian, Ph.D., Heather Preston, B.A., Carrie R. Houts, M.S., William B. Malarkey, M.D., Charles F. Emery, Ph.D., and Ronald Glaser, Ph.D. Psychosom Med. Stress, Inflammation, and Yoga Practice manuscript; available in PMC 2011 Feb 1. Published in final edited form as: Psychosom Med. 2010 Feb; 72(2): 113.
Published online 2010 Jan 11. doi:  10.1097/PSY.0b013e3181cb9377  PMCID: PMC2820143
Manjunath NK, Telles S. Influence of yoga and ayurveda on self-rated sleep in a geriatric population. Indian J Med Res. 2005;121:683–90. [PubMed]
McCall T. New York: Bantam Dell a division of Random House Inc; 2007. Yoga as Medicine.
Oken BS, Zajdel D, Kishiyama S, Flegal K, Dehen C, Haas M, et al. Randomized, controlled, six-month trial of yoga in healthy seniors: Effects on cognition and quality of life. Altern Ther Health Med. 2006;12:40–7. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
Woodyard, Catherine. 2011. Exploring the therapeutic effects of yoga and its ability to increase quality of life. Int J Yoga. 2011 Jul-Dec; 4(2): 49–54. doi:  10.4103/0973-6131.85485 PMCID: PMC3193654  Link to read article:



More Good Reads:

Chronic Inflammation and Yoga by Ram Rao, Ph.D. https://www.yogauonline.com/yogau-wellness-blog/chronic-inflammation-and-yoga

Effects of yoga on stress and inflammatory factors in patients with chronic low back pain: A non-randomized controlled study
Hye Kyung Cho, Woongjoon Moon, Jaehee Kim
European Journal of Integrative Medicine, Volume 7, Issue 2, April 2015, Pages 118–123


The science of yoga — what research reveals



Yoga as an Anti-Inflammatory Therapy (Ram Rao)

There’s also good news for those of us who have a regular yoga practice. Several studies now report that a regular yoga practice

  • Brings down the levels of stress hormones that promote inflammation
  • Lowers the levels of a number of pro-inflammatory molecules in the body and brings down inflammation that is beneficial in conditions like arthritis
  • Reduces a subset of pro-inflammatory molecules called cytokines thereby relieving severe pain seen in diseases like fibromyalgia
  • Inhibits inflammation that in turn weakens and even kills cancerous cells in people with cancer.

See Stress, Inflammation and Yoga Practice to read one of the original studies.

In a study that confirms nearly all of the above observations, researchers at Ohio State University in Columbus divided 50 women with an average age of 41 into two groups: new to yoga and experts. The researchers then subjected these women to a battery of stress-inducing tasks, including holding their feet in extremely cold water or solving difficult math problems without the aid of a paper and pencil.

Blood samples were taken several times before, during and after the stressful activities and measured for the levels of several pro-inflammatory molecules. The research team found that women who were new to yoga had higher levels of nearly all the pro-inflammatory molecules tested and a much greater inflammatory response to the stressful tasks than women who were experts, suggesting that yoga may help to tune down the stress responses. See Adiponectin, leptin and yoga practice.

Yoga’s beneficial effects on inflammation are not confined just to people with inflammatory conditions. It turns out that caregivers who exhibit high levels of stress-associated inflammation and who often don’t have the time or energy to bring on a little relief from the stress of taking care of a loved one will benefit from a yoga practice even if it is for a brief period daily as it lowers stress-associated inflammation. In a study published in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology, researchers found that caregivers who participated in a yoga practice experienced a change in the response of 68 anti-inflammatory genes, leading to a global decrease in inflammation.

After writing this article in one sitting I am experiencing an unexplained burning pain in my fingers. So, guess what? It’s time for me to roll out the mat and do a few yoga stretches. What a cheap and effective therapy for combating inflammation!

Read more on inflammation and yoga: How Yoga Helps You Stay Young Longer – Study Shows Stress Relief Helps Reduce Inflammation.