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Can yoga help reduce inflammation?

Updated: Jan 19

A picture of a woman's hands, her thumb is pressing into the space between her other thumb and forefinger
Can yoga help reduce inflammation?

What is inflammation?

When you cut yourself or break a bone the body naturally heals itself by increasing inflammation in that area. It gets hot, reddens, swells up because the body is getting rid of damaged cells or harmful irritants. The body also responds to viruses, bacteria or fungus and this may manifest itself as feeling hot or cold, muscle aches, loss of energy or fatigue, loss of appetite and headaches.

Inflammation is our natural healing process and responds quickly to stressors to our body. But, if we have continuous or chronic stressors, like a difficult or demanding job, a difficult relationship, a relative who needs care, the inflammation continues daily. Those healing chemicals, which are released to help us, accumulate and end up being a slow burning fire as there is no outlet.1 Here we explore whether yoga can help reduce inflammation.

Other stressors that stoke the flames are smoking, highly processed food, sugar, and little movement during the day. Chronic inflammation is now known to be the basis of many chronic diseases and research is now showing how regular yoga practice can be a useful in reducing the impact of inflammation on the body.

A chart with Chronic Inflammation in the centre and diseases related to inflammation around it
Chronic Inflammation and its impact on the body

How can yoga change inflammation in your body?

When you move slowly and mindfully, in other words you can feel exactly where your arms and legs are in space, you are using your muscles. You use your muscles to lift your arm and you are still using the muscles when you slowly lower it. You control the whole movement, the flexion and the extension, this builds muscles.

When this slow movement is combined with breath work, research has shown that it reduces inflammation. Ordinarily, inflammation is brilliant because it helps us repair our bodies when we damage them. Our lifestyles now mean that we have inflammation all the time because we are constantly stressed. To take time out to move slowly and to mindfully breath reduces the stress levels, or the cortisol, in the body. We can then let the body nurture itself, we digest our food better, we sleep better, our blood sugar is better regulated.

Subtle inspired yoga can help us become more agile and balanced, not only in the body but in the mind. We practice with awareness of where our body is in space (interoception); we practice poses (or asanas) repeatedly but with a slight change each time, this introduces novelty. As we become more accustomed to the flow and positioning in each pose, we develop a passion for the practice. Subtle inspired yoga introduces awareness, novelty, repetition and passion and these combined produce changes in the structure of the brain.2 A part of the puzzle of neuroplasticity which supports nervous system resilience.

What we can’t underestimate, in addition to all this movement and breathing, is the value of chatting before and after our classes.3 If this includes some tips for healthy living this too can have an impact on inflammation. What research is also showing is that the whole format for a yoga class can be beneficial to our health.4

2. Siegel, D. J. (2011). Mindsight: The new science of personal transformation. New York: Bantam Books Trade Paperbacks

4. Teachings of Kristine Weber ©2021. Subtle®Health, LLC


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