Breathe. Deep breath in and out – is how we usually start a yoga practice. Deep breaths bring oxygen for your body to use. It is a good thing. Oxygen is also thought to produce some molecules that can attack your body –causing disease and aging- called oxidative stress. New research is demonstrating that yoga can reduce and reverse oxidative stress and therefore perhaps keep you healthy longer.
Your body constantly takes in oxygen as you breathe allowing your cells to produce energy. As a result of this activity, highly reactive molecules are made known as free radicals that can damage our cells. This is labelled oxidative stress. When our protein-controlled (anti)-oxidant-response doesn’t keep up to neutralize these, oxidative stress causes damage that has been implicated in the cause of many diseases and also has an impact on the body’s aging process.
Fresh research is showing that the regular practice of yoga is able to reduce oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is determined by measuring the blood levels of key indicative enzymes and vitamins.
One study(1) was conducted with three age groups (20’s, 30’s 40’s) who were asked to add a yoga practice into their regular day activities. Blood tests were conducted 3 months prior to the start, 3 months during and 3 months after the end of the experiment. The usual expectation is that there is more oxidative stress with age. The experimental measurements showed that incorporating a yoga practice reduced the levels of oxidative stress across age groups.
Another study(2) was undertaken with elderly males (60-80 years) with Grade 1 hypertension ie blood pressure in the range of 150/95mm Hg. One group was assigned to do yoga while the control group went walking – each group performed these activities one hour in the morning for six days a week during three months. The walking group showed an increase in oxidative stress while the yoga group had a decrease in oxidative stress indicators.
Finally, a group of healthy physically trained males selected from an Airforce Academy were studied (3). One half of the men practiced yoga while the other half participated in physical training. As in the study above, blood tests were conducted 3 months prior to the start, 3 months during and 3 months after the end of the experiment. There were no changes to the physical training group. However, the yoga group demonstrated better carbon dioxide elimination, increased peripheral oxygen saturation and lower oxidation stress indicators.
What these three studies can tell is that regular yoga practice will lower your oxidative stress. This is whether you are already physically active and no matter what your age. Yoga can also improve a pre-existing condition. By reducing your oxidative stress you may be able to fight disease and slow aging.
- J Exp Integr Med 2013; 3(4) p 305-312
- J Clinical and Diagnostic Research 2014;8(7) p BC04-BC07
- J Physical Activity & Health 2014 May