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Yoga Reduces Stress; Find out Why

UCLA (University of California, Los Angeles) published a study about six months ago which showed that using a specific type of yoga to engage in a brief, simple daily meditation reduced the stress levels of people who care for someone who has Alzheimer's or dementia.


For just 12 minutes daily for eight weeks practicing a certain form of chanting yogic meditation led to a reduction in the biological mechanisms responsible for an increase in the immune system's inflammation response. Inflammation, when constantly activated, can contribute to a number of chronic health problems.


Dr. Helen Lavretsky, senior author and a professor of psychiatry at the UCLA Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior, reported in the current online edition of the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology that the study found in the work with 45 family dementia caregivers that 68 of their genes responded differently after Kirtan Kriya Meditation (KKM), resulting in reduced inflammation.


“Caregivers are the unsung heroes for their yeoman's work in taking care of loved ones that have been stricken with Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia”, said Lavretsky, who also directs UCLA's Late-Life Depression, Stress and Wellness Research Program. Caring for a frail or a family member with dementia can be a significant stressor. Older adult caregivers reported higher levels of stress and depression and lower levels of satisfaction, energy and life in general. Caregivers show higher levels of the biological markers of inflammation and family members are often considered to be at risk of stress-related disease and poor general health.


Research has suggested for some time that psychosocial interventions like meditation reduce the adverse effects of caregiver stress on physical and mental health. However, the pathways by which such psychosocial interventions impact biological processes are poorly understood.


In the study, there were two randomised groups. The meditation group was taught the 12-minute yogic practice which included Kirtan Kriya, and this was performed each day at the same time for eight weeks and the other group was asked to relax in a quiet place with their eyes closed and listened to a relaxation CD of instrumental music for 12 minutes daily for eight weeks. There were blood samples taken at the beginning of the study and  at the end of the eight weeks.


"The goal of the study was to determine if meditation might alter the activity of inflammatory and antiviral proteins that shape immune cell gene expression," said Lavretsky. "Our analysis showed a reduced activity of those proteins linked directly to increased inflammation. "This is encouraging news. Caregivers often don't have the time, energy, or contacts that could bring them a little relief from the stress of taking care of a loved one with dementia, so practicing a brief form of yogic meditation, which is easy to learn, is a useful too."


Lavretsky is a member of UCLA's recently launched Alzheimer's and Dementia Care Program which provides comprehensive, coordinated care as well as resources and support to patients and their caregivers. Lavretsky has incorporated yoga practice into the caregiver program.


Here is some yoga you could practice and relax.



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