Modulation of immune responses in stress by Yoga

Int J Yoga. 2008 Jul;1(2):45-55. doi: 10.4103/0973-6131.43541.


Stress is a constant factor in today's fastpaced life that can jeopardize our health if left unchecked. It is only in the last half century that the role of stress in every ailment from the common cold to AIDS has been emphasized, and the mechanisms involved in this process have been studied. Stress influences the immune response presumably through the activation of the hypothalamic-pituitary adrenal axis, hypothalamic pituitary-gonadal axis, and the sympathetic-adrenal-medullary system. Various neurotransmitters, neuropeptides, hormones, and cytokines mediate these complex bidirectional interactions between the central nervous system (CNS) and the immune system. The effects of stress on the immune responses result in alterations in the number of immune cells and cytokine dysregulation. Various stress management strategies such as meditation, yoga, hypnosis, and muscle relaxation have been shown to reduce the psychological and physiological effects of stress in cancers and HIV infection. This review aims to discuss the effect of stress on the immune system and examine how relaxation techniques such as Yoga and meditation could regulate the cytokine levels and hence, the immune responses during stress.

Keywords: Hypothalamo-pituitary adrenal axis; Yoga; immune reponse; neuroendocrine factors; stress.