The role of yoga in inflammatory markers

Brain Behav Immun Health. 2022 Feb 1:20:100421. doi: 10.1016/j.bbih.2022.100421. eCollection 2022 Mar.


Yoga is an ancient system for integrating the mind, body, and spirit. In the hatha yoga ashtanga tradition (the eight limb Patanjali Yoga), three of the limbs are meditation, breathwork (pranayama) and physical postures (asana), which are widely practised in yoga classes. The benefits of yoga for mental and physical health are rooted in the practice's origins: in yoga, stress is said to be the root of all diseases. The established fields of psychoneuroimmunology and immunopsychiatry study the interplay between the immune system and mood or mental states. This mini-review has shifted the emphasis from research that focuses on yoga's benefits for stress, the most commonly studied outcome of yoga research, to a summary of the research on the effects of yoga practices on the immune system. The current literature bears strong evidence for the benefits of yoga on the levels of circulating cortisol and classical inflammatory markers, such as C-reactive protein (CRP) and cytokines such as interleukin-1 beta (IL-1β), interleukin 6 (IL-6), tumour necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-α) and interferon-gamma (INF-γ). The evidence for other less studied markers, telomerase activity, β-endorphins, Immunoglobulin A (IgA) and brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) is also growing. This mini-review centres around the interplay between yoga and these markers in stress management and depression, vascular and immune function in the older population, cardiovascular and metabolic diseases, auto-immune diseases, breast cancer and pregnancy. Overall, the literature examined reveals the novelty of this field of research and sheds light on methodological challenges; however, it uncovers the potential for yoga to be used as adjuvant therapy in conditions with an inflammatory component.

Keywords: CRP; IL-1b; IL-6; Inflammation; TNF-alpha; Yoga.