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What is yoga?
Yoga is an ancient practice with its roots in India. It broadly blends physical, mental and spiritual practices to bring balance and inner peace. This definition truly oversimplifies this ancient practice. The way of life yoga represented for ancient societies may not be synonymous with what we see in western societies interpretation of yoga. It appears that yoga has become more synonymous with posture, balance, control, and breathing.
Yoga & Aging
There are actual biological markers that can be studied for aging. Many people may think of aging through subjective physical attributes - joint pain, wrinkles, health decline, etc. In the medical literature, markers to study aging of our cells include:
|DNA damage markers|
|Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS)|
|Total antioxidant capacity (TAC)|
|Telomere attrition markers, Telomere length & Telomerase activity|
Other biomarkers to study include : cortisol, IL-6, and TNF𝞪.
These markers are methods to detect how stable the genome or
DNA of our cells is over time. Our cells are constantly renewing and rely on the DNA to tell the cells how to form and develop. If the DNA is damaged, the cell formed will be different from the cells that came before it. We have DNA repair mechanisms in place, however, as we age these repair mechanisms may not be as effective.
Stress - physical, mental and/or emotional - contributes to increases in inflammatory markers in our bodies. Studies have demonstrated that regular practice of yoga can reduce the concentration of these markers overall as well as lead to lower baseline levels of these inflammatory markers.
Inflammation and aging have been thought to go hand in hand. Inflammatory cells can be damaging and impact the the natural ability of our body to repair itself. The cumulative effect of this damage over time results in the aging of various aspects of our body over time. By reducing the amount of inflammation in our body, the hope is that we can slow the process of aging.
There are challenges in evaluating literature on yoga and health. There are multiple forms of yoga, methods and practices. In the literature, there is not one consistent method or form of yoga that is consistently evaluated for different medical conditions.
Vijayaraghava, et al. Impact of Yoga and Meditation on Cellular Aging in Apparently Healthy Individuals: A Prospective, Open-Label Single-Arm Exploratory Study. J Clin Diagn Res. 2015 Jun;9(6):CC08-12.
Yoga & Health
A review of the medical literature on yoga as a therapeutic intervention for many diseases reveals several studies. Yoga has been studied for asthma, heart disease, blood pressure, stress, anxiety, post traumatic stress disorder, etc. Although several yoga interventions may have some benefit in these diseases, there is not enough data or proof to suggest it can be used alone to help treat or manage these conditions.
Büssing, et al. Effects of Yoga on Mental and Physical Health: A Short Summary of Reviews. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2012; 2012: 165410.
Facial “yoga” makes use of facial expressions and breathing to tone and tighten the face. A study in JAMA Dermatology evaluating a daily routine for 30 minutes each day for 8 weeks followed by every other day for the next 12 weeks, showed modest improvement in mid and lower face fullness.
There are a number of facial exercises that can be considered. Here are a list of sites with routines to consider:
Alam et al. Association of Facial Exercise With the Appearance of Aging.JAMA Dermatol. 2018 Mar 1;154(3):365-367.