A new study examining the potential stress-reduction benefits of hatha yoga practice compared the inflammatory and endocrine responses of healthy women to a restorative hatha yoga session and to control activity. Half of the 50 subjects were “expert yoginis” (women with a regular yoga practice) and half were yoga novices. Prior to each intervention session the women were subjected stress challenges in order to guage the extent that yoga speeds recovery from stress. The results of the study were very interesting.
- The yoga session boosted mood compared to the control activities, but no change was found in subjects’ response to stress before and after yoga or any of the control sessions. HOWEVER…
- In response to the stress events the novices, who were not statistically different in age or other variables from the expert yoginis, had C-Recative Protein levels (a marker of inflammation) that were 4.75 times as high as the experts.
The researchers concluded “the ability to minimize inflammatory responses to stressful encounters” lowers the burden that stress places on an individual. They also suggested that their research supports the idea that regular yoga practice dampens stress-related changes and can have lasting health benefits.
These findings are extremely relevent for women struggling with infertility. Stress is an inflammatory condition and inflammation is implicated in many infertility diagnoses including PCOS, endometriosis, miscarriage and potentially even poor egg and sperm quality. The take-home from this research is that yoga may do more for a woman who is trying to conceive than reduce her anxiety levels and improve her mood. Regular yoga practice may actually improve her physiological response to stress events and protect her body from the negative effects of chronic inflammation.