New US research has found that yoga can help to relieve stress by reducing the associated cellular inflammation. The study was done at UCLA and the researchers noted in their study that stress relieving exercises such as meditation and yoga reduce stress with reported improvement in inflammation but that little is known about the biological mechanisms mediating such effects.
In the UCLA study, 45 family dementia caregivers were randomized to do either Kirtan Kriya Meditation (KKM)or Relaxing Music (RM) listening for 12 minutes daily for 8 weeks. At the end only 39 caregivers completed the study. Kirtan kriya (pronounced KEER-tun KREE-uh) meditation involves repeating a mantra consisting of four syllables—Saa, Taa, Naa, Maa—translating to birth, life, death, rebirth, while doing simple finger movements (called mudras). RM involves relaxing in a quiet place with eyes closed while listening to instrumental music on a relaxation CD. Blood samples of the study participants were taken at the beginning of the study and again at the end of the eight weeks.
The research was by Dr. Helen Lavretsky, a professor of psychiatry at the UCLA Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior and her colleagues. They found that practicing a specific type of chanting yoga meditation called Kirtan Kriya, for just 12 minutes daily for eight weeks reduced the stress levels of people who care for those who have Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) and dementia.
In particular, the UCLA researchers found that 68 of the genes (19 were up-regulated and 49 were down-regulated) of the study participants responded differently after the Kirtan Kriya Meditation (KKM) and that this change leads to reduced inflammation in the body.
People who feel overwhelmed, distracted and stressed are often encouraged to try meditation because it can make a difference in their life. According to one expert, the simplest form of mindfulness meditation is just to sit and pay attention to your breathing and if the mind begins to wander, one needs to bring one’s mind back to the present moment and back to the sensation of the breath again and again. Caregivers have to face negative health effects often caused by the chronic stress associated with taking care their relatives with AD and dementia.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, 1 in 8 older Americans has AD and AD is the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States and there are over 15 million Americans providing unpaid care for a person with AD or other dementias.
Stress is known to be one of the leading causes of health problems. This is not new, but how much it affects health and wellbeing is, in our opinion, not discussed enough. And the fact that stress management is not taught in a practical manner by most conventional medical practices can leave patients with confusion and even more overwhelm than before.
First, it’s important to explain how stress is interpreted by and dealt with by the body – whether the stress is mental, emotional or physical in nature.
The NeuroEndoMetabolic (NEM) Stress ResponseSM is the body’s global strategy for handling stress. It involves a number of organs and systems organized into six circuits: the cardionomic, the detoxification, the inflammatory, the hormonal, the metabolic and the neuro-affective.
Each of these circuits plays a role in dealing with stress, but perhaps the most active and central of these is the hypo-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. The adrenal glands, which are two small organs that sit atop the kidneys, are charged with producing over 50 different kinds of anti-stress hormones, the most important of which is cortisol.
When the body encounters stress, the adrenals secrete cortisol to deal with it and stabilize the body. Cortisol helps regulate blood pressure, maintains heart and blood vessel functions, suppresses the immune system and neutralizes inflammation.
With chronic stress, however, the constant workload burdens the adrenal glands and they begin to dysregulate. At first, their cortisol-production goes up to meet the increased need to stabilize the stress, but after a while, they begin to weaken and their cortisol output is reduced greatly. At some point, they are exhausted and the stress is left to run amok.
This condition, whether in the beginning stages or advanced, is called adrenal fatigue syndrome (AFS), and its symptoms range from debilitating fatigue, to weight problems, to sleep disturbances and mild depression, to many others.
It is therefore a must to make stress management and reduction a top priority if you want to have a healthy body and a high quality of life, whether you have AFS or not.
The way to go about this are many: therapy is an option if you have mental or emotional issues that you need support with. Journaling, taking time off and making sure you get enough rest can also help. Yoga and meditation have worked for millions of people for thousands of years as effective stress relieving exercises. Try different things and see what works best for you. Just be aware that in advanced stages of AFS, your should start very gently with stress relieving exercises, perhaps only doing the Adrenal Breathing Exercises.