Most people know yoga can be a relaxing, stress-relieving form of exercise, but they do not know why it reduces stress. An element of many yoga disciplines, including Kundalini yoga, is the practice of meditation. Kirtan Kirya is a meditation specific to Kundalini yoga. A recent study at UCLA showed that including Kirtan Kriya in brief, daily meditations reduced the stress levels of people who care for Alzheimer’s and dementia patients.1
The study divided participants into two groups. One group consisted of participants who performed the yoga routine, while the other group was asked to relax in a quiet place with their eyes closed while listening to instrumental music. The yoga routine consisted of a form of chanting and meditation yoga for twelve minutes per day for eight weeks. The other group also listened to the instrumental music for the same durations.2
The results showed that 68 genes of the participants praciticing yoga responded differently, resulting in reduced inflammation. The non-yoga practitioners did not show this response. An increase in inflammation is one of the ways the human body expresses stress. Chronic inflammation can result in stress-related diseases like cardiovascular maladies and depression. “The goal of the study was to determine if meditation might alter the activity of inflammatory and antiviral proteins that shape immune cell gene expression,” said Lavretsky. “Our analysis showed a reduced activity of those proteins linked directly to increased inflammation.”3
The results of the study are promising as rate of Alzheimer’s and dementia are increasing in the United States. This means more caregivers will be required to do the stressful work of assisting these patients and family members. Research has shown that if inflammation in the body is not reduced many health issues can arise. Research has also shown that meditation could help relieve stress in caregivers, but the mechanisms as to why it could help were not previously understood. Now we know yoga’s stress-relieving powers come from reducing inflammation and the body’s immune response. 4
“This is encouraging news. Caregivers often don’t have the time, energy, or contacts that could bring them a little relief from the stress of taking care of a loved one with dementia, so practicing a brief form of yogic meditation, which is easy to learn, is a useful too.”5
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