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Originally published on RealNatural.org
Turns out that Hatha Yoga is not simply a good form of exercise. Recent research finds it boosts the body's levels of antioxidants, lowers blood pressure in hypertensive people and lowers the risk of diabetes by improving blood sugar control.
Yoga Boosts Antioxidants
Researchers from India's Shri B.M.Patil Medical College studied 57 elderly men (between 60 and 80 years old) with high blood pressure – also called hypertension. They were divided into two groups. One group practiced hatha yoga for an hour per day for six days a week for three months.
The control group walked an hour a day for the same days and study period.
At the end of the study period, the researchers found that the yoga group had significantly increased antioxidant levels, including increases in malondialdehyde, superoxide dismutase and vitamin C within the bloodstream.
Malondialdehyde levels indicate the amount of oxidative stress in the body, while superoxide dismutase and vitamin C levels illustrate the body's antioxidant levels.
This results of this study are confirmed by another study by Indian researchers who recruited 64 physically fit males from the Indian Air Force Academy.
Once again the volunteers were given either for a three-month study of yoga's effect on detoxification. For three months, 34 of the volunteers practiced hatha yoga with pranayama (breathing exercises) along with meditation. The other 30 volunteers underwent physical training exercises.
At the end of three months, the researchers found the yoga group had significantly higher levels of antioxidants including vitamin C and vitamin E among subjects in the yoga group.
The yoga group also showed lower levels of oxidized glutathione, the ratio between oxidized and reduced glutathione indicated increased antioxidant activity within the yoga group.
Glutathione goes through oxidation and reduction as it neutralizes free radicals. The ratio betweed oxidized glutathione and reduced glutathione indicates the level of antioxidant activity is taking place. This of course means that the body has a reduction in free radical burden, equating to a reduced risk of heart disease, dementia and many other conditions.
Meanwhile, the exercise-only group showed no changes in these antioxidant parameters.
Hatha Yoga Improves Glycemic Control
Other research has concluded that yoga can improve glycemic status as well as improve antioxidant status.
The researchers tested 29 adults who had blood sugar control problems and considered prediabetic at four different medical clinics. The researchers tested the patients with hatha yoga compared to a control group. The patients were tested for fasting blood sugar, body mass index and oxidative stress parameters.
After three months, the yoga group had significant improvements in fasting blood sugar and showed reduced systolic blood pressure. The researchers also found the yoga group had reduced body mass index levels and reduced levels of oxidative stress.
Yoga is good for body and soul
There are several types of Yoga – a word meaning to link up with the Creator – which include kundalini, hatha, bhakti and others. The foundation for the practice is thus one of spiritual context. While yoga practice in general has been shown to reduce stress and calm the mind – hatha yoga exerts subtle benefits upon the body, shown by these studies. These benefits ultimately represent the expression of the nature of the spiritual self within.
Patil SG, Dhanakshirur GB, Aithala MR, Naregal G, Das KK. Effect of yoga on oxidative stress in elderly with grade-I hypertension: a randomized controlled study. J Clin Diagn Res. 2014 Jul;8(7):BC04-7. doi: 10.7860/JCDR/2014/9498.4586.
Pal R, Singh SN, Halder K, Tomer OS, Mishra AB, Saha M. Effects of Yogic Practice on Metabolism and Antioxidant – Redox Status of Physically Active Males. J Phys Act Health. 2014 May 16.
Hegde SV, Adhikari P, Shetty S, Manjrekar P, D'Souza V. Effect of community-based yoga intervention on oxidative stress and glycemic parameters in prediabetes: a randomized controlled trial. Complement Ther Med. 2013 Dec;21(6):571-6. doi: 10.1016/j.ctim.2013.08.013.