A report in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine suggests that regular yoga practice can reduce blood levels of interleukin-6 (IL-6), a chemical that increases in reaction to stress and is part of the inflammatory response known to be a risk factor for heart disease. The study found that women who regularly did yoga had lower levels of IL-6 than nonpractitioners did and showed smaller increases in the chemical after they underwent stressful experiences. “Women who practice yoga may have learned to tune down their stress response,” explains lead author Janice Kiecolt-Glaser, PhD, of Ohio State University, in Columbus. “So if someone comes behind you and yells ‘Boo!’ you don’t, metaphorically, jump two feet in the air—you jump one.” What’s the right “dose” of yoga? Kiecolt-Glaser doesn’t know for sure, but the experienced yogis in the study practiced two or three times a week for at least two years.
Originally published in the May 2010 issue of More.