Improve Cardiovascular State and Stress with Yogic Breathing

Improve Cardiovascular State and Stress with Yogic Breathing

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Yoga breathing can help you achieve balance in both your body and mind. In fact, researchers have found that regularly practicing yoga breathing can have the following benefits: reduce anxiety and depression, lower and/or stabilize blood pressure, increase energy levels, relax muscles, and decrease feelings of stress and being overwhelmed.” – Lung Institute

 

Yoga practice is becoming increasingly popular in the west, for good reason. It has documented benefits for the individual’s psychological and physical health and well-being. It has also been shown to have cognitive benefits, improving memory. Yoga, however, consists of a number of components including, poses, breathing exercises, meditation, concentration, and philosophy/ethics.  So, it is difficult to determine which facet or combination of facets of yoga are responsible for which benefit. Hence, it is important to begin to test each component in isolation to determine its effects. This would allow for optimization of yoga practice for specific problems.

 

In today’s Research News article “Effect of modified slow breathing exercise on perceived stress and basal cardiovascular parameters.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: http://www.ijoy.org.in/article.asp?issn=0973-6131;year=2018;volume=11;issue=1;spage=53;epage=58;aulast=Naik ), Naik and colleagues examined the effects of yogic breathing techniques on cardiovascular performance. They recruited healthy adult male volunteers (age 18 to 30 years) and randomly assigned them to a no-treatment control group or to receive 12 weeks, 5 days per week, 30 minutes per day of yogic slow (6 second inhale and 6 second exhale) alternate nostril breathing. The participants were also encouraged to practice at home daily. They were measured before and after the 12-week training period for body size, perceived stress, resting heart rate, systolic blood pressure, and diastolic blood pressure.

 

They found that after training the yogic breathing group had a significant reduction in resting heart rate, and systolic and diastolic blood pressure. They also observed a particularly large significant reduction in perceived stress in the yogic breathing group. There were no significant changes in body size observed. Hence, the breath training in yoga appears to have important benefits for cardiovascular function and the stress levels of the practitioners.

 

It can be speculated that the reductions in stress were responsible for the improvements in cardiovascular performance as stress is well known to increase heart rate and blood pressure. In this study, however, causation cannot be determined. The lack of an active control condition is a weakness of the study allowing for bias to be an alternative explanation for the results. In addition, the lack of a follow-up measurement did not allow for a determination of the duration of effectiveness of the technique. Future research should include women, an active control, and long-term follow-up measurements. Regardless, yogic slow alternate nostril breathing would appear to be a promising method to reduce stress and promote cardiovascular health.

 

So, improve cardiovascular state and stress with yogic breathing.

 

“Physiology and psychology are two ends of the same stick. You can’t work on one without the other.” Nowhere is this truer than with conscious breathing, which acts as a medicinal tool, increasing well-being and peace of mind.”Angela Wilson,

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Naik G S, Gaur G S, Pal G K. Effect of modified slow breathing exercise on perceived stress and basal cardiovascular parameters. Int J Yoga 2018;11:53-8

 

Context: Different types of breathing exercises have varied effects on cardiovascular parameters and the stress levels in an individual. Aim:The aim of this study was to assess the effect of a modified form of isolated alternate nostril, slow breathing exercise on perceived stress, and cardiovascular parameters in young, male volunteers. Settings and Design: This was a randomized control study carried out at Advanced Centre for Yoga Therapy Education and Research, Department of Physiology, Jawaharlal Institute of Postgraduate Medical Education and Research, Puducherry in 2014. Subjects and Methods: Hundred healthy male volunteers were randomized into control group, n = 50 and slow breathing group (study), n = 50. Slow breathing exercise training was given to study group for 30 min a day, 5 times/week for 12 weeks, under the supervision of certified yoga trainers. Perceived Stress Scale (PSS) using Cohen’s questionnaire, anthropometric parameters such as body mass index (BMI), waist-hip ratio (WHR), and cardiovascular parameters such as heart rate (HR), systolic blood pressure (SBP), and diastolic blood pressure (DBP) were recorded at baseline and after 12 weeks. The control group did not receive any intervention. Slow breathing exercise training was provided for the study group. During the study period, one volunteer opted out of the study group due to personal reasons. Results: HR, SBP, DBP, and PSS decreased significantly (P < 0.05) in the study group following 12 weeks slow breathing exercise training, while no significant change (P > 0.05) was observed in BMI and WHR. There was no significant change in the control group. Conclusion: Twelve weeks of modified slow breathing exercise reduced perceived stress and improved the cardiovascular parameters. The above results indicate that our modified slow breathing exercise is effective in reducing stress and improving the cardiovascular parameters.

http://www.ijoy.org.in/article.asp?issn=0973-6131;year=2018;volume=11;issue=1;spage=53;epage=58;aulast=Naik

Improve Psychological Well-Being in the Elderly with Mild Memory Loss with Meditation

Improve Psychological Well-Being in the Elderly with Mild Memory Loss with Meditation

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all the answers we’re looking for when it comes to ending memory loss could be gained by simply doing KK for 12 minutes each morning? Perhaps that magic bullet is already here, waiting to be discovered in each and every one of us after all. Now, wouldn’t that be grand?” – Dharma Singh Khalsa

 

The aging process involves a systematic progressive decline in every system in the body, the brain included. It cannot be avoided. Our mental abilities may also decline with age including impairments in memory, attention, and problem solving ability. These are called age related cognitive decline. This occurs to everyone as they age, but to varying degrees. Some deteriorate into a dementia, while others maintain high levels of cognitive capacity into very advanced ages. It is estimated that around 30% of the elderly show significant age related cognitive decline. These cognitive declines markedly increase the risk of dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease. The declines occur along with sleep disruptions declines in mental health and quality of life, which in turn, appear to exacerbate the decline.

 

There is some hope, however, for those who are prone to deterioration as there is evidence that these cognitive declines can be slowed. For example, a healthy diet and a regular program of exercise can slow the physical decline of the body with aging. Also, contemplative practices such as meditation, yoga, and tai chi or qigong have all been shown to be beneficial in slowing or delaying physical and mental decline with aging. Indeed, mindfulness practices reduce the deterioration of the brain that occurs with aging restraining the loss of neural tissue.

 

In today’s Research News article “Effects of Meditation versus Music Listening on Perceived Stress, Mood, Sleep, and Quality of Life in Adults with Early Memory Loss: A Pilot Randomized Controlled Trial.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5649740/ ), Innes and colleagues recruited community living adults over 50 years of age and experiencing memory problems and slight cognitive decline. They were randomly assigned to 12-week, 12 minutes per day, programs of classical music listening or Kirtan Kriya meditation, performed while sitting comfortably with eyes closed. At the first session the participants received 35-minute instruction on relaxation and their specific program and then provided DVDs for daily home practice. Kirtan Kriya meditation included signing a mantra, successive finger touching and visualization exercises. After the 12 weeks of practice participants were free to continue practicing if they wished. They were measured before and after the 12-week programs and 14 weeks later for body size, sleep quality, perceived stress, health-related quality of life, psychological well-being, mood, memory, and cognitive performance.

 

Retention and participation were high, with 92% of the music listening participants and 88% of the meditation participants completing the program. Participants completed 93% of the required session and 73% of the optional sessions during the second 14-week period. This indicates that the participants found the programs enjoyable and worth their time and effort.

 

Over the 12-week program, both groups showed significant improvements in sleep quality, perceived stress, health-related quality of life, psychological well-being, and mood. These improvements were either sustained or further improved over the subsequent 14 weeks. The meditation group had significantly greater improvements than the music listening group in perceived stress, mood, psychological well-being, and mental health quality of life. In addition, the greater the improvements in mood, stress, sleep, well-being, and quality of life, the greater the improvements in memory function. Hence, the two forms of relaxation produced improvements in the participants well-being which were related to improvements in memory. But, meditation had a greater impact then music listening.

 

These results are quite remarkable that such simple practices for only 12 minutes per day can have such profound effects on the well-being of aging individuals with slight cognitive decline. This could potentially delay of lower the likelihood that the decline will continue into dementia of Alzheimer’s Disease. It is important that the effects were lasting and participation high, both of which suggest that the meditation program can be easily and inexpensively applied to large groups of community-based aging individuals.

 

So, improve psychological well-being in the elderly with mild memory loss with meditation

 

“Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) can affect up to 20% of the population at any one time—and half of them will progress to full-on dementia. Now, a recent study . . .  finds as little as 15 minutes of daily meditation can significantly slow that progression.” – Nina Elias

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Innes, K. E., Selfe, T. K., Khalsa, D. S., & Kandati, S. (2016). Effects of Meditation versus Music Listening on Perceived Stress, Mood, Sleep, and Quality of Life in Adults with Early Memory Loss: A Pilot Randomized Controlled Trial. Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease : JAD, 52(4), 1277–1298. http://doi.org/10.3233/JAD-151106

 

Abstract

Background

Older adults with subjective cognitive decline (SCD) are at increased risk not only for Alzheimer’s disease, but for poor mental health, impaired sleep, and diminished quality of life (QOL), which in turn, contribute to further cognitive decline, highlighting the need for early intervention.

Objective

In this randomized controlled trial, we assessed the effects of two 12-week relaxation programs, Kirtan Kriya Meditation (KK) and music listening (ML), on perceived stress, sleep, mood, and health-related QOL in older adults with SCD.

Methods

Sixty community-dwelling older adults with SCD were randomized to a KK or ML program and asked to practice 12 minutes daily for 12 weeks, then at their discretion for the following 3 months. At baseline, 12 weeks, and 26 weeks, perceived stress, mood, psychological well-being, sleep quality, and health-related QOL were measured using well-validated instruments.

Results

Fifty-three participants (88%) completed the 6-month study. Participants in both groups showed significant improvement at 12 weeks in psychological well-being and in multiple domains of mood and sleep quality (p’s ≤ 0.05). Relative to ML, those assigned to KK showed greater gains in perceived stress, mood, psychological well-being, and QOL-Mental Health (p’s ≤ 0.09). Observed gains were sustained or improved at 6 months, with both groups showing marked and significant improvement in all outcomes. Changes were unrelated to treatment expectancies.

Conclusions

Findings suggest that practice of a simple meditation or ML program may improve stress, mood, well-being, sleep, and QOL in adults with SCD, with benefits sustained at 6 months and gains that were particularly pronounced in the KK group.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5649740/

Decrease Stress and Improve Academic Performance with Mindfulness

Decrease Stress and Improve Academic Performance with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Those higher in mindfulness experienced less anxiety associated with high-pressure math tests, and this in turn was linked with improved performance.” – Matthew Brensilver

 

In the modern world education is a key for success. Where a high school education was sufficient in previous generations, a college degree is now required to succeed in the new knowledge based economies. There is a lot of pressure on students to excel so that they can be admitted to the best universities and there is a lot of pressure on university students to excel so that they can get the best jobs after graduation. As a result, parents and students are constantly looking for ways to improve student performance in school.

 

The primary tactic has been to pressure the student and clear away routine tasks and chores so that the student can focus on their studies. But, this might in fact be counterproductive as the increased pressure can actually lead to stress and anxiety which can impede performance. A better tactic may be the development of mindfulness skills with contemplative practices. These practices and high levels of mindfulness have been shown to be helpful in coping with the school environment and for the performance of both students and teachers. So, perhaps, mindfulness training may provide the needed edge in college academic performance.

 

In today’s Research News article “A Randomized Controlled Pilot Intervention Study of a Mindfulness-Based Self-Leadership Training (MBSLT) on Stress and Performance.” See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5605596/, Sampl and colleagues recruited college students and randomly assigned them to either receive a 10-week Mindfulness-Based Self-Leadership Training (MBSLT) program or a wait-list control condition.  MBSLT was administered once a week for 2 hours. In addition to mindfulness training MBSLT trained students in self-goal setting, self-reward, self-observation, self-cueing and reminding, visualizing successful performances, self-talk, and evaluating beliefs and assumption. The participants were also given exercises to be practiced at home. All participants were measured before and after training for mindfulness, self-leadership, perceived stress, test anxiety, self-efficacy, semester grades, and Grade Point Average (GPA).

 

They found that at the conclusion of training the Mindfulness-Based Self-Leadership Training (MBSLT) group had significantly greater mindfulness, self-efficacy, and self-leadership and significantly lower levels of perceived stress and test anxiety. Importantly, the MBSLT group had significantly 24% higher grades at the end of the semester than the control group. Hence, mindfulness training improved the student’s mental health and academic performance.

These results are interesting and important and replicate prior research findings that mindfulness reduces stress and anxiety, including test anxiety and improves self-efficacy and academic performance. The present study supplemented mindfulness training with self-leadership training. Since there was not a mindfulness only or a self-leadership training only condition, it cannot be determined whether each component alone or in combination produced the benefits. In addition, they did not perform a mediation analysis to determine if the improvements in the students’ psychological condition was responsible for the improved academic performance.

 

Regardless, it is clear that the Mindfulness-Based Self-Leadership Training (MBSLT) training produced significant improvements in the students’ mental condition and academic performance. The magnitude of the increase in grades was striking and suggests that the mindfulness training may be important for college students to allow them to improve their psychological outlook and in turn reach their full academic potential.

 

So, decrease stress and improve academic performance with mindfulness.

 

“cultivating mindfulness is an effective and efficient technique for improving cognitive function, with widereaching consequences.” – Michael Mrazek

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Sampl, J., Maran, T., & Furtner, M. R. (2017). A Randomized Controlled Pilot Intervention Study of a Mindfulness-Based Self-Leadership Training (MBSLT) on Stress and Performance. Mindfulness, 8(5), 1393–1407. http://doi.org/10.1007/s12671-017-0715-0

 

Abstract

The present randomized pilot intervention study examines the effects of a mindfulness-based self-leadership training (MBSLT) specifically developed for academic achievement situations. Both mindfulness and self-leadership have a strong self-regulatory focus and are helpful in terms of stress resilience and performance enhancements. Based on several theoretical points of contact and a specific interplay between mindfulness and self-leadership, the authors developed an innovative intervention program that improves mood as well as performance in a real academic setting. The intervention was conducted as a randomized controlled study over 10 weeks. The purpose was to analyze the effects on perceived stress, test anxiety, academic self-efficacy, and the performance of students by comparing an intervention and control group (n = 109). Findings demonstrated significant effects on mindfulness, self-leadership, academic self-efficacy, and academic performance improvements in the intervention group. Results showed that the intervention group reached significantly better grade point averages than the control group. Moreover, the MBSLT over time led to a reduction of test anxiety in the intervention group compared to the control group. Furthermore, while participants of the control group showed an increase in stress over time, participants of the intervention group maintained constant stress levels over time. The combination of mindfulness and self-leadership addressed both positive effects on moods and on objective academic performance. The effects demonstrate the great potential of combining mindfulness with self-leadership to develop a healthy self-regulatory way of attaining achievement-related goals and succeeding in high-stress academic environments.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5605596/

Protect the Aging Brain with Meditation

Protect the Aging Brain with Meditation

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“long-term engagement in mindfulness meditation may enhance cognitive performance in older adults, and that with persistent practice, these benefits may be sustained. That’s great news for the millions of aging adults working to combat the negative effects of aging on the brain.” B. Grace Bullock

 

Human life is one of constant change. We revel in our increases in physical and mental capacities during development, but regret their decreases during aging. The aging process involves a systematic progressive decline in every system in the body, the brain included. Starting in the 20s there is a progressive decrease in the volume of the brain as we age.

 

The nervous system is a dynamic entity, constantly changing and adapting to the environment. It will change size, activity, and connectivity in response to experience. These changes in the brain are called neuroplasticity.  Over the last decade neuroscience has been studying the effects of contemplative practices on the brain and has identified neuroplastic changes in widespread area. and have found that meditation practice appears to mold and change the brain, producing psychological, physical, and spiritual benefits. In addition, they have been able to investigate various techniques that might slow the process of neurodegeneration that accompanies normal aging. They’ve found that mindfulness practices reduce the deterioration of the brain that occurs with aging restraining the loss of neural tissue. Indeed, the brains of practitioners of meditation and yoga have been found to degenerate less with aging than non-practitioners.

 

In today’s Research News article “Promising Links between Meditation and Reduced (Brain) Aging: An Attempt to Bridge Some Gaps between the Alleged Fountain of Youth and the Youth of the Field.” See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5447722/, Kurth and colleagues review and summarize the published research literature on the neuroprotective effects of meditation in the elderly. They discuss the ideas that the aging based deterioration of the brain is due to a number of processes, including changes in the DNA telomeres, inflammation, stress, and neuroplasticity and that meditation appears to effect all of these processes.

 

There has accumulated evidence that meditation protects against age related decline at the molecular genetic level. As we age the length of a DNA structures called the telomeres progressively shorten. It is thought that the shorter the telomeres get the more difficult it becomes for cells to replicate properly and thus leads to decline. Mindfulness training in general and meditation specifically, has been shown to reduce the shortening of the telomeres with aging. Kurth and colleagues speculate that this is one mechanism by which meditation protects the brain from age related decline.

 

As we age the natural inflammatory response that normally occurs to protect against infection begins to increase in general and lose its specificity to fighting particular diseases, pathogens, and injuries. It becomes more widespread damaging normal tissues. Mindfulness training in general and meditation specifically has been shown to reduce inflammatory responses. It seems reasonable that this is another mechanism by which meditation protects the body from age related decline.

 

Stress is present throughout life. But if it is too intense or prolonged the biological responses to stress begin to damage the body. These stress induced changes are similar to age related deterioration. Stress effects may accumulate over time. Hence, the older we get the greater the total stress induced damage. Mindfulness training in general and meditation specifically has been shown to improve emotion regulation and to reduce the physiological and psychological responses to stress. This is hypothesized to be another mechanism by which meditation protects the brain from deterioration with aging.

 

Neuroplasticity is a change in the size and connectivity of brain structures as they are exercised over a prolonged period of time. Mindfulness training in general and meditation specifically has been shown to produce neuroplastic changes in the brain, increasing the size and connectivity of brain structures. This process would tend to counteract brain degeneration with aging and may be another mechanism by which meditation protects the brain during aging.

 

Hence there has accumulated evidence that meditation reduces the deterioration of the brain with aging. It appears to do so by altering a number of different mechanisms including changes in the DNA telomeres, inflammation, stress, and neuroplasticity. This protection of the brain may be responsible to the ability of meditation to reduce the decline in mental abilities that occur with aging. This would tend to make aging a more benign process.

 

So, protect the aging brain with meditation.

 

We expected rather small and distinct effects located in some of the regions that had previously been associated with meditating. Instead, what we actually observed was a widespread effect of meditation that encompassed regions throughout the entire brain.” – Florian Kurth

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Kurth, F., Cherbuin, N., & Luders, E. (2017). Promising Links between Meditation and Reduced (Brain) Aging: An Attempt to Bridge Some Gaps between the Alleged Fountain of Youth and the Youth of the Field. Frontiers in Psychology, 8, 860. http://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2017.00860

 

Abstract

Over the last decade, an increasing number of studies has reported a positive impact of meditation on cerebral aging. However, the underlying mechanisms for these seemingly brain-protecting effects are not well-understood. This may be due to the fact, at least partly, that systematic empirical meditation research has emerged only recently as a field of scientific scrutiny. Thus, on the one hand, critical questions remain largely unanswered; and on the other hand, outcomes of existing research require better integration to build a more comprehensive and holistic picture. In this article, we first review theories and mechanisms pertaining to normal (brain) aging, specifically focusing on telomeres, inflammation, stress regulation, and macroscopic brain anatomy. Then, we summarize existing research integrating the developing evidence suggesting that meditation exerts positive effects on (brain) aging, while carefully discussing possible mechanisms through which these effects may be mediated.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5447722/

Reduce Stress with Yoga

Reduce Stress with Yoga

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Yoga helps us slow down for a moment and tune into the breath. Simply the focus on one thing — which is the very definition of meditation — allows us to decompress.” – Terri Kennedy

 

Stress is an integral part of life. In fact, I’ve quipped that the definition of death is when stress ceases. People often think of stress as a bad thing. But, it is in fact essential to the health of the body. If the muscles are not stressed to some extent they deteriorate. As it turns out, this is also true for the brain. The same goes for our psychological health. If we don’t have any stress, we call it boredom. In fact, we invest time and resources in stressing ourselves, e.g ridding rollercoasters, sky diving, competing in sports, etc. We say we love a challenge, but, challenges are all stressful. So, we actually love to stress ourselves. In moderation, it is healthful and provides interest and fun to life.

 

If stress, is high or is prolonged, however, it can be problematic. It can damage our physical and mental health and even reduce our longevity, leading to premature deaths. So, it is important that we develop methods to either reduce or control high or prolonged stress or reduce our responses to it. Mindfulness practices have been found routinely to reduce the psychological and physiological responses to stress. A physiological indicator of stress is the levels of the hormone Cortisol in the blood. Mindfulness training has been shown to reduce cortisol levels. But, it is not known what types of mindfulness training techniques are effective and which may be less so. Hence, it makes sense to test the effectiveness of yoga practice to reduce perceived stress and responsiveness to stress as measured by Cortisol levels.

 

In today’s Research News article “Longitudinal and Immediate Effect of Kundalini Yoga on Salivary Levels of Cortisol and Activity of Alpha-Amylase and Its Effect on Perceived Stress.” See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5433116/, García-Sesnich and colleagues recruited college students participating in in a 3-month Kundalini Yoga class and a comparable group of college students who were not participating. They were measured before and after the 3-month practice period for perceived stress and saliva samples were obtained to measure cortisol and α-amylase levels, markers of stress.

 

They found that following the 3-month intervention period, compared to the baseline and control group the yoga group had a significant decrease in perceived stress but there were no significant differences for either cortisol and α-amylase levels. Hence the yoga program decreased the psychological but not the physical markers of stress. It is not clear as to why they failed to detect an effect of yoga practice on cortisol and α-amylase levels as previous research has shown significant reductions after yoga practice. It is possible that the small sample size did not provide sufficient statistical power to detect a significant change. Regardless, yoga practice was demonstrated to produce improvements in perceived stress in college students, a group that is generally highly stressed.

 

So, reduce stress with yoga.

 

“Meditation is an incredibly powerful tool for relaxing and slowing down the mind as is any kind of breath awareness. Whether you’re holding postures, flowing through sequences, or in a seated meditation pose, everything begins to focus and slow down when you take your awareness to the breath. Over time and with repeated practice, you start to develop new habits towards a more relaxed internal state.” – Anna Coventry

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

García-Sesnich, J. N., Flores, M. G., Ríos, M. H., & Aravena, J. G. (2017). Longitudinal and Immediate Effect of Kundalini Yoga on Salivary Levels of Cortisol and Activity of Alpha-Amylase and Its Effect on Perceived Stress. International Journal of Yoga, 10(2), 73–80. http://doi.org/10.4103/ijoy.IJOY_45_16

 

Abstract

Context:

Stress is defined as an alteration of an organism’s balance in response to a demand perceived from the environment. Diverse methods exist to evaluate physiological response. A noninvasive method is salivary measurement of cortisol and alpha-amylase. A growing body of evidence suggests that the regular practice of Yoga would be an effective treatment for stress.

Aims:

To determine the Kundalini Yoga (KY) effect, immediate and after 3 months of regular practice, on the perception of psychological stress and the salivary levels of cortisol and alpha-amylase activity.

Settings and Design:

To determine the psychological perceived stress, levels of cortisol and alpha-amylase activity in saliva, and compare between the participants to KY classes performed for 3 months and a group that does not practice any type of yoga.

Subjects and Methods:

The total sample consisted of 26 people between 18 and 45-year-old; 13 taking part in KY classes given at the Faculty of Dentistry, University of Chile and 13 controls. Salivary samples were collected, enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay was performed to quantify cortisol and kinetic reaction test was made to determine alpha-amylase activity. Perceived Stress Scale was applied at the beginning and at the end of the intervention.

Statistical Analysis Used:

Statistical analysis was applied using Stata v11.1 software. Shapiro–Wilk test was used to determine data distribution. The paired analysis was fulfilled by t-test or Wilcoxon signed-rank test. T-test or Mann–Whitney’s test was applied to compare longitudinal data. A statistical significance was considered when P< 0.05.

Results:

KY practice had an immediate effect on salivary cortisol. The activity of alpha-amylase did not show significant changes. A significant decrease of perceived stress in the study group was found.

Conclusions:

KY practice shows an immediate effect on salivary cortisol levels and on perceived stress after 3 months of practice.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5433116/

Change Gene Expression to Lessen the Effects of Chronic Stress with Mind-Body Practices

Change Gene Expression to Lessen the Effects of Chronic Stress with Mind-Body Practices

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Millions of people around the world already enjoy the health benefits of mind-body interventions like yoga or meditation, but what they perhaps don’t realise is that these benefits begin at a molecular level and can change the way our genetic code goes about its business. These activities are leaving what we call a molecular signature in our cells, which reverses the effect that stress or anxiety would have on the body by changing how our genes are expressed. Put simply, MBIs cause the brain to steer our DNA processes along a path which improves our wellbeing.” – Ivana Buric

 

There is an accumulating volume of research findings to demonstrate that Mind-body practices have highly beneficial effects on the health and well-being of humans. These include meditation, yoga, tai chi, qigong, biofeedback, progressive muscle relaxation, guided imagery, hypnosis, and deep breathing exercises. Because of their proven benefits the application of these practices to relieving human suffering has skyrocketed.

 

It is clear that Mind-body practices affect the physiology. In other words, the mind can alter the body. In turn, the genes can affect our minds. In fact, the genes have been shown to affect an individual’s inherent level of mindfulness. These interactions are well documented. The mechanisms by which they occur, however, are not well understood. It has been shown that contemplative practices help create balance in the inflammatory response which is very beneficial for health. But, the mechanism through which contemplative practices affect the immune system is not known. The genes dictate all of the chemical processes in our bodies including immune and inflammatory responses. So, it would seem reasonable to investigate whether alterations in gene expressions might be the intermediary between mind-body therapies and health.

 

The immune system is designed to protect the body from threats like stress, infection, injury, and toxic chemicals. One of its tools is the Inflammatory response. Its primary effect is to increase blood circulation around the infected area, dilating the blood vessels around the site of inflammation. It also produces gaps in the cell walls surrounding the infected area, allowing the larger immune cells, to pass. It also tends to increase body temperature to further fight infection. This response works quite well for short-term infections and injuries and as such is an important defense mechanism for the body. But when inflammation is protracted and becomes chronic, it can itself become a threat to health, producing autoimmune diseases such as colitis, Chron’s disease, arthritis, heart disease, increased cancer risk, lung disease, sleep disruption, gum disease, decreased bone health, psoriasis, and depression.

Mind-body practices appear to relax the physical systems of the body including the immune system, reducing inflammation. Mind-body techniques such as yoga, Tai Chi and meditation have been shown to adaptively reduce the inflammatory response. Hence, it makes sense to investigate the effects of mind-body practices on gene expressions that underlie the immune and inflammatory responses. In today’s Research News article “What Is the Molecular Signature of Mind–Body Interventions? A Systematic Review of Gene Expression Changes Induced by Meditation and Related Practices.” See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5472657/, Buric and colleagues review and summarize the published research literature on the effects of mind-body practices on gene expressions.

 

They found 18 published research articles. These articles, in general, report that following engaging in mind-body practices there is a reduction in the expression of genes that are involved in the inflammatory response resultant from chronic stress, particularly downregulation of NF-κB-targeted genes. It has been well established that mind-body practices reduce the psychological and physiological responses to stress. The published research on the effects of mind-body practices on gene expressions provide a mechanism by which these practices affect the stress response. They do so by affecting the physiology on the molecular level altering the genes that underlie the chemical processes involved in the inflammatory responses to stress.

 

These findings suggest that Mind-body practices can improve the health and well-being of the practitioner. One of the premiere mechanisms by which this is accomplished is by reducing the individual’s responses to the debilitating effects of chronic stress. Many of the difficulties produced by chronic stress are caused by producing a chronic inflammatory response damaging tissues. It appears that mind-body practices improve health by altering the genes that underlie these processes.

 

So, change gene expression to lessen the effects of chronic stress with mind-body practices.

 

“doing yoga or meditating may lead to a decrease in cyctokine production, and a reversal of the inflammatory gene, which ultimately lowers the risk of inflammation-related diseases and conditions.” – Brianna Steinhilber

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Buric, I., Farias, M., Jong, J., Mee, C., & Brazil, I. A. (2017). What Is the Molecular Signature of Mind–Body Interventions? A Systematic Review of Gene Expression Changes Induced by Meditation and Related Practices. Frontiers in Immunology, 8, 670. http://doi.org/10.3389/fimmu.2017.00670

 

Abstract

There is considerable evidence for the effectiveness of mind–body interventions (MBIs) in improving mental and physical health, but the molecular mechanisms of these benefits remain poorly understood. One hypothesis is that MBIs reverse expression of genes involved in inflammatory reactions that are induced by stress. This systematic review was conducted to examine changes in gene expression that occur after MBIs and to explore how these molecular changes are related to health. We searched PubMed throughout September 2016 to look for studies that have used gene expression analysis in MBIs (i.e., mindfulness, yoga, Tai Chi, Qigong, relaxation response, and breath regulation). Due to the limited quantity of studies, we included both clinical and non-clinical samples with any type of research design. Eighteen relevant studies were retrieved and analyzed. Overall, the studies indicate that these practices are associated with a downregulation of nuclear factor kappa B pathway; this is the opposite of the effects of chronic stress on gene expression and suggests that MBI practices may lead to a reduced risk of inflammation-related diseases. However, it is unclear how the effects of MBIs compare to other healthy interventions such as exercise or nutrition due to the small number of available studies. More research is required to be able to understand the effects of MBIs at the molecular level.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5472657/

Ease Medical Student Stress with Mindfulness

Ease Medical Student Stress with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“I realized that the majority of my stress was self-generated. I put an inordinate amount of pressure on myself to succeed and get work done. Luckily, through mindfulness techniques, I gained some serious insight as to what makes me tick. I paid attention to my inner self and tried to implement changes in my life that could alleviate stress. To my surprise, I would perform far better in school because of these changes.” – Daniel Olson

 

Medical School is challenging both intellectually and psychologically. Stress levels are high and burnout is common. It’s been estimated that 63% of medical students experience negative consequences from stress while symptoms of severe stress were present in 25% of students. The prevalence of stress is higher among females than among males. High stress levels lead to lower performance in medical school and higher levels of physical and mental health problems, especially anxiety and depression. Indeed 50% of medical students report burnout and 11% have considered suicide in the last year.

 

Obviously, there is a need to either lower stress levels in medical education or find methods to assist medical students in dealing with the stress. One promising possibility is mindfulness training. It has been shown to reduce both the psychological and physiological responses to stress. It has also been shown to reduce stress in students, to help with the negative consequences of stress, and to reduce burnout in medical professionals. So, it would seem reasonable to suspect that mindfulness would be related to medical students’ ability to cope with the stress.

 

In today’s Research News article “Coping, perceived stress, and job satisfaction among medical interns: The mediating effect of mindfulness.” See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5479094/, Vinothkumar and colleagues recruited medical interns and had them complete measures of mindfulness, emotion regulation strategies, perceived stress, and job satisfaction and then conducted a regression analysis to determine the relationship between these variables.

 

They found that the higher the levels of mindfulness and adaptive strategies to cope with emotions the lower the levels of perceived stress and the higher the levels of maladaptive strategies to cope with emotions the higher the levels of perceived stress. Additionally, the higher the levels of mindfulness the higher the levels of adaptive strategies and the lower the levels of maladaptive strategies to cope with emotions. In other words, mindfulness was associated with lower perceived stress and adaptive strategies and lower levels of maladaptive strategies to cope with emotions.

 

Applying a mediational analysis revealed that adaptive strategies to cope with emotions had a significant relationship to lower perceived stress levels but that relationship was due to mindfulness, such that adaptive coping was associated with higher levels of mindfulness which in turn was associated with lower perceived stress levels. Alternatively, maladaptive strategies to cope with emotions had a significant relationship to higher perceived stress levels but that relationship was due to mindfulness, such that maladaptive coping was associated with lower mindfulness which in turn was associated with higher perceived stress levels. In other words, the relationship between adaptive and maladaptive strategies to cope with emotions with the interns’ perceived levels of stress was completely due to the coping strategies relationships with mindfulness.

 

These are interesting results that suggest that how medical interns go about coping with emotions is important in regulating their responses to stress and that this is due to the fact that these coping strategies are associated with the interns’ levels of mindfulness. It has been well established that mindfulness is associated with lower perceived stress levels. The present results suggest that coping strategies affect mindfulness producing changes in stress levels. These results further suggest that instructing medical students in how to cope with emotions may be helpful in lowering stress effects and thereby improving their performance in school and in their later careers and decreasing burnout.

 

So, ease medical student stress with mindfulness.

 

“the use of mindfulness and meditation become ingrained in the fabric of medical care-and alleviate the suffering of countless practitioners and while allowing us to take better care of our patients — and ourselves.” – Jeffrey Taekman

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Vinothkumar, M., Arathi, A., Joseph, M., Nayana, P., Jishma, E. J., & Sahana, U. (2016). Coping, perceived stress, and job satisfaction among medical interns: The mediating effect of mindfulness. Industrial Psychiatry Journal, 25(2), 195–201. http://doi.org/10.4103/ipj.ipj_98_14

 

Abstract

Background:

Past research studies on the exploration of attributes to the stress of doctors/medical interns were reported more often than the types of coping strategies, healthy practices to strengthen their internal resources to deal effectively with the stressful situations.

Objectives:

The present study was conducted to find such internal resource – “mindfulness” as a mediator of coping, perceived stress, and job satisfaction among medical interns.

Methods:

A cross-sectional descriptive study comprised 120 medical interns forms from various medical colleges in Mangalore were recruited and completed the assessment on mindfulness, cognitive-emotive regulation, coping strategies, perceived stress, and job satisfaction from doctoral interns were collected.

Results:

Initial correlation analysis results indicate that adaptive coping strategies significantly associate with greater mindfulness and less perceived stress. In turn, mindfulness is negatively correlated with nonadaptive coping strategies and perceived. Job satisfaction showed no significant relationship with any of the other variables. Mediational models indicate that the relationship between adaptive coping strategies and perceived stress was significantly mediated by mindfulness. Furthermore, partial mediation between nonadaptive strategies and perceived stress through mindfulness indicates that respondents reported a high level of nonadaptive strategy experience and a lower level of mindfulness can be counterproductive as they encourage the ineffective way to deal with the stresses.

Conclusion:

The implication of the results were discussed with suggesting a possible intervention to improve the adaptive strategies and mindfulness among the medical interns.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5479094/