Pranayam helps in combating stress, anxiety, depression: AIIMS research

New Delhi:  Amid the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic — when people are battling stress, uncertainties and health risks — a study done by the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) has found that yoga- and meditation-based lifestyle intervention (YMLI) increases neuroplasticity and reduces severity of major depressive disorder.

The 12-week study, to determine the effects of YMLI on depression severity, showed that if an individual has genetic depression then yoga can prove to be beneficial.

Speaking to IANS, Rima Dada, Professor at Department of Anatomy at AIIMS, said: “To combat stress anxiety and depression, yoga could play a key role. Yoga, especially pranayama, decreases expression of pro inflammatory genes and increases expression of anti inflammatory genes and may also play an important immune-modulatory role in cytokine storm.”

She added depression can be initially managed by yoga, and only in severe cases medicines are required.

According to researchers, coronavirus can set off a cytokine storm and calming down this storm is key for survival. Cytokines are molecules which regulate the activity of the immune system.

The study concluded that YMLI can be considered as a therapeutic intervention in major depressive disorder (MDD) management.

“Short term yoga- and meditation-based lifestyle intervention in MDD decreased clinical severity in association with an increase in neuroplasticity, by significantly improving brain physiology, mind-body communication (MBC), and cellular health,” concluded the study.

The study also suggests that increased neuroplasticity may be part of underlying biologicl mechanisms to decrease clinical severity in MDD.

“Moreover, it may prevent complications that are related to drug therapy, reduce relapses and provide long-lasting clinical remission.

“It may also increase cognitive reserve to decrease the risk of dementia and increase functional reserves to decrease risk for age-related chronic medical conditions. Thus it can be considered as a significant component of integrative health strategy in the prevention and management of MDD and increase both healthspan and lifespan,” said the study.

The study found that YMLI may not only help to decrease severity in major depressive disorder but also offer hope for complete remission from it that result from heterogeneous biological mechanisms.

The sample size in the study was small and included adult groups only, limiting its generalize-ability to other age groups. “Our work is on depression but in all our studies we found yoga decreases expression of various inflammatory genes,” added Dada.

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