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In recent years the practice of yoga has gained popularity as a form of physical fitness and exercise, and has been said to improve strength and flexibility. The main objective of this research project was to evaluate the effects of a six week Iyengar yoga intervention on flexibility. N = 16 low to moderately active females (52.37 +/- 7.79 years) attended Iyengar yoga practice for a total of 6 weeks, consisting of one 90 min session per week. Lumbar and hamstring flexibility were assessed pre and post-intervention using a standard sit and reach test. The results show a significant increase in flexibility, indicating 6 weeks of single session yoga training may be effective in increasing erector spinae and hamstring flexibility. This is important when considering that much of the population find it difficult to attend more than one session a week into their training schedule.

Objectives:This randomized controlled trial was conducted to examine immune recovery following breast cancer (BC) therapy and evaluate the effect of mindfulness-based stress reduction therapy (MBSR) on immune recovery with emphasis on lymphocyte subsets, T cell activation, and production of T-helper 1 (Th1; interferon [IFN]-γ) and T-helper 2 (Th2; interleukin-4 [IL-4]) cytokines. Method: Participants who completed the study consisted of 82 patients diagnosed with Stage 0–III BC, who received lumpectomy and adjuvant radiation ± chemotherapy. Patients were randomized into an MBSR(BC) intervention program or a control (usual care) group. Immune cell measures were assessed at baseline and within 2 weeks after the 6-week intervention. The numbers and percentages of lymphocyte subsets, activated T cells, and Th1 and Th2 cells in peripheral blood samples were determined by immunostaining and flow cytometry. Results: Immune subset recovery after cancer treatment showed positive associations with time since treatment completion. The B and natural killer (NK) cells were more susceptible than T cells in being suppressed by cancer treatment. Women who received MBSR(BC) had T cells more readily activated by the mitogen phytohemagglutinin (PHA) and an increase in the Th1/Th2 ratio. Activation was also higher for the MBSR(BC) group if <12 weeks from the end of treatment and women in MBSR(BC) <12 weeks had higher T cell count for CD4+. Conclusion: MBSR(BC) promotes a more rapid recovery of functional T cells capable of being activated by a mitogen with the Th1 phenotype, whereas substantial recovery of B and NK cells after completion of cancer treatment appears to occur independent of stress-reducing interventions.

Thirty-eight individuals (mean age: 34.8 years old) participating in a 3-month yoga and meditation retreat were assessed before and after the intervention for psychometric measures, brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), circadian salivary cortisol levels, and pro- and anti-inflammatory cytokines. Participation in the retreat was found to be associated with decreases in self-reported anxiety and depression as well as increases in mindfulness. As hypothesized, increases in the plasma levels of BDNF and increases in the magnitude of the cortisol awakening response (CAR) were also observed. The normalized change in BDNF levels was inversely correlated with BSI-18 anxiety scores at both the pre-retreat (r = 0.40, p < 0.05) and post-retreat (r = 0.52, p < 0.005) such that those with greater anxiety scores tended to exhibit smaller pre- to post-retreat increases in plasma BDNF levels. In line with a hypothesized decrease in inflammatory processes resulting from the yoga and meditation practices, we found that the plasma level of the anti-inflammatory cytokine Interleukin-10 was increased and the pro-inflammatory cytokine Interleukin-12 was reduced after the retreat. Contrary to our initial hypotheses, plasma levels of other pro-inflammatory cytokines, including Interferon Gamma (IFN-gamma), Tumor Necrosis Factor (TNF-alpha), Interleukin-1beta (IL-1beta), Interleukin-6 (IL-6), and Interleukin-8 (IL-8) were increased after the retreat. Given evidence from previous studies of the positive effects of meditative practices on mental fitness, autonomic homeostasis and inflammatory status, we hypothesize that these findings are related to the meditative practices throughout the retreat; however, some of the observed changes may also be related to other aspects of the retreat such as physical exercise-related components of the yoga practice and diet. We hypothesize that the patterns of change observed here reflect mind-body integration and well-being. The increased BDNF levels observed is a potential mediator between meditative practices and brain health, the increased CAR is likely a reflection of increased dynamic physiological arousal, and the relationship of the dual enhancement of pro- and anti-inflammatory cytokine changes to healthy immunologic functioning is discussed.