Autoimmune disease

How Yoga Benefits People With Autoimmune Diseases | By Yamila Cruz

Last Updated: November 22, 2020By

A healthy immune system defends the body against diseases and infection, but if the immune system malfunctions, it can mistakenly attack healthy cells, tissues and organs — that is what happens in autoimmune (AI) diseases. An estimated 50 million of the United States population are affected by some sort of AI disease. Some of the struggles of people with AI diseases is the lack of motivation to exercise, the fatigue they constantly have or questions about better ways to address physical activities.

Physical activity is very important for everyone, however, in certain ways, if we put too much “stress” on our body, especially if we suffer an AI, it can be detrimental. That is why lots of the time yoga is one of the recommended physical activities for AI patients. It has different styles and encourages you to listen to your body and go at your own pace. Practicing yoga has few side effects, low risk of serious injury and many benefits for the immune system.

Several case studies and research papers have proven the benefits of yoga for patients with AI. According to the study, Yoga for Systemic Lupus Erythematosus, mind-body therapies, including yoga, call for simultaneous attention to the body, breathing, attentional and affective regulation and cognition. Patients utilizing such therapies reported a shift in their experience of negative emotions as well as the development of self-regulatory skills in dealing with pain, emotional regulation and re-appraisal of life situations.

In the case report, Healing of Grave’s Disease Through Lifestyle Changes, it was demonstrated that Graves’ disease can effectively be put into lasting remission without conventional medical interventions. It also emphasizes the importance of a healthy lifestyle as a first line intervention, including yoga.

Current empirical research, like Therapeutic Yoga: Symptom Management for Multiple Sclerosis, has provided a large body of evidence illustrating the benefits and positive outcomes associated with the practice of yoga, including reduced depression, decreased pain, reduced fatigue, increased lung capacity, improved bladder function, improved strength and flexibility, lower levels of stress, improved quality of life and muscle relaxation, and lower blood pressure. The study, Effect of Yoga Practice on Levels of Inflammatory Markers After Moderate and Strenuous Exercise, had shown that yoga may reduce inflammatory markers in the body and help prevent pro-inflammatory diseases (like autoimmune ones). A regular practice of yoga reduces the resting levels of inflammatory cytokines like Tumor Necrosis Factor (TNF-α) and Interleukin-6 (IL-6), they are both important mediators of chronic low-grade systemic inflammation. Yoga also decreases the levels of cholesterol, triglycerides and very low density lipoprotein (VLDL) which is considered the “bad” cholesterol.

In summary, practicing yoga can highly benefit your health. Yoga overall increases core strength. It’s a mild cardiovascular work-out and increases balance and flexibility. It does wonders to relax, reduce stress and anxiety, may fight depression, reduce chronic pain, promotes mindful eating, can improve breathing and is not as extreme as other types of physical activity. You can start with a gentler type of yoga and go from there. Always consult your primary care provider before starting a new exercise.

Photo by Agung Pandit Wiguna.

Dr. Yamila Cruz, DC is a health care provider: chiropractor, AIP certified coach, functional dry needling and cupping certified. She is also a 200-hour Registered Yoga Teacher (RYT), dance medicine specialist and dance instructor. She practices in Colorado, and in her free time she is hiking, biking or camping with her boyfriend and two dogs, Bori and Eva. You can contact her at: /


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