An explorative study of metabolic responses to mental stress and yoga practices in yoga practitioners, non-yoga practitioners and individuals with metabolic syndrome

Author: Anupama Tyagi 1, Marc Cohen 12*, John Reece 2 and Shirley Telles 3
* Corresponding author: Marc Cohen Author Affiliations 1 RMIT, West Campus, Building 201, Level 4, Bundoora, Vic 3083, Australia 2 PO Box 71, Bundoora, Vic 3083, Australia 3 Patanjali Research Foundation, Bahdrabad, Haridwar, Uttrakhand 249402, India
Conference/Journal: BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine
Date published: 2014
Other: Volume ID: 14 , Pages: 445 , Special Notes: doi:10.1186/1472-6882-14-445 , Word Count: 363

Stress places a metabolic burden on homeostasis and is linked to heightened sympathetic activity, increased energy expenditure and pathology. The yogic state is a hypometabolic state that corresponds with mind-body coherence and reduced stress. This study aimed to investigate metabolic responses to stress and different yoga practices in regular yoga practitioners (YP), non-yoga practitioners (NY) and metabolic syndrome patients (MS).

YP (n = 16), NY (n = 15) and MS (n = 15) subjects underwent an experimental protocol that comprised of different 5-minute interventions including mental arithmetic stress test (MAST), alternate nostril breathing (ANB), Kapabhati breathing (KB) and meditation (Med) interspersed with 5 minutes of quiet resting (neutral condition (NC)). During the intervention periods continuous body weight adjusted oxygen consumption (VO2ml/min/kg) was measured using open circuit indirect calorimetry with a canopy hood.

This is the first study to report oxygen consumption (OC) in yoga practitioners during and after MAST and the first to report both within and between different populations. The results were analysed with SPSS 16 using 3X9 mixed factorial ANOVAs. The single between-subject factor was group (YP, NY and MS), the single within-subject factor was made up of the nine intervention phases (NC1, MAST, NC2, ANB, NC3, KB, NC4, Med, NC5). The results demonstrated that the regular YP group had significantly less OC and greater variability in their OC across all phases compared to the MS group (p = .003) and NY group (p = .01). All groups significantly raised their OC during the mental arithmetic stress, however the MS group had a significantly blunted post-stress recovery whereas the YP group rapidly recovered back to baseline levels with post stress recovery being greater than either the NY group or MS group.

Yoga practitioners have greater metabolic variability compared to non-yoga practitioners and metabolic syndrome patients with reduced oxygen requirements during resting conditions and more rapid post-stress recovery. OC in metabolic syndrome patients displays significantly blunted post-stress recovery demonstrating reduced metabolic resilience. Our results support the findings of previous randomised trials that suggest regular yoga practice may mitigate against the effects of metabolic syndrome.

Clinical trial number
ACTRN12614001075673; Date of Registration: 07/10/2014.

Keywords: Yoga; Meditation; Breathing; Metabolic syndrome; Oxygen consumption; Energy Expenditure; Metabolic rate; Stress reactivity; Stress recovery