The Power of Yogic Breathing

Yogic breathing when compared to attention control reduces the levels of pro-inflammatory biomarkers in saliva: a pilot randomized controlled trialBMC Complement Altern Med. 2016 – free full-text PMC article

Self-report measures indicate that Yoga practices are perceived to reduce stress; however, molecular mechanisms through which YB affects stress are just beginning to be understood.

As Yoga practice stimulates salivary secretion, and saliva is considered a source of biomarkers, changes in salivary cytokines before and after Yogic breathing exercise as specified in an ancient Tamil script, Thirumanthiram, were examined using a Cytokine Multiplex to compare to Attention Control (AC) group.  


Twenty healthy volunteers were randomized into two groups stratified by gender (N = 10 per YB and AC groups);

The YB group performed two YB exercises, each for ten minutes, for a total of twenty minutes in a single session as directed by a trained Yoga instructor.

The AC group read a text of their choice for 20 min.

Saliva was collected immediately after YB training at 0, 5, 10, 15 and 20 min and analyzed by Multiplex enzyme linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA).

These data are the first to demonstrate the feasibility of detecting salivary cytokines using multiplex assay in response to a Yoga practice.


Pro-inflammatory cytokines and chemokines are implicated in several diseases and therefore are potential targets for molecular therapy.

While non-pharmacological methods of stress reduction have long been in practice among several cultures, recently such practices are gaining acceptance worldwide.

Translating information on stress reduction from ancient cultures into modern scientific literature is important to preserve and propagate such wellness practices.

Yogic Breathing is one of the several practices within the broad field of Yoga and is known to cause key changes within mind and body including

  • blood pressure reduction,
  • heart rate variability changes, and
  • breathing frequency reductions,
  • predominant abdominal/diaphragmatic breathing,
  • improved cognitive functions (e.g., mental alertness and reduced cognitive failure),
  • increased bimanual dexterity and visuo-motor co-ordination,
  • stress and symptom reduction in diseases such as cancer.

Behavioral practices such as relaxation and exercise could bring about meaningful molecular changes among practitioners.


This is the first time a multiplex assay format has been used for the determination of salivary cytokines from a Yoga based exercise.

These results show a significant reduction in the levels of IL-1β, IL-8 and MCP-1 in the YB group when compared to the AC group. IL-1β is implicated in stress and inflammation in various diseases. Cleavage by caspases-1 and 8 activates IL-1β for subsequent induction of cyclooxygenase-2 in the central nervous system, which is involved in stress and pain perception [

IL-8 is a key mediator of inflammatory processes during various stress conditions involving oxidative stress.

Elevated levels of IL-8 is associated with poor prognosis of breast cancer and in psychosomatic disorders.

If there is no mind/body divide, there can be no such thing as a psychosomatic illness because that term implies illness ONLY caused by psychological factors.

Such a one-sided cause is no longer considered valid since we now understand how intimately interconnected the psychological mind and physical body are.

Psychosomatic disorder?

During tissue injury or infection, MCP-1 recruits key immune cells including monocytes, memory T cells, and dendritic cells; however, the level of MCP-1 is elevated in chronic pathological conditions.

The level of salivary MCP-1 is used as a biomarker of various physiological dysfunctions including coronary heart disease and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) where MCP-1 is secreted in large quantities by monocytes recruited in response to chronic endothelial inflammation.

Identification of these salivary biomarkers in response to a mind-body practice may serve as an important point towards establishing molecular mechanisms associated with these practices.

Recently it was shown that relaxation response could produce transcriptomic level changes in several molecules associated with

  • inflammation,
  • immune response, and
  • energy metabolism, 

which correlates with previous studies showing proteomic level changes following YB


For the first time, data showing that a single 20 min session of Yogic Breathing practice could reduce the levels of key pro-inflammatory biomarkers in saliva.


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