Form of yoga may ward off Alzheimer's disease

Published: Sep. 22, 2014 at 11:47 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 22, 2014 at 11:51 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - You may want to take up a simple form of yoga to stay healthy, even ward off Alzheimer's Disease. That's the finding of new research conducted at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston.

The doctor behind this research says what's exciting – this form of yoga is something just about everyone can do. He's talking about Yoga Breathing.

At the American Cancer Society's Charleston Hope Lodge, Dr. Sundar Balasubramanian leads a class in Yoga Breathing each Wednesday morning.

"Just focus on your breathing," he tells the group sitting around the large table. Cancer patients and their caregivers are learning the various techniques.

They quietly breath in, moving their fingers as they silently count.

Dr. Balasubramanian has been practicing Yoga Breathing for more than 20 years. He explains, "Once you do this, you will see that it is helping you in so many different ways."

He turned to science to find out how this form of yoga is beneficial. Through a small pilot study, he found Yoga Breathing increases saliva and more importantly, boosts Nerve Growth Factor or NGF in that saliva. Alzheimer's patients don't have much NGF.

Could these breathing techniques help ward off Alzheimer's Disease? There's more to learn about the benefits of Yoga Breathing, and not just for Alzheimer's patients. "Anyone who cannot do the postures of the popular yoga can do this," said Dr. Balasubramanian. " So breathing is good for different patient populations and during hospitalizations," he contends.

David Coleman is taking Dr. Balasubramanian's yoga breathing classes, while fighting cancer. Coleman said at first, he was a little hesitant, but he found the breathing takes away his stress and lowers his blood pressure.

"I even use the technique when I'm on the radiation table," he said. He explained his doctors didn't want him to be tense during the radiation treatments, so he felt his deep breathing helped him relax.

Dr. Balasubramanian says patients tell him they feel better. "Of course it is not going to be magic," he said. "It takes persistent practice," the researcher continued. His study is published in the Journal of the International Psychogeriatrics Association.

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