Yoga can not only keep your mind and body fit, but also have a positive impact on chronic inflammatory disorders like rheumatoid arthritis, a new study shows.

The latest study, published in Scientific Reports, revealed that practicing yoga regularly could significantly help in managing rheumatoid arthritis (RA) by reducing stress and inflammation in the body.

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune and inflammatory disease that occurs when a person's immune system attacks healthy cells, causing inflammation (painful swelling) in the affected parts of the body. It mainly attacks the joints, usually many joints at once, and over time, may lead to issues like bone erosion and joint deformity.

There is no cure available for rheumatoid arthritis. However, early treatment and support, including medication, lifestyle changes and surgical options, can reduce the risk of joint damage and minimize the impact of the condition.

In the latest study, researchers analyzed 64 RA patients for eight weeks. The participants were divided into two groups – the yoga group and non-yoga group, each consisting of 32 people.

Participants in the first group had yoga sessions five times a week for 120 minutes each. It included "asanas" (postures), "pranayama" (regulated breathing techniques), "dhyana" (meditation) and "savasana" (relaxation techniques), followed by interactive sessions on stress management, nutrition, as well as personal lifestyle management. The yoga program was designed to accommodate active RA patients to ensure it did not cause any further irritation to the already inflamed joints. Those with joint deformities and limitations were asked to do personalized physical postures, relaxation exercises and deep breathing exercises.

The research team noticed that eight weeks of practicing yoga significantly lowered the disease activity of patients in the first group and stabilized inflammation-related biomarkers and cell homeostasis.

"The study is compelling because it dives into the molecular mechanisms by which yoga could help alleviate the symptoms of RA," Dr. Monisha Bhanote, an integrative medicine lifestyle physician who was not involved in the study, told Medical News Today. "This goes beyond symptomatic relief and looks into how yoga impacts the immune system, particularly the Th17/Treg cell balance, which is known to be disrupted in RA."

The study requires further research as it was conducted in a small group for a short duration. Researchers believe the findings might pave the way for healthcare providers to recommend yoga as a complementary treatment to disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs), a class of drugs used for the treatment of several inflammatory arthritides, including rheumatoid arthritis.