Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune condition marked by inflammation and pain. A significant challenge for medical practitioners has been the modulation of the immune response in RA patients to manage its debilitating symptoms. A recent study sheds light on the potential of yoga as a potent therapeutic aid for RA patients.

The Core Findings

The study, publised in Scientific Reports (Gautan et al. 2023), assessed the impact of an 8-week yoga programme on active RA patients on standard DMARDs. The results were encouraging:

  1. Significant improvement in Disease Activity Score (DAS28-ESR). This means their Disease Activity Score (DAS28-ESR) got better. This score tells us how severe the disease is.
  2. A decline in Th17 cells (linked with inflammation) and aged T cell subsets. The number of Th17 cells, which can cause inflammation, went down, and so did some old T cell groups.
  3. An increase in Treg cell population (essential for maintaining immune balance). Good news! The Treg cell count went up. These cells help keep our immune system balanced.
  4. Positive modifications in epigenetic markers and inflammatory markers.
  5. Downregulation of pro-inflammatory genes and upregulation of genes associated with immune modulation. This means some genes that cause inflammation were less active, while genes that help manage the immune system became more active.

These results suggest that yoga may offer an avenue to restore immune homeostasis, reduce immunological aging, and positively influence gene expression and epigenetic alterations in RA patients.

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Complementary Finding

Another 2023 study by Karalilova et al. published in Folia Medica looked into the relationship between the proinflammatory molecule called interleukin 17 (IL-17) and certain antibodies in patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). They tested serum levels of IL-17 in 47 RA patients and 44 healthy individuals. The results showed that RA patients had higher IL-17 levels than the healthy group. While there was no significant link between IL-17 and some of the antibodies (anti-CCP and anti-MCV), they did find a noteworthy correlation between IL-17 and anti-CarP antibodies. This suggests that IL-17 might play a role in the development of RA in patients who have the anti-CarP antibody.

The research article published in the Journal of Clinical Diagnosis Research (Rajbhoj et al. 2015), examined the impact of yoga on certain inflammatory markers in industrial workers. 48 male participants, aged between 30-58 years, were split into two groups: one practicing yoga and a control group. The study tracked the levels of a pro-inflammatory marker (IL-1β) and an anti-inflammatory marker (IL-10) over a 12-week period. The findings showed that the yoga group experienced a notable decrease in the pro-inflammatory marker and an increase in the anti-inflammatory marker, whereas the control group showed no change. The study also concludes that yoga has potential benefits in reducing inflammation.

For fitness professionals, understanding the potential benefits of yoga for RA patients can be invaluable. Incorporating yoga into the wellness routines of RA patients may provide them with a holistic method to combat inflammation, manage pain, and improve overall quality of life. Given its non-invasive nature and the promising findings from recent studies, yoga stands out as a compelling adjunct to modern medicine in RA management.


  1. Gautam, S., Kumar, R., Kumar, U. et al. Yoga maintains Th17/Treg cell homeostasis and reduces the rate of T cell aging in rheumatoid arthritis: a randomised controlled trial. Sci Rep 13, 14924 (2023). Click here to review the full research article
  2. Selimov P, Karalilova R, Damjanovska L, Delcheva G, Stankova T, Stefanova K, Maneva A, Selimov T, Batalov A (2023) Rheumatoid arthritis and the proinflammatory cytokine IL-17. Folia Medica 65(1): 53-59. Click here to review the full research article
  3. Rajbhoj PH, Shete SU, Verma A, Bhogal RS. Effect of yoga module on pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory cytokines in industrial workers of lonavla: a randomised controlled trial. J Clin Diagn Res. 2015 Feb;9(2):CC01-5. Click here to review the full research article 

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