Doing yoga increases levels of certain chemicals which increase neuroplasticity in the brain.

For men struggling with infertility, the solution could be as simple as a daily yoga routine. A new study done by the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) shows that such a routine can significantly improve sperm quality. The study was published in Nature Review Urology, an international medical journal, early this year.

A major cause of defective sperm function is DNA damage. “The quality of genetic components in the sperm are vital for the birth of healthy offspring,” said Dr Rima Dada, professor in-charge of Laboratory of Molecular Reproduction and Genetics, Department of Anatomy at AIIMS.

The major cause of DNA damage is oxidative stress, where there is an imbalance between free radical levels and anti-oxygen capacity in the body. Oxidative stress can be caused by factors like environmental pollution, exposure to insecticides and pesticides, electromagnetic radiation, infection, smoking, alcohol consumption, obesity and even eating fast food. Since these factors are mostly preventable, simple modifications in lifestyle can improve the quality of DNA which can, in turn, reduce incidents of male infertility.

Performing yoga regularly reduces oxidative stress, decreases DNA damage, and aids in maintenance of telomere lengths, Dada said. The effect can be explained by the increase in levels of certain chemicals which increase neuroplasticity. “We observed a significant decline in seminal oxidative stress (within 21 days) and improvement in DNA quality (6 months). There was decrease in inflammation and normalisation in levels of sperm transcripts and maintenance of telomere length. There was reduction in severity of depression, stress and anxiety scores as well,” she said.

Practising meditation and yoga can reduce risk of depression and cancer. (Shutterstock)

Here are some of the other benefits of yoga:

* A 2018 study by researchers from the Defence Institute of Physiology and Allied Sciences (DIPAS), said that yoga might help prevent age-related degeneration of the brain among men.

* A 2017 study done by researchers from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), the University of Oslo and the University of Sydney, found that there is heightened brain activity when the person’s thoughts wandered freely on their own during yoga.

* The World Health Organization (WHO) endorsed yoga in 2017 saying the ancient art can be practised by people of all ages to stay fit and fight lifestyle illnesses. The WHO endorsement follows the UN’s move two years ago when June 21 was proclaimed International Day of Yoga.

* Practising mind-body interventions (MBIs) such as meditation, yoga and Tai Chi daily can reduce risk of depression and cancer by reversing the molecular reactions in DNA, suggests a study done by researchers from the universities of Coventry and Radboud, UK.