Understanding how exercise changes hormones and genes for preventing and/or treating obesity is one of Dr. Marcia Abbott’s primary research interests. She is also an advanced practitioner and certified instructor of various forms of yoga, including Vinyasa and Yin. During winter break, she fulfilled a longtime goal of traveling to India to study a rigorous form of yoga called Ashtanga. She studied at the Ashtanga Yoga Kovalam, under the supervision of the Director of the Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute, Lino Miele and his team. In doing so, an idea for a new research project aimed at examining the health effects of yoga on obesity took root. Dr. Abbott hopes to use her physiology expertise to examine the health benefits of yoga from a molecular standpoint.
“Obesity is a major problem, we know that for sure. We also know that diet and exercise are key to maintaining a healthy weight. But, the problem is that with our busy lives we don’t make lasting commitments to exercise. As I practice yoga, I look around and I see that people LOVE yoga. Studies actually show that people are more likely to maintain a yoga exercise routine. Anecdotally, we’ve all heard that yoga is good for our health. Studies are now in support of the beneficial health effects of yoga. But, there’s a gap in the literature. The molecules, hormones and gene regulators, that may be responsible for yoga’s beneficial health effects are not known. In fact, they aren’t widely studied.”
Dr. Abbott has submitted a grant proposal to the National Institute of Health (NIH) to explore these questions. Dr. Abbott and her collaborator, Dr. Josh Cotter from Cal State Long Beach, hope to uncover specific molecules that change with yoga exercise. The hope is that participation in a structured yoga routine will act to increase molecules associated with reductions in body fat. If funded, her research project could shed new light into the understanding of the biological role that yoga plays in reducing obesity and its associated diseases.