Though yoga and meditation are growing in popularity, the lack of much solid, scientific backing make it difficult for many to truly believe in the promised mental effects.
Luckily for any skeptics in the fitness community, new research published in the Frontiers of Immunology journal might finally provide some scientific support for these relaxation practices. The research, looking at studies spanning more than a decade, focused on practices such as yoga, tai chi and meditation—and came to an interesting conclusion.
The research found that these practices may be able to reverse molecular reactions in human DNA, such as reactions to stress that can lead to consequences such as depression and poor health.
When in a prolonged stressful situation, our sympathetic nervous system is activated—triggering genes to produce proteins called cytokines. These proteins lead to inflammation in the cells, which over time can increase the risk of cancer, depression and accelerated aging.
In the research, mind-body practices such as yoga and mindfulness seemed to decrease the production of these cytokines, reversing the resulting inflammation and lowering the risk of the associated ailments.
“Millions of people around the world already enjoy the health benefits of mind-body interventions like yoga or meditation, but what they perhaps don’t realize is that these benefits begin at a molecular level and can change the way our genetic code goes about its business,” said Ivana Buric of the Brain, Belief and Behavior Lab in Coventry University’s Center for Psychology, Behavior and Achievement. Put simply, mind-body interventions cause the brain to steer our DNA processes along a path which improves our wellbeing.”
Photo: Dave Rosenblum, CC-BY
Emma Korstanje is a freelance journalist based out of Athens, GA.