There is growing evidence to show that mind-body practices like meditation and yoga actually change your genetic expression and counteract cellular damage induced by states of chronic stress.
Yoga and meditation have been practiced for over 5000 years in India but there still remain questions around their biological effects on our health and how yoga compares to other types of exercise.
Research is now showing that these practices influence our biology through epigenetics (basically turning a particular gene “on” or “off”).
Science and spirituality are starting to merge closer together.
Studies are looking at how short and long-term meditation practitioners may regulate immunity, metabolic rate, and response to oxidative stress.
A yoga or meditation practice can change your genetic expression.
The changes in genetic expression as a result of doing these mind-body exercises to elicit the “relaxation response” play a significant role in reducing the body’s inflammation and states of anxiety.
This is especially relevant if you have heart disease, mental health concerns, autoimmune disorders or cancer.
We are just starting to discover what is occurring on a molecular level in a relaxed state.
The “relaxation response” (RR) is a physiological and psychological state that is opposite to the stress or fight-or-flight response. The RR can be elicited through multiple mind-body approaches such as yoga, mediation, tai chi, qi gong, progressive muscle relaxation, biofeedback, and breathing exercises.
The common thread between all these techniques:
(1) focus on a word, sound, phrase, repetitive prayer, or movement
(2) disregard the everyday thought
These two steps are critical in breaking the train of everyday thinking and influencing physiological changes such as oxygen consumption, blood pressure, respiratory rate and alterations in the brain.
A regular daily practice is recommended for sustained beneficial effects.
A regular practice does not need to be a long time but the more regular the better although there are sustained genetic expression benefits observed in both short-term and long-term meditators. Brain EEGs show that there is an increase in theta and alpha brain frequencies during a meditative state.
Studies have found benefit from just 8 weeks of 12 minute daily Kirtan Kriya meditation (KKM) based on genome-wide transcriptional profiles collected at baseline and at the 8-week mark. A reduction in the activity of pro-inflammatory NF-kB and significantly lower levels of depressive symptoms were found.
8 weeks can seem daunting, I know. Don’t worry, changes in genetic expression have been seen even within a single session of a RR-eliciting practice like meditation.
My top 3 meditation tools to get your started:
- Headspace — free 10-day meditation challenge
- Calm.com — timed body scans on-the-go, with music
- Oprah & Deepak’s 21-Day Meditation Experience