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Yoga & Meditation Impact Gene Expression? Really?

13 Jul

Why are we hearing breaking news about the health benefits of yoga and meditation? We already knew they were good for us…

The media madness is about a recent article in Frontiers of Science, What is the Molecular Signature of Mind-Body Interventions? A systematic Review of Gene Expression Changes Induced by Meditation and Related Practices by Ivana Buric, Miguel Farias, Jonathan Jong, Christopher Mee and Inti A. Brazil.

According to the article, while there is considerable evidence for the effectiveness of mind–body interventions (MBIs) in improving mental and physical health, the molecular mechanisms of these benefits have been poorly understood.

“One hypothesis is that MBIs reverse expression of genes involved in inflammatory reactions that are induced by stress,” the authors state. They performed a meta-analysis of 18 studies, conducted to examine changes in gene expression that occur after MBI’s, and explore how those changes relate to health.

Now, in addition to numerous studies touting the positive outcomes of MBI, we have studies that look at the actual physiology of these practices, the way they affect our cells, and we find indications that they can alter gene expression.

That’s the big deal!

The authors concluded that more research is needed, but the studies have found a down-regulation of certain genes. This can be understood as the reversal of the effects of chronic stress.

The research also indicates that some of the psychological and physical benefits of MBI’s are underpinned by biological changes in genes that reduce disease-causing inflammation.

What does this mean to you and me? If we’re already practicing yoga, meditation, tai chi, guided imagery or any other mind-body practice, it’s good to know there’s a reason it makes us feel better. If we’ve heard the good news about the positive outcomes of these practices and we’ve been meaning to start, there’s an excellent reason to stop procrastinating.

For the cynics, who need hard evidence that something works before they dip even one toe into the water, it’s here.

Hippocrates must have sensed this when he urged people to tap into their inner physicians, “Natural forces within us are the true healers of disease.”

Citation: Buric I, Farias M, etal. (2017) What Is the Molecular Signature of Mind–Body Interventions? A Systematic Review of Gene Expression Changes Induced by Meditation and Related Practices. Front. Immunol. 8:670. doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2017.00670

For more information about studies on meditation and the reversal of cell aging, read Belleruth’s blog post Anti-Aging effects of Meditation on Telomerase Activity.

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Maggie DeMellier

Maggie DeMellier has been Health Journeys go-to customer service representative and marketing associate since March 2012. She worked as a surgical technician and pharmacy technician before she earned a BA in Mass Media Communication at The University of Akron. She operates a freelance writing business, specializing in medical ads, news articles, police blotters, features and business writing.  She was a teacher at a career college for six years, and earned a MA in Forensic Psychology in 2010. Maggie is the co-author of Parenting by Law or Grace, published by Synchronisity Press, in 2004.