Yoga and meditation are well-documented to have psychological, emotional and physical benefits for people at all stages of health. Now breakthrough research reveals yoga and meditation can positively affect DNA.
What are Telomeres?
Telomeres are filamentous protective extensions at the ends of chromosomes (DNA) and their length is directly related to cell life. As cells divide, telomeres become progressively shorter. At a certain point, they become too short for cells to divide. When that point occurs, the cells die. Extending telomere length extends cell life, and that may extend lifespan overall.
Telomeres, located at the tips of DNA chromosomes, shorten with aging and age-related diseases including cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
Yoga and mediation can change the length (Increasing length) of the Telomeres of the DNA increasing longevity as some studies are now showing.
Some of the current studies that support this change are below
Meditation practice focusing on health, happiness and well-being towards all people (do no harm) is a common practice among yogis. This practice was studied by Harvard Medical School.
1. The study conducted at Harvard University showed broad genetic modification with yoga practice. In that study, one group was trained in mindfulness meditation, and the control group received no training. After eight weeks, blood samples were taken from both groups. The meditation group showed changes in 2209 genes. The genetic changes observed included 1,275 instances in which genes were up-regulated (their activity increased), and 934 cases in which the genes were down-regulated (their activity decreased). Many of the genetic changes prompted by the yoga practice involved cellular metabolism. This is the capacity of cells to utilize nutrients and oxygen, and to generate energy. Those who practiced the yoga method showed improved cellular metabolism, and better cell function overall. Also in addition, many of the genetic changes in the yoga group was related to improved resistance to oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is associated with numerous degenerative disorders, including cardiovascular disease (heart), neurological disorders (Brain), and more. Improved resistance to oxidative stress translates into better health overall, with reduced risk of chronic diseases. Also noted in the study The researchers found the meditators had longer telomeres than non-meditators. This was noted to be even more pronounced in the female subjects.
“ These results offer the intriguing possibility that Meditation practice, especially in women, might alter relative telomere length, a biomarker associated with longevity,”
2. University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway conducted a small study using 10 test subjects and a week-long yoga retreat and hiking.
For the study the participants practiced yoga for the first two days, spending two hours moving through postures, breathing exercises and meditation. Then they shifted to spending the time in nature walks and listening to music for the next two days.
When the researchers analyzed blood drawn from the participants before and after each session, they found that yoga changed the expression almost triple the number of genes in immune cells compared to those of the nature walks. Therefore proving that the gene expression was much more pronounced in the days the participants practiced yoga vs the days of hiking.
3. According to a Ohio State University study, which was led by Janice Kiecolt-Glaser, professor of psychiatry and psychology, Studied 200 breast cancer survivors who had not practiced yoga before. Half the group continued to ignore yoga, while the other half received twice-weekly, 90-minute classes for 12 weeks, with take-home DVDs and encouragement to practice at home. The group that had practiced yoga reported less fatigue and higher levels of vitality three months after treatment had ended.
That’s important because inflammation is associated with chronic diseases including heart disease, diabetes, and arthritis. It’s also one of the reasons that cancer survivors commonly feel fatigue for months, even years, following treatment.
But the study didn’t rely only on self-reports. Kiecolt-Glaser’s research partner, examined three cytokines, proteins in the blood that are markers for inflammation.
Blood tests before and after the trial showed that, after three months of yoga practice, all three markers for inflammation were lower by 10 to 15 percent compared to those who didn’t do yoga. Thus showing some rare biological evidence of the benefits of yoga.
This yoga study used biological measures to assess results, it seems that those meditative sun salutations and downward dog poses can reduce inflammation, the body’s way of reacting to injury or irritation.
Now let’s get out there and strike a pose (asana)