The Genetic Influence of Yoga

Creating a More Wonderful World: Yoga Influence on a Genetic Level

Most people can easily associate yoga with relaxation, stretching, and physical strength, but do we know how or why from a scientific standpoint? The relaxation benefits go far beyond the hour long meditation class. How far? Think genetics far. Yoga has been proven through numerous extensive research studies to have a significant impact on the genes that regulate more than just our natural stress-response. Yoga imprints its energies on the genes that are involved with aging, metabolism, insulin, relaxation, and happiness.

Researchers at the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind/Body Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center trained 26 adult subjects without prior experience in various relaxation techniques such as meditation and mindfulness practice. Participants were given blood tests immediately preceding and immediately following 20 minutes of self-directed practice. By looking at 22,000 different gene sequences, researchers were able to identify and measure any changes that occurred during/after practicing various relaxation techniques (meditation, mantra, mindfulness).
All 26 participants showed measurable changes in the genes that researchers have identified as being responsible for or related to relaxation (reduced cell energy production), aging, metabolism and even insulin response. These changes were shown to be indicative of a reduced stress response and initiated activity in telomere maintenance genes, meaning that the meditation and mindfulness practice may have actually initiated changes in the body that led to repair of DNA.

Imagine the impact yoga could have on the evolutionary development of human beings. Just like the food you eat influences your genes, yoga has the power to influence our nature, graceful aging, long-term health maintenance, relaxation and ultimately our levels of happiness and satisfaction. Our genetics are what we pass down from generation to generation at the most basic level. Imagine a world with more people who are naturally more happy, healthy, and relaxed!

Bhasin MK, Dusek JA, Chang B-H, Joseph MG, Denninger JW, Fricchione GL, et al. (2013) Relaxation Response Induces Temporal Transcriptome Changes in Energy Metabolism, Insulin Secretion and Inflammatory Pathways. PLoS ONE 8(5): e62817. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0062817

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