Over the last decade or so, we’ve been hearing that mind-body practices like yoga and meditation may affect our genes. A new review of the research solidifies it.
Yogis have heard before that yoga, meditation, and other mind–body interventions (MBIs) not only help you relax and feel your best, but also might change the activity, or expression, of your genes, reversing the damaging effects of chronic stress. And a new scientific review of 18 previously published studies on the effects of various MBIs published in Frontiers in Immunology solidifies the claim.
“Mind-body techniques like yoga or meditation are the most effective ways of reducing stress that are known to science,” lead author Ivana Buric, a doctoral student and research assistant at Coventry University in England, tells YogaJournal.com. This systematic review was conducted to examine changes in gene expression that occur after MBIs and to explore how these molecular changes are related to health, Buric and her co-authors explain in the paper.
After reviewing the previous studies, all of which used gene expression analysis in MBIs (i.e., mindfulness, yoga, Tai Chi, Qigong, relaxation response, and breath regulation), researchers found that overall, the studies indicate that these practices are associated with a downregulation of nuclear factor kappa B (NF-κB), which is produced when stress activates the sympathetic nervous system, and is also responsible for translating stress into inflammation.
“This is the opposite of the effects of chronic stress on gene expression and suggests that MBI practices may lead to a reduced risk of inflammation-related diseases,” study authors say in the paper, adding that this is essentially a reversal of the “molecular signature” of chronic stress. One more reason to make every practice more mindful!