Relax your mind and then consider this: The physical and mental health benefits of pursuits like yoga and meditation begin in your genes, a new review suggests.
The researchers reviewed 18 studies, involving a total of 846 people, to examine how the behavior of genes is affected by yoga, tai chi, meditation and other mind-body interventions.
The conclusion: Such activities reverse molecular reactions in DNA that cause poor health and depression.
“Millions of people around the world already enjoy the health benefits of mind-body interventions like yoga or meditation, but what they perhaps don’t realize is that these benefits begin at a molecular level and can change the way our genetic code goes about its business,” said lead researcher Ivana Buric.
Buric is a doctoral candidate with the Brain, Belief and Behavior Lab at Coventry University in Great Britain.
“These activities are leaving what we call a molecular signature in our cells, which reverses the effect that stress or anxiety would have on the body by changing how our genes are expressed. Put simply, [mind-body interventions] cause the brain to steer our DNA processes along a path which improves our well-being,” Buric said in a university news release.
More study is needed to understand these effects fully and how mind-body interventions compare to other healthy activities and dietary habits, she said.
“But this is an important foundation to build on to help future researchers explore the benefits of increasingly popular mind-body activities,” Buric added.
The findings were published June 16 in the journal Frontiers in Immunology.
Harvard Medical School has more on yoga.