While a lot of people think that meditation and yoga, in general, are silly and not worth their time others really do benefit from partaking. If you have ever given either a try, chances are you know just how relaxing they can be.
A study from back in 2017 actually found that doing things like Tai Chi, meditation, and yoga might be able to reverse the molecular reactions in our DNA that cause depression and other things of the sort. This study comes from Coventry University and brings forth a lot of questions. Basically, any Mind-Body interventions like those listed above seem to relax us to the point where they are able to actually in a sense help us heal.
These findings were published in the journal Frontiers in Immunology and goes over of analyses in regards to our genes and what kinds of MBIs affect them. Their research focused on how the gene expression is affected when a person does things like practice yoga and general mindfulness. You see, when a person is exposed to something stressful their nervous system reacts in a fight or flight manner that increased the production of NF-kB. NF-kB is is a protein complex that controls transcription of DNA, cytokine production and cell survival or to put it in layman’s terms, how our genes end up being expressed.
There is considerable evidence for the effectiveness of mind-body interventions (MBIs) in improving mental and physical health, but the molecular mechanisms of these benefits remain poorly understood. One hypothesis is that MBIs reverse expression of genes involved in inflammatory reactions that are induced by stress. 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. We searched PubMed throughout September 2016 to look for studies that have used gene expression analysis in MBIs (i.e., mindfulness, yoga, Tai Chi, Qigong, relaxation response, and breath regulation). Due to the limited quantity of studies, we included both clinical and non-clinical samples with any type of research design. Eighteen relevant studies were retrieved and analyzed. Overall, the studies indicate that these practices are associated with a downregulation of nuclear factor kappa B pathway; 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. However, it is unclear how the effects of MBIs compare to other healthy interventions such as exercise or nutrition due to the small number of available studies. More research is required to be able to understand the effects of MBIs at the molecular level.
This study found that people who practice MBIs did not have this occur, they were experiencing the opposite. They actually noted a decrease in the production of NF-kB and thus the reversal began. While this might sound confusing it is quite an interesting find and makes meditation all the more enticing.
“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.”
“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, MBIs cause the brain to steer our DNA processes along a path which improves our wellbeing.”
“More needs to be done to understand these effects in greater depth, for example how they correlate with other health interventions like exercise or nutrition. But this is an important foundation to build on to help future researchers explore the benefits of increasingly popular mind-body activities.”
This kind of thing can happen because the reduction of NF-kB prevents genes that make and release cytokines from being turned on. Because of that, it leaves a reduced inflammation level within the body and decreases a person’s risk of several illnesses and diseases.