If you’ve ever practiced yoga, meditation or tai chi, you don’t need us to tell you the benefits you see and feel right away. But did you know they can do more than just relax us for a bit or stretch our tight muscles?
According to a study by the universities of Coventry and Radboud, these mind-body interventions (MBIs) can actually “reverse” the reactions in our DNA that cause poor health, stress and depression.
The research was recently published in the journal Frontiers in Immunology and reviews more than a decade of studies that analyzed how the behavior of our genes is affected by activities such as yoga and meditation. Researchers concluded that there is a pattern in the molecular changes that happen to our bodies as a result of these MBIs. Simply put, those changes in turn affect our mental and physical health.
To break it down even further, think of it this way: When we’re stressed, our sympathetic nervous system is triggered, which increases a molecule that regulates how our genes are expressed. That molecule translates stress by activating genes that cause inflammation at a cellular level. That’s a good thing if you’re, say, trying to run away from a kidnapper (aka: fight-or-flight response), but not so great in the long term. If your body is continually producing this molecule, it can lead to all the things we hear happen due to stress, like cancer or depression.
While the researchers concluded that the results need to be replicated with control of things such as sleep, diet and exercise, this study found the overall deregulation of the molecule that increases stress, which could open the doors to more testing on the topic.
While you wait for more studies, why not test it out yourself? There’s nothing to lose by giving it a go! Here’s a handy guide from Yoga Basics on how to start a yoga practice.