Researchers have been studying the effects of yoga and meditation on stress, anxiety, and depression for decades, but a new study shows that these activities might have stress-busting benefits down to a genetic level.
A recent study from the Centre for Psychology at Coventry University found that mind-body interventions (MBIs) such as yoga and meditation (and even art therapy and Thai Chi) can counter changes in our DNA that cause stress. While the majority of research has focused on how MBIs benefit our mental health, this study looked specifically at the impact on gene expression.
The genetics of stress
Typically, when we go through a stressful event, our sympathetic nervous system springs into action-triggering a fight or flight response. When that happens, genes are produced which create molecules known as cytokines, which then can lead to cellular inflammation. Over time this can cause health problems like depression, anxiety, and even cancer.
The study found that mind-body interventions can lower the production of cytokines, leading to lower levels of inflammation and stress overall.
“These activities are leaving what we call a molecular signature in our cells,” says study author Ivana Buric, “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 well-being.”
The number of people benefiting from yoga and meditation has almost doubled since 2002. If you want to start incorporating more stress-relieving activities into your life, we have a few simple suggestions. This simple 15 minute yoga practice will give you energy any time throughout the day, while these 8 poses will help promote a restful sleep. These tips will help demystify meditation and set you up for a successful practice. Start small-you don’t have to become a yogi to reap the stress-busting rewards of these mind-body interventions.