- Long-term stress activates the sympathetic
nervous system (SNS), which causes production of a molecule called nuclear
factor kappa B (NF-kB) that triggers genes to produce proteins called
- Cytokines cause inflammation at cellular level
and this persistent inflammation can lead to many psychiatric and medical
problems like cancer and depression.
interventions like meditation, yoga and Tai Chi work at a molecular level by
reversing the reactions in the DNA that cause ill-health and
The molecular reactions in the human DNA
that are responsible for causing ill-health and depression can be 'reversed' by
Mind-body interventions (MBIs) such as meditation, yoga and Tai Chi
According to the study by the universities
of Coventry and Radboud, these interventions not only relax the human mind but
also work at a genetic level to negate the effects of stress
‘Mind-body interventions like yoga and meditation can undo the effects of stress by causing observable molecular changes and down-regulating the genes that cause inflammation.’
there is considerable evidence regarding the benefits of MBIs, their
contribution at a molecular level has not been well explored.
For the research, decades worth of
studies were analyzed. The studies showed how the behavior of genes is affected
by different MBIs including mindfulness and yoga.
The team of researchers focused on 18
studies including 846 participants over a period of 11 years. These studies
revealed how MBIs induce molecular changes and how this pattern of changes
benefit the mental and physical health.
The studies focuses on gene
showing how a protein which influences the biological make-up of
the body, the brain and the immune system, is produced when the genes get
"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 investigator Ivana Buric from the Brain, Belief and
Behavior Lab in Coventry University's Centre for Psychology, Behavior and
The Body's Reaction to Stress
The body's sympathetic nervous system, that is responsible for the 'flight
or fight' response, is triggered in response to stress. This response induces the
production of a molecule called nuclear factor kappa B (NF-kB) which regulates
how our genes are expressed.
NF-kB activates the genes to produce
proteins called cytokines, that cause inflammation at cellular level. Though
the production of cytokines is useful as a short-lived fight-or-flight
reaction, their persistence increases risk of cancer, accelerates aging and induces psychiatric
disorders like depression
Benefits of MBI
People who practice MBIs exhibit an effect
that is the opposite of that observed in those who do not engage in such
practices, concluded the study.
In such people, the production of NF-kB
and cytokines is reduced, which leads to a reversal of the pro-inflammatory
gene expression pattern. This reduces the risk of inflammation-related diseases
"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 well-being." Buric added.
What is Yoga?
is a mind-body
practice that involves techniques such as:
benefits the body and mind
together the physical and mental disciplines.
How Does Yoga Benefit the Body?
- It reduces
stress and anxiety, and helps the individual
- It improves
muscle strength, flexibility and tone
- It helps in weight management
conditions like blood pressure, arthritis, heart disease
has become an integral part
of the fast-paced contemporary life. The long-term effects of stress can lead
pro-inflammatory gene expression which increases the likelihood of various
psychiatric and medical problems.
"More needs to be done to understand
these effects in greater depth, for example how they compare with other healthy
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." Buric says.
The findings are published in the journal
Frontiers in Immunology
- Yoga: Fight stress and find serenity -
Benefits of Yoga - (http://www.osteopathic.org/osteopathic-health/about-your-health/health-conditions-library/general-health/Pages/yoga.aspx)
- Ivana Buric et al. What Is the Molecular
Signature of Mind-Body Interventions? A Systematic Review of Gene Expression
Changes Induced by Meditation and Related Practices. Frontiers in
Immunology; (2017) DOI Link