The Positive Effects of Yoga and Meditation at the Molecular Level

For the past several decades, the world has seen an exponential growth, interest, and curiosity in mind-body interventions such as yoga, meditation, and Tai Chi. After practicing such disciplines, it doesn’t take long for us to feel physically stronger and experience increased mental clarity. As the saying goes, it does the mind and body good.

But new research by the universities of Coventry and Radboud, published in the journal Frontiers in Immunology, suggest that the benefits of these practices are far greater than simply calming the mind and strengthening the body. The benefits actually begin at the molecular level and can change our genetic destiny. In other words, they can ‘reverse’ the molecular reactions in our DNA which cause ill-health and depression. How?

As we all know by now, stress is a silent killer, and when we are under stress, our fight-or-flight response is activated. Stress produces an inflammatory effect that temporarily bolsters the immune system. In mankind’s hunter-gatherer prehistory, this played an important role when there was a higher risk of infection from wounds. In modern society, however, where stress has increasingly become psychological and long-term, persistent pro-inflammatory gene expression is more likely to cause psychiatric and medical problems.

In their research, over the course of 11 years, experts drew from 18 studies featuring 846 participants to analyze how different mind-body interventions affected the behavior and expression of our genes, meaning they focused on the way genes activate to produce proteins. Proteins are the building blocks of the body, which influence our biological make-up, brain functioning, and immune system. They are responsible for the structure and function of the body. The results of this study point to a pattern of molecular changes that happen to the body when practicing mind-body interventions, which result in beneficial changes to our mental and physical health. So how does it work?

Our sympathetic nervous system (SNS) is responsible for the ‘fight-or-flight’ response, and when a person experiences a stressful event, the SNS is triggered. The result is that the body begins to increase production of a molecule called nuclear factor kappa B (NF-kB). NF-kB is responsible for regulating how our genes are expressed. It translates stress by activating genes, which in turn produce proteins called cytokines. Cytokines cause inflammation at the cellular level. Again, this inflammation is beneficial as a short-lived fight-or-flight reaction, but the long-term effect leads to a higher risk of cancer, accelerated aging, and psychiatric disorders like depression.

What researchers in this study suggest, however, is that people who practice mind-body activities such as mediation and yoga, produce the opposite effect—that is, their bodies experience a decrease in the production of NF-kB and cytokines. This reverses the pro-inflammatory gene-expression pattern and results in a reduction of the risk of inflammation-related diseases and conditions.

“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,” said Coventry University’s lead investigator, Ivana Buric. “Put simply, MBIs cause the brain to steer our DNA processes along a path which improves our wellbeing.”

Is it possible then that the more we engage in meditation, yoga, and mind-body interventions, the less we will rely on doctors, drugs, and surgeries—and perhaps even prolong our lives and improve our quality of life?

The next time you sit down to meditate, practice yoga, or any other alternative activity, just remember—you might actually be changing your life.

2017-06-24T14:37:06+00:00

21 Comments

  1. Eva June 24, 2017 at 3:15 pm - Reply

    Could you please share the link of those articles?

    Thank you

  2. Leda Lu Muniz June 27, 2017 at 12:19 pm - Reply

    Really true!! Thank you !

  3. Nicki Criston July 1, 2017 at 11:00 am - Reply

    What Dr Joe’s article suggests has such credibility, I was an whenever I can meditator because I thought I was too busy or just didn’t feel like it, I’m now meditating every morning as early as I can, good that I’m an early riser anyway, and most of the time fitting in evening meditation also, have to say I can see a difference in myself, can feel a different person emerging which includes a sense of empowerment, handling challengers with ease and the best part so joyful and loving life. What a great time to be alive.

  4. Carhie July 1, 2017 at 11:14 am - Reply

    And changes continue to happen….

  5. Andrea Garris July 1, 2017 at 12:24 pm - Reply

    Such powerful information! I love your work and it is truly helping me recreate my life. I am coming to your Workshop in Atlanta on July 14th. I watched some of the testimonies from previous ones and I am beyond grateful and filled with excitement to be attending such a life changing event! Thank you Dr Joe for all you do!!

  6. olga Sapiains July 1, 2017 at 1:11 pm - Reply

    Thank you. I needed that explanation to reinforce my dedication to meditation!

  7. cathy Preston July 1, 2017 at 2:52 pm - Reply

    July 1, 2017 Canada is 150 years old today… from my side, as a Canadian (your friends to the north), we could all use more mind-body interventions or mind-based interventions (MBIs) … I had to look the initials MBIs up, for more understanding… Dr. Joe taught me to Stop and take the time (a few seconds to copy and Thesaurus) to gain more clarity and meaning… then continue reading on. haha ~ I’m learning.

    Happy July 4 celebrations to all our wonderful friends to the south!

    Thanks; love you guys (as a wise man always says… here we go)

  8. Susan Longley July 1, 2017 at 4:58 pm - Reply

    I really enjoy reading your newsletter, despite how difficult it is to read the light gray type. I’m 68 and it probably takes me twice as long to read it than if it were black and a wee bit larger. Thanks.

  9. Terri July 1, 2017 at 6:53 pm - Reply

    Inspiring, as always. Thanks!

  10. Elsie July 2, 2017 at 3:50 am - Reply

    Excellent..thank you as always for sharing !!

  11. Denis July 2, 2017 at 5:38 am - Reply

    I already new that with out knowing that

  12. Tina July 2, 2017 at 5:27 pm - Reply

    I’ve experienced the healing benefits of meditation and yoga on the mind and body, and know the truth of what you teach in your books and workshops Dr Joe. Thank you for empowering us with information that both enriches our understanding and reveals our potential.
    with Gratitude~

  13. cathy Preston July 2, 2017 at 6:33 pm - Reply

    For me Dr. Joe – you are the big boat that has left the marina and set sail for the mainland, creating a smooth wake that the rest of us can follow….like the story told in Manifesting Michelangelo…

    Thank You

    cathy Preston

  14. liliana scapoli July 2, 2017 at 10:00 pm - Reply

    Grazie per tutte le informazioni e per il metodo che ci ha insegnato continuo a fare le sue meditazioni compreso le ultime tre arrivate in italiano
    spero che a breve possano arrivare in italiano anche quelle del seminario avanzato fatto a gennaio 2017 .Dr Joe grazie e con profonda gratitudine .
    Liliana

  15. Lynn Levitt July 3, 2017 at 6:00 am - Reply

    Since attending the Progressive in Perth then the Advanced in Cancun I have been measuring the results by day and charting feedback from friends and work colleagues. My immune system has definitely changed. Inflammation and weight has fallen off me and I am calmer, relaxed and my anxiousness has definitely reduced significantly and this is something I have been fighting most of my life. I always new meditation and Yoga did this, but until I read and attended (more importantly) the workshops the changes were only minor. Now it’s daily and I have to laugh as “weird” stuff just keeps happening – really great weird stuff. Love him love him love him. Can’t recommend him enough. I have gifted his book to many friends and a client is attending in Bonn!! Really measurable impact. Thank you. Lynn Australia.

  16. Doris July 3, 2017 at 8:05 am - Reply

    I find meditation very helpful in stimulating my creativity. It also let’s me go within and solve problems in the most harmonious manner possible. I think of meditation as food for my soul. When I miss it in the morning, I can tell all day long.

  17. Sylvia Mock July 5, 2017 at 3:06 pm - Reply

    I LOVE what you do! BUT, i have never been able to meditate – my brain jumps around too much. I’ve even tried guided meditation and the same thing happens.
    Also, I always get hurt when I do any yoga. Too bad!
    Any ideas?

  18. Cristina Didelet July 6, 2017 at 11:03 am - Reply

    I do experience that! Thank you Dr. Joe Dispenza! Gratitude and Love from Portugal!

  19. cathy July 8, 2017 at 4:53 pm - Reply

    G Thank You ~ wonderful messages of Truth…

  20. Mr_C July 20, 2017 at 2:20 pm - Reply

    Maybe you should have mentioned also that : “These results need to be replicated in larger samples and with stronger research designs that control for non-specific effects of these practices and for as confounding lifestyle factors, such as sleep, diet, and exercise.”
    This point is very important because these factors are at least as important as the practice of meditation.

  21. Rocio September 4, 2017 at 6:09 pm - Reply

    I am very happy and thankful to read your insight about this…I teach yoga and meditations to high school students in the University of Guadalajara…and this article gave me the inspiration to continuos in this path.
    Love and peace ever!

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