The healing power of meditation and relaxation causes changes not only at the cellular level, but also at the most subtle level of our physiology - our genes.
Our genes, lying within our DNA, hold all the information necessary to build and maintain our body from conception to death.
They transmit vital information from DNA to RNA to proteins and enzymes, which are the catalysts for all molecular interactions within our cells.
Our genetic code largely remains unchanged throughout our lives, but its expression (how and when genes are turned "on" and "off") determines our health and well-being. It is critical for this "on/off" mechanism to work precisely for our body to stay in equilibrium and ward off diseases ranging from common cold to cancer.
Science is now showing that we can positively affect gene regulation through mind-body relaxation practices and meditation.
A study conducted by Manoj Bhasin and colleagues at the Massachusetts General Hospital (Relaxation Response Induces Temporal Transcriptome Changes in Energy Metabolism, Insulin Secretion and Inflammatory Pathways, 2013) discovered that meditation has a powerful impact on our genes.
Different genes are activated in the body during meditation, mindful breathing or yoga than during a neutral or stressful state. Meditation actually changes how our genes express themselves inducing health benefits such as better metabolism, reduced inflammation of arteries and longer cell-life.
The exciting news is that these changes were witnessed in all participants, whether novice or long-term practitioners of meditation. Moreover, the rapidity of the changes was phenomenal.
Blood samples were taken three times during the 20-minute practice sessions - at the start, immediately afterward and fifteen minutes later. Both beginners and advanced meditators produced gene expression changes within this short period.
Scientists witnessed "mitochondrial resilience" or in plain language a stabilizing of key cellular processes leading to enhanced cell survival and function.
These findings are heartening and further reinforce the importance of integrating a focused relaxation-inducing activity into your daily life - meditation, yoga, prayer or mantra, pranayama or mindfulness.
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