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Can Yoga Change Your DNA?

Brittany Nowicki
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Why do you practice yoga? We all get asked. We all have our reasons. It is no secret that the practice of yoga can increase our overall quality of life. We can attest to improved flexibility, posture, happiness, focus . . . but what if I told you that yoga can also prolong your life?
 
Science has now proven that the practice of yoga and meditation can actually change the genetic makeup of our cells!
 
Research has shown the length of the telomeres (protective extensions at the ends of your chromosomes) directly correlates to the length of the cell’s life – your life. In the study “Mindfulness-based cancer recovery” conducted by the University of Calgary, scientists compared two groups of breast cancer survivors.
 
The First: mindfulness-based cancer recovery (MBCR) group.
 
The Second: supportive expressive group therapy (SET), a minimal intervention control group.
 
Each of these groups were established to compare and contrast the effects of psychosocial issues. These could be “fears of disease recurrence, depression, anxiety, and fatigue” which are all suspected causes of regression in cancer recovery. The practice of yoga is known to reduce depression, anxiety, stress, fear, as well as increase physical and mental energy levels.
 
When studying the effects of this experiment, scientists evaluate the length of telomeres, which work to stabilize the DNA in our our cells and help them keep dividing and replicating successfully without mutations. Every time a cell divides, its telomere length shortens and when a telomere becomes too short, it can no longer replicate and therefore “dies.”
 
After 12 weeks of the study, blood samples were taken to compare the telomere length from week 1 with week 12 and as suspected, the telomeres of those who practiced yoga and meditation had remained longer, due to the reduction of stress and fear. At the same time, the control group’s telomeres continued to get shorter and shorter!
 

Science has now proven that the practice of yoga and meditation can actually change the genetic makeup of our cells!

 
Everything connects. One thing leads to another and when you make the effort to maintain a healthy life, to strengthen your muscles and your focus and your spirit, your body rewards you.
 
We can all change our lives, and it takes just 20 minutes of yoga and meditation a day! We all have the time, but having the courage to make the commitment is the biggest feat of all.
 

Everything connects. One thing leads to another and when you make the effort to maintain a healthy life, to strengthen your muscles and your focus and your spirit, your body rewards you.

 
In addition to this already awesome information, another similar study done by Harvard University proved a significant discovery. Scientists conducted research on the the Relaxation-Response (RR). It is defined as “a mind-body intervention that offsets the physiological effects caused by stress.” This type of mind-body intervention includes any of the following: meditation, prayer, yoga, tai chi, breathing exercises and all activity that helps us disregard intrusive thoughts.
 
Over the course of the 8-week study, differential gene expression was found in 2209 genes! This was a very positive finding.
 
When we practice yoga, meditation, and other forms of focus-directed exercises, we are able to reduce the amount of stress-related damage done to cells, which also contributes to prolonged cell life.
 
When a cell is under stress, it does not receive the proper oxygen and nutrients to metabolize and sustain life, but with the practice of yoga and meditation, the research showed an increase in cell metabolism which leads to increased energy and cell function.
 
Medicine Hunter Chris Kilham suggests that we are able to see “gradual voluntary control over involuntary functions.” We don’t decide when our cells live and die, but with effort, we can nudge our health in the right direction.
 

When we practice yoga, meditation, and other forms of focus-directed exercises, we are able to reduce the amount of stress-related damage done to cells, which also contributes to prolonged cell life.

 
Interested in learning more? This book, Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness, covers it all!
 

 
With this new scientific evidence of the benefits of yoga, we can only hope to see the yoga community grow. So, when your friends and family ask you why you do yoga, you should ask them WHY NOT!?
 
This article and all included information is not intended as medical advice and does not treat or diagnose. Please consult your doctor for any health-related questions or concerns.
 

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Brittany Nowicki

Brittany Nowicki is a yogi, drawn to the practice on her journey of self-discovery. Finding inspiration around every corner, she takes joy in writing and expressing the many things we are all thinking on her blog as well as reading on the beach, running, painting, and a fresh vase of flowers. Since delving more deeply into her yoga practice, she's taken a deep breath and gained perspective - always reflecting on this crazy, beautiful life and hopes to share what she learns with you.

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