It isn’t just about bettering your downward dog and being able to bend over backwards with a smoothie in hand–yoga works on you, down to the core.
Oh, yoga, how we love you. The benefits of posing and bending just keep on growing.
Research has proven that practicing yoga is good for you in a variety of ways. It can help you burn calories, improve your muscle tone and flexibility, calm you down, and help alleviate the symptoms of depression.
But how about altering your DNA? I know, it sounds like aliens invading, but hear me out. It’s true.
Research is showing that practicing yoga has such a deep effect on your whole self that it can actually change things down to a molecular level.
It’s like this. Researchers are calling yoga and other reflective and relaxing practices like meditation and Tai Chi ‘mind-body interventions’.
According to a study completed at the universities of Coventry and Radboud in England, published in the journal Frontiers in Immunology, practicing yoga, meditation or Tai Chi changes how your body deals with the fight-or-flight response and this benefits us in the long term.
When you go through a stressful time, your mind tells you to stay and fight against the bad guy for your right to party, or run for the hills. It’s the fight-or-flight response.
Once this is switch is turned on, our body responds to all the stress by triggering our sympathetic nervous system (SNS). This in turn, makes us produce more of a certain molecule that regulates how our genes are expressed.
Experts say humans developed this response as hunter-gatherers, and researchers say it helped us by temporarily boosting our immune system, which helped us fight off infection from the wounds of attacking dragons danger.
The problem is, there’s danger on our society, but rarely are we confronted by huge beasts that are about to eat us. Our stress is increasingly psychological. And it goes on and on for years, without stopping.
What’s the impact? All this constant stressful stimulation causes our genes to turn on a pro-inflammatory gene expression. Our system is fooled into thinking that there’s constant danger. Because of this, we increase our chances of developing psychiatric and medical health problems.
Related: Stress Vitamins: Do They Work?
As the researchers put it: “These activities (yoga etc) 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 wellbeing.”
So, there’s now another reason to seek out de-stressing activities as part of your daily life. Not only could it make you a nicer person, but it could very likely help you live longer- and not be depressed about it, along the way.
To start practicing yoga on your own, check out yogajournal.com.
Photo credits: karn684/Bigstock; Panom Bounak/Bigstock; karn684/Bigstock