A Harvard University study published in 2008 found the first compelling evidence that the Relaxation Response (RR) – the physiological response to meditation, yoga, tai chi, Qi Gong or repetitive prayer – positively affects DNA.
Mind-body practices that elicit the relaxation response (RR) have been used worldwide for millennia to prevent and treat disease. The RR is characterized by decreased oxygen consumption, increased exhaled nitric oxide, and reduced psychological distress. It is believed to be the counterpart of the stress response that exhibits a distinct pattern of physiology and transcriptional profile.
In the study, nineteen adults were long-term daily practitioners of various RR techniques, 20 were trained in RR eliciting techniques (breathing, mantra and mindfulness meditation) for 8 weeks, and 19 served as controls.
By analysis of blood samples, the study found that 2209 genes were differently expressed (switched on or off) between the long-term meditators and control group. Specifically, 1275 were up-regulated (their activity was increased) and 934 were down-regulated (their activity was reduced). It also found that 1561 genes were expressed differently between the group who did the 8 weeks meditation training and the control group. Specifically, 874 were up-regulated and 687 were down-regulated.
In other words, meditation – short or long term – causes hundreds of genes to turn on or off.
This study provides the first compelling evidence that the RR elicits specific gene expression changes in short-term and long-term practitioners. The results suggest consistent and constitutive changes in gene expression resulting from RR may relate to long term physiological effects.
All credit to the source: David R. Hamilton Ph.D
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