Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Relaxed Genes

A recent study found that the practice of deep relaxation creates specific changes in how genes express themselves. What does that mean? A brief review of cell biology: inside a cell, cellular machinery is constantly building proteins and other useful molecules according to the instructions (genes) written in the cell's DNA. These molecules determine what a cell does. Though every cell has the same DNA, an individual cell only reads (expresses) a subset of the whole code at any one time. The genes being expressed can change, and the study found that deep relaxation can create a predictable change in what genes are expressed. It's not yet known what these changes do in the body, but the mere proof that such changes take place is significant.

Put simply, this is evidence that you can fundamentally shift the behavior of your cells - the smallest unit of life - by relaxing! That's pretty remarkable. Most people feel different after a good, long relaxation, but now science has shown that your body is literally different at the cellular level. Though the study only addressed deep relaxation, surely yogic breathing practices, postures held without struggle, and meditations have similar effects. Of course most of us would agree that exercise changes our body, but this study hints that any repeated behavior may be "felt" at a cellular level.

My final thought: if we can influence our cells indirectly via relaxation, why wouldn't it be possible to do it directly, consciously, through intention or visualization? Some great yoga masters have been known to live for hundreds of years...

The original article can be found here.

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