This is the second study that caught my eye showing evidence that practices that elicit relaxation response, such as meditation, prayer, yoga, etc. are changing the expression of people’s genes.
It has long been known that stress, through the action of cortisol has an immune-system dampening effect, and that is one of the ways it damages health. But it’s nice to see such potent validation of the practices used for millennia to reduce stress and improve the health of the body and mind through relaxation.
A systems biology analysis of known interactions among the proteins produced by the affected genes revealed that pathways involved with energy metabolism, particularly the function of mitochondria, were upregulated during the relaxation response. Pathways controlled by activation of a protein called NF-κB—known to have a prominent role in inflammation, stress, trauma and cancer—were suppressed after relaxation response elicitation. The expression of genes involved in insulin pathways was also significantly altered.
“These data suggest that previously reported (therapeutic) effects of yoga practices have an integral physiological component at the molecular level, which is initiated immediately during practice,” writes a research team led by Fahri Saatcioglu of the University of Oslo. The team’s study is published in the online journal PLOS ONE.