A new study reveals that practitioners of meditation experience changes in gene expression that are the exact opposite of what occurs during the “flight or fight” stress response.
Specifically, genes associated with energy metabolism, mitochondrial function, insulin secretion, and telomere maintenance are turned on, while those involved in inflammation are turned off.
These effects are more significant and consistent for long-term practitioners.
People who practice simple meditation aren’t “just relaxing,” explained the study’s senior author, Dr. Herbert Benson. Instead, they’re experiencing “a specific genomic response that counteracts the harmful genomic effects of stress.”
It’s been shown that repeating a yoga pose, prayer, or mantra while disregarding other thoughts protects against anxiety and depression as well as physical conditions such as hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and types of cancer that are exacerbated by stress.
For the study, published in the open access journal PLoS One, researchers at the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind/Body Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center Subjects trained 26 adults with no previous meditation experience for eight weeks.