Can Yoga Change Your DNA?
Dreamy. Melty. Floaty. Whole.
No Im not listing the things running through my mind when I eat Chocolate.
These are my thoughts as I simmer in the afterglow of a yoga class.
The pressures and stresses which drowned my mind and screamed their demands over my rational thoughts are minimised to quiet logic and capable of tackling … if they are still there at all.
A series of movements. The twisting of issues right out of your tissues. The power in the rhythm of the breath. These simple actions can have a deeply healing and transformative effect.
There’s an element of magic, of wonder, of everything as it is supposed to be within this ancient practice.
But if you are here it means you love science and facts … and it seems like the scientists were keen to capture the wonder of yoga as well. Perhaps they too had felt the deep sense of connection and inner peace as well.
And so they began to look at the effect that Yoga has on our DNA. Current research published in the journal of Frontiers in Immunology analysed a body of studies on how Mind Body activities – yoga and meditation – effect our genes. The research yielded enlightening results that not only do these practices hugely benefit our wellbeing but can actually reverse our DNA’s responses to stress.
Like our animal friends when faced with a stressful situation like a hungry predator (angry boss) our sympathetic nervous system kicks into action with its fight or flight response. This causes our genes to produce cytokines which cause inflammation. If we are consistently under stress and the genes respond with inflammation this can increase our risk to certain diseases and mental health disorders like depression.
Today testing our DNA isn't in a Galaxy far far away. Home testing kits are now everywhere. Our lovely friends at VITL health actually have one of the best value kits around and we are proud to be creating yoga content for them!
So armed with the science, your newly discovered DNA results and the life affirming real life magic of Yoga .... how can you be your own super hero? After all not all Yoga is created equal!
In acknowledging your Impactful traits you can really assess how best to support and work with your body.
So your sleep behaviour is wilder than a Rolling Stones after party?
Practicing Yin Yoga and Bhramari or “Humming Bee” breath work is your new fix. Clinical studies show that Bhramari breath work has shown to quickly reduce breathing and heart rate which is calming and prepares your body for sleep.
In Yogic Philosophy the digestive system is seen as the key indicator to good health. It is symbolised as fire or “agni” – strong agni signifying virality of life! To increase agni and improve a weak digestive system yoga can help by stretching and toning the muscles of the abdomen and encouraging movement and flow by stimulating the endocrine glands. A flowing vinyasa practice incorporating lots of twists can be useful to increase “agni” or fire. My favourite poses when experiencing sluggish digestion are seated and reclining twists and happy baby. A lot of digestive issues have been shown to be directly linked to stress and I imagine twists to be a “wringing out” of my troubles.
Breathing exercises like Kapalbhatti can help increase immunity by enabling the heart to pump more blood
Feeling a bit more Zz-Zz-Zz than a Zig A Zig Ah?
Boost your energy with a series of Sun Salutations! It is said that when performed properly the connected moves or asana that make up the sun salutations are all your body needs to build and maintain flexibility and strength to master all the poses in yoga. How cool is that?
The best part is that the sequence can fit into any busy schedule with five rounds taking 20 minutes so make them part of your routine now.
Another way of getting an instant energy hit is through the practice of backbends and heart openers which expand your chest and lung capacity … more oxygen more energy. When practicing back bends it is vital that you fully warm up the spine and shoulders and only work within your bodies own parameters.
Faster more efficient recovery? Injury prevention? Supple strength? Increased Focus? Better endurance and coordination?
What if I told you that could be down to yoga?
Yup! Build your own routine like you are choosing Pick’n’Mix – be sure to include spinal mobility warm ups like cat cows, standing poses to build leg and hip strength, balancing poses like tree for focus, backbends to increase lung capacity, inversions and arm balances for fun and to challenge core and to encourage body awareness and strength.
It might just add ten years to your career!
If you are trying for a baby your body wants you to be in your healthiest, happiest place in order for it to know it is safe for both you and the baby to come into the world. A massive element of this is cultivating inner calm so as to not be in a fight or flight stress response state. Meditation and calming, grounding practices like Yin and restorative yoga will indicate to the body that now is the perfect time to get pregnant.
Yoga is all about the coming back together of mind and body. When struggling with anxiety or panic its because that link has been broken. Notice how in times of extreme stress we hold our breath as though we are underwater and notice what happens in the body from there – tension, breathlessness, increased heart rate, dizziness, panic. Our bodies only want to love and protect us and part of this is the natural rhythms of the breath and movement. Modern life is like a bad lover … kind of addictive but certainly not good for us! With technology destroying the boundaries between work, social life and our natural way of being we need to up our armour. Make Yoga part of your artillery.
As a mind-body practice, yoga allows people to become aware of the link between their minds and bodies in a way which can help them become less anxious. For example, shallow breathing may contribute to a heightened stress response, or repeated patterns of behaviour might ultimately worsen overall anxiety (for instance, relying on alcohol to calm down). Yoga increases mind-body awareness, as well as offering a form of relaxation which can replace unhealthy coping mechanisms.
In times of extreme stress and anxiety it can be very difficult to commit to a class or a full home practice as being in a heightened state of worry we don’t believe we have time for self care and find it difficult to stop the cycle. So start with kindness. Start with the breath. Deep inhales and longer exhales through the nose. Alternate nostril breathing is a practice shown to get you into a parasympathetic state quickly. Notice the difference you feel in a short space of time. Follow by some gentle restorative yoga or twists. Yoga, it’s a gentle Knight.
Vitl are on a mission to help you fall in love with your body and its wonder through understanding who you are and what is going on inside.
When we know where we are at with both our health and blood work we can then work with that scientific knowledge to be our best and bounciest selves.
From the results of your blood work, DNA or even the free lifestyle quiz on their website VITL can then put together a personalised pack of supplements that your body actually needs and come through your letter box.
Saving money and unnecessary supplements and waste packaging.
We are writing articles for VITL on Yoga and if you follow the links in this article we really appreciate it as it strengthens our relationship (and we get to keep writing!)
- Ivana Buric, Miguel Farias, Jonathan Jong, Christopher Mee, Inti A. Brazil. What Is the Molecular Signature of Mind–Body Interventions? A Systematic Review of Gene Expression Changes Induced by Meditation and Related Practices. Frontiers in Immunology, 2017; 8 DOI: 10.3389/fimmu.2017.00670
- Coventry University. "Meditation and yoga can 'reverse' DNA reactions which cause stress, new study suggests." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 15 June 2017. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/06/170615213301.htm>
This article and all included information is not intended as medical advice and does not treat or diagnose. Please consult your doctor for any health-related questions or concerns.