Relaxation Response Practice Like Deep Breathing or Meditation Found to Alter Genes

Flickr-meditatin-WonderlaneChristina Sarich, Staff Writer
Waking Times

The well known and once Harvard doctor Herbert Benson who coined the term ‘relaxation response’ has been providing insightful research to explain what seekers and adepts have known for centuries, namely that practices which induce ‘deep rest’ like prayer, meditation, yoga, biofeedback, progressive muscle relaxation, and deep breathing produce very measurable results in the immune system, energy metabolism and insulin secretion. Further, these practices also lead to a host of other beneficial physiological changes. Now a study published in PLOS ONE which combined advanced profiling of genes and the relaxation response has helped to determine the true potential of those physiological changes on our overall health.

While many studies have shown that meditation, yoga, breathing, etc. have a deep impact on our health, “we can now identify the key physiological hubs through which these benefits might be induced.” This is what Benson, director emeritus of the Benson-Henry Institute and co-senior author of the PLOS ONE report tells us. We can now see exactly how the genes are affected by these practices to positively affect diseases like hypertension, severe anxiety, insomnia, and even premature aging.

“Many studies have shown that mind/body interventions like the relaxation response can reduce stress and enhance wellness in healthy individuals and counteract the adverse clinical effects of stress in conditions like hypertension, anxiety, diabetes and aging,” says Herbert Benson, MD. “Now for the first time we’ve identified the key physiological hubs through which these benefits might be induced.”

As modern society works to reverse the fight-or-flight syndrome, sometimes called hyper-arousal, a left over sympathetic nervous system response to stress, either real or imagined, there is evidence of alteration of gene expression within individuals, and this is big news. Now there is more science to back up practices that were once thought to be contrived or ‘new age’ at best. Where once yoga and meditation was considered a cult, now it has peer-reviewed, scientific articles in mainstream western institutions to support its efficacy. It looks like the yoga and meditation ‘high’ that many people report (and essentially what Benson describes as the relaxation response) is not imagined after all.

“The combination of genomics and systems biology in this study provided great insight into the key molecules and physiological gene interaction networks that might be involved in relaying beneficial effects of relaxation response in healthy subjects,” says Manoj K. Bhasin, PhD, co-lead author of the study and co-director of the BIDMC Genomics,  Proteomics, Bioinformatics and Systems Biology Center.

This article originally appeared on NaturalSociety.com

About the Author

Christina Sarich is a musician, yogi, humanitarian and freelance writer who channels many hours of studying Lao TzuParamahansa YoganandaRob Brezny,  Miles Davis, and Tom Robbins into interesting tidbits to help you Wake up Your Sleepy Little Head, and See the Big Picture. Her blog is Yoga for the New World. Her latest book is Pharma Sutra: Healing the Body And Mind Through the Art of Yoga.

This article is offered under Creative Commons license. It’s okay to republish it anywhere as long as attribution bio is included and all links remain intact.

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  • Lary Peterson

    Mr. Ledkovsky is correct. The “fight or flight” response is the result of hard wiring in the brain, and is a left-over from when we fought tigers-however,it is valuable in “threat situation.” The brain seeing no danger, shuts this response off.
    Martial Artists have used this for years. Inhalation thru the nose;exhale thru the mouth brings a calming effect before a confrontation.
    I went back, and read the original study. The author urges that this be used as an adjunct to conventional medicine and surgery-not a replacement. The only criticism of note was that the study gave no specifics as to age,gender,and BMI. One other:”The gene expression maybe influenced by breathing after the RR has fired.” And I should say that they are trying to see if this study could be of benefit to people who suffer from high blood pressure, bowel disease,or Myeloma. The author hopes that it can be replicated.

  • dimitri ledkovsky

    Modern society (this is a legit. group of people?) is working to “reverse” the fight or flight “syndrome”. Is this new? That it’s a “syndrome”, I mean? I always thought that this response is what keeps you alive. Maybe I went to the wrong schools.

    This sounds like a very dangerous undertaking and its true objectives should be brought to light.

  • Susanne

    To learn how to tune in to a miraculous meditation se Roy masters meditation (free on youtube or read Meaning and Happiness by Roy Masters and “Be Still and Know” what it is to be truly awakened.
    I have used these materials for twenty years and this stuff transforms everything.

  • Susanne

    To learn how to tune in to a miraculous meditation see fhu.com, Roy masters meditation (free on youtube) cure stress device .org or read Meaning and Happiness by Roy Masters and “Be Still and Know” what it is to be truly awakened.
    I have used these materials for twenty years and theis stuff transforms everything.

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