Deep Relaxation Changes Our Bodies on a Genetic Level

For many years now, scientific studies have shown that mindfulness meditation has a profound effect on our health and wellbeing. Still, new clients routinely express skepticism about meditation—they assume it’s just a timeout from the stress of everyday living with no long-term health benefits.

An article I keep handy to encourage these doubters appeared in the January 2012 SYDNEY MORNING HERALD, titled “7 Health Benefits of Meditation.” It’s worth reading the full article, but here’s my synopsis in case you’d rather spend your time meditating than reading.

7 Health Benefits of Deep Relaxation 

  1. Increased Immunity
  2. Emotional Balance
  3. Increased Fertility
  4. Relieves Irritable Bowel Syndrome
  5. Lowers Blood Pressure
  6. Anti-Inflammatory
  7. Calmness

Somehow we all know that relaxation is good for us, right? When we pause, take a deep breath, and let it out, it helps us to relax our bodies and clear our minds so that we can refocus with more clarity and energy. But is that all? What does science say about why intentional meditation for 10-15 minutes a day is so beneficial?

Meditation Changes Our Bodies on a Genetic Level

Researchers at Harvard Medical School did a comprehensive scientific study showing that deep relaxation changes our bodies on a genetic level and in long-term practitioners of relaxation methods such as yoga and meditation, far more ”disease-fighting genes” were active, compared to those who practiced no form of relaxation.

The study showed that regular meditation practice turned on genes that protect from disorders such as

  • Pain
  • Infertility
  • High blood pressure
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Inflammation
  • Hormonal imbalance
  • Cancer
  • Immune system deficiencies

How can relaxation have such wide-ranging and powerful effects?

On a biological level, stress is linked to fight-flight and danger. In survival mode, heart rate rises and blood pressure shoots up. Meanwhile muscles, preparing for danger, contract and tighten. And non-essential functions such as immunity and digestion go by the wayside.” Relaxation, on the other hand, is a state of rest, enjoyment and physical renewal. Free of danger, muscles can relax and food can be digested. The heart can slow and blood circulation flows freely to the body’s tissues, feeding it with nutrients and oxygen. This restful state is good for fertility, as the body is able to conserve the resources it needs to generate new life. – Dr. Jane Flemming [1]

How to switch off stress 

The researchers found that yoga, meditation and even repetitive prayer and mantras all induced the relaxation effect. Try one or more of these techniques for 15 minutes once or twice a day:

  • Mental Body Scan
  • Breath Focus
  • Mantra Repetition
  • Guided Imagery

I hope you’ll learn more about those methods by reading the full article, or explore the Mindfulness section of this website.

Peace,

Dr. Pamm

[1]7 Health Benefits of Meditation,” SYDNEY MORNING HERALD,
republished on Food Matters, Jan. 26, 2012.