Friday, November 22, 2013

Harvard Yoga Scientists Find Proof of Meditation Benefit

Scientists are getting close to proving what yogis have held to be true for centuries -- yoga and meditation can ward off stress and disease.
John Denninger, a psychiatrist at Harvard Medical School, is leading a five-year study on how the ancient practices affect genes and brain activity in the chronically stressed. His latest work follows a study he and others published earlier this year showing how so-called mind-body techniques can switch on and off some genes linked to stress and immune function.
Unlike earlier studies, this one is the first to focus on participants with high levels of stress. The study published in May in the medical journal PloS One showed that one session of relaxation-response practice was enough to enhance the expression of genes involved in energy metabolism and insulin secretion and reduce expression of genes linked to inflammatory response and stress. There was an effect even among novices who had never practiced before.
Harvard isn’t the only place where scientists have started examining the biology behind yoga.
In a study published last year, scientists at the University of California at Los Angeles and Nobel Prize winner Elizabeth Blackburn found that 12 minutes of daily yoga meditation for eight weeks increased telomerase activity by 43 percent, suggesting an improvement in stress-induced aging. Blackburn of the University of California, San Francisco, shared the Nobel medicine prize in 2009 with Carol Greider and Jack Szostak for research on the telomerase “immortality enzyme,” which slows the cellular aging process.

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