How Meditation and Yoga Eliminate Stress Biologically?


Whether you have been practicing meditation or yoga for years, or you have only recently approached these wonderful disciplines, it is impossible not to be fascinated by the many beneficial effects they bring to our lives.

In fact, these are not practices for their own sake: one of the reasons why yoga has become so popular is that many health and fitness enthusiasts have significantly reduced their stress levels through a simple daily routine consisting of an asana sequence.

A new study published in the magazine ” Frontiers in Immunology ” confirms what yoga enthusiasts have been saying for years: ascetic practices that involve mind and body such as yoga, meditation, and tai chi reduce stress at the molecular level and can also lower the risk of illness and depression. Let’s find out how.

yoga or meditation

Why are we stressed?

Before discovering the innovative results of this study, let’s see in detail how our body generates stress and what its causes are.

When we are exposed to a stressful event, our body activates the sympathetic nervous system, responsible for the reaction called “escape or fight” which, when activated, increases the production of a molecule called NF-kB.

This molecule fights the negative stimulus by activating the genes to produce a protein called cytokine, which causes inflammation at the cellular level.

Why is this reaction so important?

While the inflammatory process is very effective in the short term, if stress persists this inflammation remains over time and can lead to a higher risk of contracting some diseases, including tumors, in addition to inducing accelerated aging and making us more prone to depression.

It is interesting to note that the authors of the study found that this inflammatory process would have played an important role in our hunter-gatherer prehistory, “in that it linked the escape or fight response to a pro-inflammatory genetic expression capable of providing protection when there was a greater risk of contracting bacterial wound infections ” .

Stress today

Although this mechanism worked wonderfully when our stress existed in the primitive world (think of the example of being attacked by a wild animal), “in today’s society, where stress is primarily the result of psychological threats, this response is counterproductive in how it paves the way for diseases related to inflammation, both psychiatric and physical ” .

The results of the study have scientifically proven that people who practice physical and spiritual disciplines such as yoga and meditation experience a decrease in pro-inflammatory genetic expression.

“Millions of people around the world already enjoy the benefits of practices like yoga or meditation, but what they may not realize is that these benefits start at the molecular level and can change the way our genetic code reacts to stimuli,” affirmed the researcher Ivana Buric of the Brain, Belief and Behavior Lab at the Center for Psychology, Behavior, and Self-Realization of the University of Coventry.

These activities (yoga and meditation) are leaving what we call a molecular signature in our cells, which reverses the effect that stress or anxiety exerts on the body, changing the way our genes express themselves. Simply stated, ascetic practices cause our brain to guide our cellular processes along a path that improves our well-being.

Although there are many other factors that can be attributed to a lowering of stress and inflammation levels (such as rest and a healthy diet) and further research has yet to be conducted on the subject.

This result is certainly encouraging for those thinking of undertaking a meditation or yoga path and needs a valid (and scientific!) motivation to get started.

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