Here’s Yet Another Good Reason to Finally Take Up Daily Yoga and Meditation

mindfulness exercises
Employees take a yoga break at The Penny Hoarder office. Alexandra Vincent/The Penny Hoarder

The next time you’re tempted to blow off yoga class and tuck into a pizza, consider this.

British researchers now say mindfulness practices can actually alter the genes linked to depression and inflammation-related illnesses. They may even reduce feelings of loneliness in older adults.

Researchers reviewed 18 studies with a cumulative total of 846 participants, including both experienced practitioners and non-practitioners. After sifting through all the data, they discovered that yoga, tai chi and even simple breath-regulation exercises produce “the opposite of the effects of chronic stress on gene expression.”
That’s a fancy way of saying mindfulness can shield your genes from being affected by stress.

The previous studies looked at how mindful awareness practices affected people with serious illnesses like breast cancer and leukemia, as well as individuals with medical issues like insomnia and high blood pressure.

The studies consistently showed positive genetic changes that researchers say appear to be a direct result of purposeful mindfulness.

In fact, one study revealed that participants at a four-day meditation retreat had longer-lasting benefits and reported fewer depressive symptoms than study participants who were sent on a four-day non-meditative vacation.

The study’s researchers are unable to fully explain the phenomenon and say more analysis is needed to understand how and why mindfulness exercises appear to reverse the effects chronic stress has on our genes.

Stress is No Laughing Matter

We kid around about the stress of trying to binge-watch the new season of our favorite TV show or trying to remember where we left our favorite coffee mug. But the reality is, stress is no joke.

Too many of us spend sleepless nights worrying about the cost of health care, work or retirement. Stressing about finances while you’re pregnant can lead to a lower birth weight in newborns.

In fact, the American Psychological Association says stress plays a role in the six leading causes of death.

June 21 is International Yoga Day, and that seems like the perfect time to organize a plan of attack to manage the stress in your life.

Simple Ways to Bring Mindfulness Exercises Into Your Life

If you haven’t gotten on board the mindfulness train yet, these tips will help you get started. Pull up a yoga mat and give them a look.

Now, put on your yoga pants, take a cleansing breath and meditate for five minutes. Your genes will thank you.

Lisa McGreevy is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. She really wants to try the Yoga With Goats classes the internet is talking about but worries she’d pass out from joy.

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