The results support yoga as a powerful therapy, but more broadly, reinforce the fact that our very genes are affected by our activities and moods. Pacific Standard writes:
Newly published research from Norway suggests that a yoga program rapidly produces internal changes on a genetic level. The results help explain the well-documented health benefits of this ancient practice.
“These data suggest that previously reported effects of yoga practices have an integral physiological component at the molecular level, which is initiated immediately,” writes a research team led by Fahri Saatcioglu of the University of Oslo.
The experiment featured 10 participants who attended a yoga retreat in Germany. For two days, participants spent two hours practicing a comprehensive yoga program and meditation. For the next two days, they spent that same time period going on a nature walk and then listening to jazz or classical music.
Immediately before and after each of the four sessions, the researchers drew blood from each participant. They then isolated and analyzed peripheral blood mononuclear cells, which play a key role in the body’s immune system. The researchers found that the nature walk and music-driven relaxation changed the expression of 38 genes in these circulating immune cells. In comparison, the yoga produced changes in 111.
The researchers note that yoga’s impact was far more widespread, which indicates the practice “may have additional effects over exercise plus simple relaxation in inducing health benefits through differential changes at the molecular level.”