Yoga og meditation kan gøre mere en blot hjælpe dig til at føle sig afslappet i øjeblikket. Et nyt videnskabeligt review indikerer at disse og andre mindfulness øvelser faktisk kan rette stressrelaterede ændringer i generne, der er knyttet til dårligt helbred og depression.

I et nyt forskningsarbejde, offentliggjort i Frontiers in Immunology, har britiske forskere analyseret resultaterne i 18 tidligere offentliggjort studier, der samlet involverede 846 personer, i forhold til de biologiske virkninger af meditation, yoga, åndedrætsøvelser, Qi gong og Tai Chi. Samlet set, siger forfatterne, viser studierne at disse sind-krop øvelser lader til at undertrykke gener og genetiske systemer som fremmer betændelse.

Betændelse kan midlertidigt forstærke immunsystemet, og det kan være beskyttende mod infektion og skader, skriver forfatterne i deres papir. Men i nutidens samfund, hvor stress primært er af psykologisk karakter, kan kroppens betændelsesreaktion blive kronisk og kan skade både det fysiske og det mentale helbred.

Kommentar: Delvist oversat af fra Yoga and meditation can change your genes

Researchers found that people who practiced these activities regularly had fewer signs of inflammation, including a decrease in their production of inflammatory proteins. This signals "the reversal of the molecular signature of the effects of chronic stress," they wrote, which may translate to a reduced risk of inflammation-related diseases and conditions.

Environment and lifestyle can both affect which genes are turned on and off, and that can have real effects on disease risk, longevity and even which traits get passed on to future generations. Stressful events, for example, can activate the fight-or-flight response and trigger a chain reaction of stress-related changes in the body—including activating specific genes involved in making proteins that produce inflammation.

Lead author Ivana Buric, a PhD student in Coventry University's Brain, Belief and Behaviour Lab in England, says her team was surprised to see that different types of mind-body techniques had such similar effects at the genetic level. "Sitting meditation is quite different than yoga or Tai Chi," she said in an email, "yet all of these activities—when practiced regularly—seem to decrease the activity of genes involved in inflammation."

This is a relatively new field of research, she adds, and it's likely that similar benefits could be obtained from other lifestyle changes like healthy eating and exercise. There aren't yet enough studies to know how activities like yoga compare to other types of physical activity in terms of altering gene expression.

Buric says the existing studies suggest that mind-body interventions "cause the brain to steer our DNA processes along a path which improves our well being." She also emphasizes that inherited genes are not static and that DNA activity can depend on things people can control. "By choosing healthy habits every day, we can create a gene activity pattern that is more beneficial for our health," she says. "Even just 15 minutes of practicing mindfulness seems to do the trick."