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Yoga for Depression

by Jan Kennemer 04/21/2019

Most people simply think of yoga as a form of exercise or relaxation, but when practiced correctly, yoga can even change how your very DNA expresses itself in illnesses and depression. A review published in the journal Frontiers in Immunology, of 18 studies spanning ten years found that mindful exercises such as yoga, tai chi, and forms of meditation can both relax us and even push back on bodily reactions at the molecular level. They can switch on, or off, parts of our DNA that cause illnesses and depression.

How it works

Our bodies have both the normal nervous system and the sympathetic nervous system (SNS). Your SNS is the switch for your fight-or-flight mode, and when it flips on, your body releases all types of chemicals and hormones to help you ward off whatever threat there is. In the absence of stress, once the danger is gone, this system returns to normal, and all the extra hormones, chemicals, and proteins dissipate. But in modern life, human stress levels remain high due to increased cortisol and other factors in our bodies. The constant switching on of these mechanisms increases the body’s susceptibility to illnesses, cancers, and mental health challenges.

The basic breakdown is this: when the SNS activates, it releases a molecule responsible for controlling how genes express. When genes release proteins known as cytokines, they cause inflammation, which in turn, contributes to ill-health and disease.

Yoga and other mindful exercises appear to decrease the production of the inflammatory cytokines. Science Daily reports that these studies show a deposit of a molecular signature on cells that reverse the effects of stress and anxiety. 

Practitioners call yoga, tai chi, Qigong, and other mindful activities “Mind-Body interventions” or MBIs. The studies show that MBIs trigger the brain to push DNA processes along a different pathway, one that increases wellbeing rather than inflammation. In this way, MBIs re-wire our molecules to protect our mental health and even heal addictions. Cancers seem to proliferate in higher-stress, inflammatory situations, so reducing inflammation and stress appears to reduce the incidence of cancer in those that practice mindfulness.

While meditation and relaxation techniques also work in this process, the combination of both the mindfulness and the exercise decrease both the sympathetic response and improve other bodily functions, so if possible, doing both may have more benefit.

To learn yoga or join a tai chi class, visit your local health club, Y, or see if a community college offers courses.

About the Author

Author
Jan Kennemer
Jan will show you how you can live close to Washington, DC – by public transit and/or highway – and still enjoy all the many amenities and friendliness of a quiet community. Jan is a life-long resident of Arlington, Va. So, she is very familiar with northern Virginia …Arlington, Falls Church, Alexandria and close-in Fairfax. She knows where to find those little out-of the-way places where you will still get excellent value and a home that meets your needs. As a Realtor® for over 20 years, Jan has developed a customized system for marketing and selling properties which includes the latest technologies combined with tried and true practices. She has received special training in working with first time buyers, repeat buyers and seniors. She is a certified VHDA trainer and is certified as a Senior Real Estate Specialist (SRES©). Jan is also a certified e-Pro. She gets results you want – the best price in the shortest time. Jan is dedicated to helping clients satisfy their needs and wants while providing them with a strong investment for the future. She is readily available to provide explanations and information. She won’t push you into making an uncomfortable choice. Jan helps you to fully understand the transaction, so that you can always make an informed decision based on facts and figures.