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Yoga, Meditation, and Longevity

Research has documented the benefits of yoga and meditation on our psychological and emotional health i.e., stress, as well as on our physical health, such as flexibility, increased muscle strength, cardio health, and more. Now research is being conducted on the benefits of yoga and meditation on telomeres.

I’ve previously discussed telomeres and their importance to longevity. To quickly recap, telomeres are the structures at the end of our chromosomes that protect our cells. However, due to cellular division and lifestyle choices, they become shorter. When they become too short, the cell ages and stops functioning properly and you have cellular death. Telomeres are the cell's aging clock. (See my article What the Heck are Telomeres and Why Should We Care?)

Although more research needs to be performed, the news, so far, is positive. A study was conducted on breast cancer survivors over a three-month period, where 88 survivors were placed in one of three groups. One group practiced daily yoga and meditation; another group met weekly for supportive group therapy; and the third group completed a one-time, six-hour stress management seminar. Blood samples and telomere lengths were measured before and after the study. The findings showed that the yoga-meditation group and the supportive therapy group had no change in their telomere length, whereas the participants in the stress management seminar experienced shorter telomeres.

An article in the International Journal of Yoga (IJOY) reviewed the research done on asanas (postures) pranayama (breath) and meditation on telomere stability. Research has shown that the rate of telomere shortening can be accelerated significantly by oxidative stress. The authors concluded that asana and pranayama increase oxygen flow to cells, while meditation reduces stress levels. The authors further concluded that the practice of asana, pranayama, and meditation can help maintain telomere integrity, which is important to our overall health, as well as in addressing lifestyle disorders, such as diabetes, obesity, heart disease, COPD, asthma, cancer; and psychiatric disorders, such as depression, anxiety, PTSD, bipolar and schizophrenia.

So, get your mat out and practice some yoga and meditation. Even if you don't have an hour each day to practice, research has shown that just 15 minutes of mindfulness meditation can be beneficial in reducing stressful thoughts and perceptions, which can help your telomeres and therefore, your longevity. Ommmmmmmm!


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