Here’s how it works: when you experience a stressful event, your sympathetic nervous system (SNS) flips on and your “fight-or-flight” response goes into high-gear. In early human times, this response was key to our survival, when danger may have lurked around every corner. If you survived the event, your body systems returned to normal fairly quickly. In today’s stressful world, however, our fight-or-flight mechanism can be greatly over-used and results in poor health often in the form of a higher risk of cancer and mental health issues.
Once that SNS is activated, there is increased production of a molecule called nuclear factor kappa B (NF-kB). This molecule is responsible for controlling how our genes are expressed. NF-kB turns on genes that make and release proteins called cytokines that cause inflammation and contribute to illness and disease.According to this careful review of the research, however, people who engage in these “Mind-body Interventions” (MBIs) like yoga and meditation, show a remarkable decrease in the manufacture of both Nf-kB and inflammatory cytokines.
“These activities are leaving what we call a molecular signature in our cells, which reverses the effect that stress or anxiety would have on the body by changing how our genes are expressed. Put simply, MBIs cause the brain to steer our DNA processes along a path which improves our wellbeing.”
This exciting analysis of the scientific literature confirms what many people have already experienced: mindful practices such as yoga, meditation and tai chi, can “rewire” us at the molecular level and heal and protect us from addictions, mental health issues and cancer.
Here’s a short beginning meditation to help get you started: