Does Relaxation Really Change Your Genes?

August 13, 2009 by  
Filed under Feeling Positive, Life Mastery

happinessScientific studies now show that deep relaxation actually changes our bodies on a genetic level.

Researchers at Harvard Medical School discovered that long-term practitioners of relaxation methods such as yoga and meditation have far more “disease-fighting” active genes compared to those who do not practice relaxation.

This includes genes that protect from: pain, infertility, high blood pressure and even rheumatoid arthritis. The changes were induced by what they call “the relaxation effect” — a phenomenon  just as powerful as medical drugs,  but without the side-effects.

The experiment, which showed just how responsive genes are to behaviour, mood and environment, revealed that genes can switch on, just as easily as they switch off.

“Harvard researchers asked the control group to start practising relaxation methods every day,” explains Jake Toby, hypnotherapist at London’s BodyMind Medicine Centre, who teaches clients how to induce the relaxation effect. “After two months, their bodies began to change – the genes that help fight inflammation, kill diseased cells and protect the body from cancer, all began to switch on.”

More encouraging still, the benefits of the relaxation effect were found to increase with regular practice – the more people practised relaxation methods, the greater their chances of remaining free of arthritis and joint pain with stronger immunity, healthier hormone levels and lower blood pressure.

The research is pivotal because it shows how a person’s state of mind affects the body on a physical and genetic level. But just how can relaxation have such wide-ranging and powerful effects? Research around the world has described the negative effects of stress on the body. Linked to the release of the stress-hormones adrenalin and cortisol, stress raises the heart rate and blood pressure, weakens immunity and lowers fertility.

“What you’re looking for is a state of deep relaxation where tension is released from the body on a physical level and your mind completely switches off,” he says. You can only really achieve it by learning a specific technique such as self-hypnosis,  meditation, or neural brainwave training.”