Can Meditation Alter your Genes?
As a result of the Human Genome project, scientists have discovered that genes express themselves differently in meditators and non-meditators based on the research of the Falun Gong meditation practitioners in China.
Falun Gong or Falun Dafa was introduced to the Chinese people in 1992 by Li Hongzhi. According to the website for the practice, the technique has ancient roots and was passed down through a teacher/disciple lineage for generations. The techniques themselves are fivefold consisting of movements and meditation. Practitioners are said to uncover the deepest “and most profound truths of the universe” with consistent practice over time.
Research on Falun Gong practices, like many other meditation techniques; have been found to produce very positive results the practitioners’ health. In addition, researchers have also found a significant and surprising difference between the gene expressions of Falun Gong practitioners compared to non-practitioners. Scientists found “differential expression in more than 300 genes, in which the differences were tenfold or more.”
Similar to how scientists have determined that prolonged periods of stress can alter our genetic predisposition and allow susceptibility to illness and disease, so to can the positive impact of meditation over time alter our genes to allow us greater health and wellbeing. Researchers led by Dr. Herbert Benson, president of the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind/Body Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital, as well as an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, found over 2,000 gene differences between healthy long term meditators and the healthy non-meditating control group.
In the group of short-term meditators (the group who had received an 8-week beginning meditation training), over 400 gene differences were expressed. The conclusions based on this research is one that yogis and meditators have known for millennia, that the body and mind are not separate, but are related aspects of one functioning whole. Just as the muscles in the front of our thigh contract as the back of the leg stretches, so does the body respond directly to the focus of the mind.
The compendium of research that proves the importance of the mind/body connection is growing. Every scientific study that is done that proves the importance and the efficacy of this connection brings us closer to a holistic view not only of the body, but also of the world. And that is the purpose of Yoga and Meditation, to discover the unity that underlies all experiences instead of identifying with the separation.
Do you have experience with Yoga or Meditation having a profound impact on your physical health? We would love to hear about it!