Relaxation Runs Deep: Study shows genes respond to relaxation practice.


A study of the relaxation response revealed genetic proof of the mind-body connection last week. Referred to by senior author of the study, Herbert Benson, as the “physiologic opposite” of fight or flight, the relaxation response is a deep state of rest often induced by yoga or meditation that, according to these findings, “triggers changes in gene expression that can affect the body’s immune function, energy metabolism and insulin secretion.”

Post relaxation practice, participants’ blood exposed repressed biological pathways that contribute to immune disturbances and inflammation as well as enhanced pathways for energy production and mitochondrial function. Half of the participants were novice practitioners, the other half seasoned in relaxation response. The experienced practitioners’ results were even more dramatic than their counterparts.

This research substantiates over forty years of work for Benson, who now directs the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind-Body Medicine where the relaxation response is used to treat clients with ailments ranging from anxiety to cancer.

Towia Libermann, Benson’s partner of 10 years, says he engaged in this research to convince himself that “there’s really something going on here, and it’s not just a placebo effect.” In response to the study’s results he says, “I’m pretty convinced.”

For those of us who maintain a regular mindfulness practice, this information is reassuring—we can feel the benefits of relaxation intuitively. But this research is key for communicating with skeptics who tend to associate yoga and meditation only with eastern or new age religion. Mindfulness truly is a tool for enhancing quality of life available to everyone regardless of lifestyle, faith or culture.

Breath is our birthright. When we use it to nourish ourselves, we express our gratitude for being alive. 

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This is awesome! I love scientific proof that supports the benefits of healthy behavior. :)

Was there a certain amount of time required or anything to get into this state?