"Say Ommm to keep your genes healthy."
So advises an article that caught my eye in this week's 'New Scientist'.
I am a haphazard practitioner of the meditative arts, finding sitting still a rather difficult thing to do, but I have long since lost my scepticism over the value of it. This article makes me want to dash for the yoga mat. (No, I don't possess one, but two of my daughters did. They now take up space in my shed. I claim squatting rights over them.)
I am so amazed by the implications of this article for health and well-being, that I am going to plagiarise it for the common good.
' "it's not New Age nonsense," says Herbert Benson of the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. He and his colleagues analysed the whole genome of 26 volunteers - none of whom regularly meditates - before teaching them a relaxation routine lasting 10 to 20 minutes. It included reciting words, breathing exercises and emptying the mind.
After eight weeks of performing the routine daily, gene analysis was repeated. Clusters of beneficial genes had become more active and harmful ones less so.
The boosted genes had three main effects: improving cellular energy efficiency, upping insulin production ... And preventing the breakdown of caps on chromosomes that prevent cells wearing out and ageing... .' (PLoSOne,doi.org/mfj)
What I find really interesting, is the possibility of changing my genes. I had thought them to be rather passive little critters, now resting serenely on their laurels having successfully been passed on to the next two generations. Job done, I thought.
But no! There they are, beavering away still working hard on my behalf, making me, at the cellular level, the wonderful creation that I am.... and helping me to continue to be... .
I get it, I really do. Ever wondered why those yogis one admires for there serenity, always appear to be at least one hundred years old? Now you know.
They are actively, if unconsciously, altering their genetic make -up. Stands to reason really. The negative effects of stress on life expectancy have been doing the rounds for years. How heartening to find that a positive outcome from de-stressing can have a similar powerful effect in the other direction.
Fifteen minutes a day of dropping everything and following your breath around your body. Not too difficult is it? And I suspect that any word that stills the mind from it's endless task of accusing you of your past mistakes (or worrying you to death about your future) would do... .