Here’s another win for lifestyle genetics.
While there have been many long-known benefits of yoga (lower stress levels, minimized back pain, relief from depression, etc.), new research shows that practicing yoga can have an impact on gene expression and, by extension, immune health.
The study, conducted by the University of Oslo and published this month in PLOS ONE journal, looked at 10 individuals who attended a one week yoga retreat where they participated in four-hour long yoga sessions that included yogic postures, meditation and yogic breathing exercises. The participants also partook in nature walks and listening to relaxing music. Before and after each session, the participants’ blood was analyzed.
The results found that practicing yoga changed the expression of 111 genes in circulating immune cells, compared to 38 gene expression changes from listening to music and walking. That’s almost triple the amount.
"These data suggest that previously reported effects of yoga practices have an integral physiological component at the molecular level which is initiated immediately during practice and may form the basis for the long-term stable effects," wrote the research team.
The data also suggests that yoga could be as effective, if not more, than traditional exercise.
The advance of lifestyle medicine
Yoga is just one more area where genetics has entered the conversation. Once a pipe dream, epigenetics and lifestyle medicine are beginning to permeate the health and wellness market, with broad implications not just for healthcare, but for self care as well. Some companies, such as geneME, are beginning to utilize genetics to create personalized supplements, medicines or other products. By using genetics, products can be geared specifically toward each individual and provide exactly what that person needs.
The company sends the consumer a simple kit to obtain a genetic sample, usually in the form of a cheek swab, which gets sent back to laboratories for testing. The sample provides the data needed to create the personalized products.
With so many benefits in terms of personalized products and yoga, genetics may be the future of healthcare and healthy living.