Why yoga, tai chi and meditation are good for you

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Increasing numbers of people are becoming aware of the physical and mental benefits of activities like yoga, tai chi and meditation.

These disciplines require that you take time out of you busy schedule, and can help you to feel more relaxed and centered. 

Stress relievers

When preparing yourself to de-stress, the physical and mental health benefits do not start in your mind  but rather begin in your genes, a new review suggests.

The researchers reviewed 18 studies, involving a total of 846 people, to examine how the behaviour of genes is affected by yoga, tai chi, meditation and other mind-body interventions.

The findings were published in the journal Frontiers in Immunology.

Tai chi – although a form of martial arts – is a stress reliever but also aids in improving flexibility, muscle strength, energy and overall mood as previously reported by Health24.

Another Health24 article also showed that yoga is beneficial for muscoskeletal issues and pain, although it does not cure any orthopaedic condition. It is also great for flexibility, strength, posture and balance.

The conclusion: Such activities reverse molecular reactions in DNA that cause poor health and depression.

Meditation, tai chi and yoga classes are available in all major urban centres in South Africa and can be accessed on the internet.

Mind-body interventions

Meditation may also reduce pain and anxiety and no harmful side effects were associated with mediation.

"Millions of people around the world already enjoy the health benefits of mind-body interventions like yoga or meditation, but what they perhaps don't realise is that these benefits begin at a molecular level and can change the way our genetic code goes about its business," said lead researcher Ivana Buric.

Buric is a doctoral candidate with the Brain, Belief and Behaviour Lab at Coventry University in Great Britain.

"These activities are leaving what we call a molecular signature in our cells, which reverses the effect that stress or anxiety would have on the body by changing how our genes are expressed. Put simply, [mind-body interventions] cause the brain to steer our DNA processes along a path which improves our well-being," Buric said in a university news release.

More study is needed to understand these effects fully and how mind-body interventions compare to other healthy activities and dietary habits, she said.

"But this is an important foundation to build on to help future researchers explore the benefits of increasingly popular mind-body activities," Buric added.

Read more:

3 quick ways to meditate and practise mindfulness

Why meditation is good for you

Meditation is helpful when combined with therapies

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