Can Meditating Actually Change Our Cell Structure?

We have heard for generations about meditation benefits for anxiety, stress, depression, blood pressure, insomnia and the risk of heart disease. But modern research is using new technology to provide hard physical evidence of meditation benefits for our bodies and minds.


Specifically, new research shows that meditation changes our cell structure. But, how is it possible that sitting still and thinking of nothing for 10-20 minutes per day can change our physical cell structure?

Yoga.Health™ Asks The Question if Meditation Changes Our Cell Structure


Here is What We Found:

In the past decade, meditation benefits have been studied more and more – and the science is rich with hard evidence of cellular changes that effect both our physical and emotional health.


Here are several benefits:


Smaller Amygdala – Reduced Anger, Fear, and Anxiety

In 2012, a study [1] using a Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging machine (“fMRI”) revealed that our amygdala –our brain´s center for fear, anxiety, and anger– is smaller in people who meditate regularly.[2] There, meditation actually reduces the brain´s access to these overwhelming emotions. Furthermore, the results occurred in beginning meditators after just eight weeks as well as in long-term meditators.[3]

Longer Telomeres – Better Cancer Recovery

Then, in 2014, another study over eight weeks used blood tests to study the cells of women cancer survivors. There, the research discovered that the telomeres –the protein caps at the end of our DNA— remained long in the women who meditated, while the control group´s telomeres shrunk.[4]


Dr. Linda Carlson, the lead researcher of this study told Yoga.Health™, “People with higher long-term chronic stress tend to have shorter telomeres.” So, the study was just the beginning of this research. “And,” Dr. Carlson added, “healthy people can benefit from meditation, too.”


Better Ability to Manage Stress and Inflammation

A study completed in 2016 on 35 unemployed men and women used brain scans and blood samples.[5] One scientist in the study, Dr. J. David Creswell, explained: “The brain scans showed more brain activity where we process and manage stress.” Then, blood tests taken four months after the study ended, showed “much lower levels of inflammation” among the meditators. Thus, meditation benefits include managing and calming stress, along with lower inflammation in the blood.[6]


Increased Neurotransmitters – Lower Risk of Dementia

Most recently, a 2018 study using fMRI scans and a pupil dilation test found that meditation and deep breathing increase noradrenaline in our brains.[7] Noradrenaline is a chemical that grows new neurotransmitters.[8] Dr. Michael Melnychuk, the lead author of the study, shared this with Yoga.Health, “Mindfulness meditation maintains noradrenaline levels, which stimulates new neuron growth.” In other words, Dr. Melnychuk said, “Meditation keeps our brains young.”[9] Dr. Melnychuk´s study was also explored in our article on deep breathing. <LINK HERE to “Deep Breathing”>


Debunking Meditation Myths

But, despite its surging popularity and health benefits, meditation can be intimidating.


Yoga.Health wanted to debunk three popular meditation myths:

1. There is only one type of meditation: There are at least 23 different types of meditation techniques, such as:

· Origin (Hindu, Chinese, Buddhist, Sufi, Christian, and more)

· Guided <LINK HERE to video>

· Mantra <LINK HERE to video>

· Drishti

· Nidra <LINK HERE to “Yoga for PTS”>

· Walking


2. You have to “empty the mind:” This is a very popular meditation myth! But, mindfulness meditation, for example, allows your mind to wander, notice the passing thoughts, and then let them go. Other meditations focus on a mantra (a word or phrase that can help you reach a goal) <LINK> or a drishti (a visual marker, like a candle flame or a photo) <LINK>, provide step-by-step process to relax <LINK>, or concentrate on sensations of walking.


3. Meditation works immediately: It often takes several weeks or months to discover how meditation benefits you. In fact, the hardest part about meditation is that you don´t notice the benefits – because meditation is preventative health! But, consistency is key to gaining meditation benefits.

Register on Yoga.Health™ to watch videos to learn how to meditate or schedule a 1-1 private session with one of our instructors to bring mindfulness to your practice.

[1] A. A. Rasia-Filho, R. G. Londero, and M. Achaval. (Jan. 25, 2000). “Functional Activities of the Amygdala: an overview.” Retreived from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1407702/. [2] G. Desbordes, L. T. Negi, T. W. W. Pace, B. A. Wallace, C. L. Raison, and E. L. Schwartz. (Nov. 1, 2012). “Effects of mindful-attention and compassion meditation training on amygdala response to emotional stimuli in an ordinary, non-meditative state.” Retrieved from: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnhum.2012.00292/full. [3] G. Desbordes, L. T. Negi, T. W. W. Pace, B. A. Wallace, C. L. Raison, and E. L. Schwartz. (Nov. 1, 2012). “Effects of mindful-attention and compassion meditation training on amygdala response to emotional stimuli in an ordinary, non-meditative state.” Retrieved from: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnhum.2012.00292/full. [4] L. Carlson, T. Beattie, J. Giese-Davis, P. Faris, R. Tamagawa, L. Fick, E. Degeleman, and M. Speca. (Nov. 3, 2014). “Mindfulness‐based cancer recovery and supportive‐expressive therapy maintain telomere length relative to controls in distressed breast cancer survivors.” Retreived from: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/cncr.29063. [5] J. D. Creswell, A. A. Taren, E. K. Lindsay, C. M. Greco, P. J. Gianaros, A. Fairgrieve, A. L. Marsland, K. W. Brown, B. M. Way, R. K. Rosen, and J. L. Ferris. (July 1, 2016). “Alterations in Resting-State Functional Connectivity Link Mindfulness Meditation With Reduced Interleukin-6: A Randomized Controlled Trial.”Retreived from: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0006322316000792. [6] J. D. Creswell, A. A. Taren, E. K. Lindsay, C. M. Greco, P. J. Gianaros, A. Fairgrieve, A. L. Marsland, K. W. Brown, B. M. Way, R. K. Rosen, and J. L. Ferris. (July 1, 2016). “Alterations in Resting-State Functional Connectivity Link Mindfulness Meditation With Reduced Interleukin-6: A Randomized Controlled Trial.”Retreived from: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0006322316000792. [7] M. C. Melnychuk, P. M. Dockree, R. G. O´Connell, P. R. Murphy, J. H. Balsters, I. H. Robertson. (April 22, 2018). “Coupling of respiration and attention via the locus coeruleus: Effects of meditation and pranayama.” Retreived from: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/psyp.13091. [8] M. C. Melnychuk, P. M. Dockree, R. G. O´Connell, P. R. Murphy, J. H. Balsters, I. H. Robertson. (April 22, 2018). “Coupling of respiration and attention via the locus coeruleus: Effects of meditation and pranayama.” Retreived from: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/psyp.13091. [9] M. C. Melnychuk, P. M. Dockree, R. G. O´Connell, P. R. Murphy, J. H. Balsters, I. H. Robertson. (April 22, 2018). “Coupling of respiration and attention via the locus coeruleus: Effects of meditation and pranayama.” Retreived from: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/psyp.13091.


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