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We can either allow our past to keep interfering with our optimal expression of love and happiness, or we can move beyond our past with renewed passion for life.


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Sheila Patel
September 21 2013

Sheila Patel


Category:  Guest Bloggers


A Modern Glimpse into Ancient Relaxation Practices

Relaxation techniques such as yoga and meditation have been around for thousands of years. Countless generations have shown us that engaging in these practices can help us live healthier, more balanced lives. But, the question arises: How?
Learn more about The Chopra Center's signature meditation & yoga retreat Seduction of Spirit

How do these activities – as simple as breathing or even thinking – affect our bodies in such profoundly positive ways? By what internal processes does this occur? As modern science marches steadily ahead, paving the way to understanding the physiologic underpinnings of the mind–body connection, we are beginning to see glimpses of the extraordinary and beautifully complex mechanisms behind the changes our bodies undergo when we meditate, practice yoga, or simply. . . breathe. As a physician and clinician, it is exciting for me to see these unfolding answers to age-old questions.

In the last several years, research has emerged suggesting that when we relax, changes occur not only at the cellular level, but also at the most subtle level of our physiology – our genes. Our genetic code, which lies within our DNA, holds all the information necessary to build and maintain our bodies. Although this code is largely unchanged from conception throughout our adult lives, it appears that changes in gene regulation – or when our genes are turned “on” or “off” – are the greatest factor in how our inherited code shapes our health and wellbeing. What science is now showing us is that we can affect our own gene regulation through mind-body relaxation practices.

A very recent study that suggests the relaxation response actually changes how our genes express themselves adds more support to what researchers see as a growing body of evidence that giving your mind and body a break can result in some real – and important – health benefits, such as improving energy metabolism and decreasing the aging effects of vascular inflammation.

In a nutshell, researchers found that when study participants practiced a relaxation technique such as mindful breathing, meditation or prayer, or yoga, different genes were activated in their bodies than when they were in a neutral or stressful state. Specifically, genes that counteract the damaging effects of stress are activated, and the activity of genes that fuel the anxious “fight-or-flight” reaction are diminished. The relaxation response elicited positive genetic changes affecting mitochondria, the powerhouses that energize the cell. The activity of genes linked to insulin levels, which aid in energy metabolism, also increased. Also noted was a decrease in gene activity related to inflammation, which has been linked to high blood pressure, heart disease, and cancer.

The good news is that these positive genetic changes were seen in all the study participants who engaged in relaxation activities. The even better news is that far more pronounced changes were seen in the participants who were long-term practitioners of the relaxation response. The researchers note that this beneficial relaxation response can be attained through many different techniques – meditation, prayer, yoga, or mindfulness, among others – but the differences in techniques were not reflected in the patterns of the gene regulation changes.

These findings hearten me as I continue encouraging my patients to engage in the healing practices of the Vedic tradition such as yoga and pranayama (breathing techniques). With this added insight, I know that they will not only feel better, they will be better.

In the end, as we get closer to unwinding the secrets of age-old wisdom, we gain a renewing appreciation for the strength of our healing traditions that integrate into our modern lives and help to keep us whole well into the future.

Top comments

  • When will you, Dr. Chopra, please teach us the T.M. siddhi techniques? They are so far out of reach financially and I believe everyone should be able to benefit from them. No one owns them. They are from the ancients. You are a profound teacher and it would be wonderful if you could send out this teaching to those who are interested. In service, Om and Prem Namaste

    Ganga Devi // 2013-09-21 20:12:35 // //
  • See the paradox..people from land of spirituality are after money ..and people form land of money are after spirituality!

    Gypsyspirit // 2013-09-22 00:26:44 // //



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All comments

  • Yoga is great, wish I made time to do it more often.

    Dawn Dye Harvey // 2013-10-07 12:30:17 // //
  • I saw him. What a guy!

    Cathy Cheney-sears // 2013-10-06 19:47:21 // //
  • Encouraging.

    Jose Angel Rivera // 2013-10-06 18:35:13 // //
  • Hi ! Deepak WELCOME TO MEXICO !

    Nuyoo Filipo Alpachino // 2013-10-06 18:31:54 // //
  • Yes, Thank You! Namaste

    Dahlis Roy // 2013-10-06 17:53:25 // //
  • true

    Steve Govinda // 2013-10-06 17:47:44 // //
  • Montreal has a lot of new age health practitioners who have incredible techniques that could help greatly... and i think it would be great if there were a center where the public could find them under one roof.

    Leslie Grace Swiednicki // 2013-10-06 17:25:09 // //
  • Arwen

    James West // 2013-10-06 17:20:08 // //
  • Im now starting to seriouly meditate, and enjoying it, What took me so long!

    Cynthia Mixon // 2013-10-06 17:18:27 // //
  • True..

    Ritu Beri Sood // 2013-10-06 17:02:14 // //
  • What time??

    Belinda Rumble // 2013-10-06 16:49:34 // //
  • That come on Pandora Radio every night...Highest Love, Dr.of Humor.. Institute of Humor

    Phela Goodstein // 2013-10-06 16:45:05 // //
  • Deepak, I Love your Meditations that come on Pandora Radio every night...

    Phela Goodstein // 2013-10-06 16:43:04 // //
  • i cannot focus :(

    Ana Mb // 2013-10-06 16:19:29 // //
  • that's why i do my yoga and meditation sessions every morning when i wake up :D

    Graziella Cappellari // 2013-10-06 16:05:25 // //
  • “Meditation is not a way of making your mind quiet. It is a way of entering into the quiet that is already there - buried under the 50,000 thoughts the average person thinks every day” -Deepak Chopra

    When you know better, you do better. // 2013-10-06 16:05:22 // //
  • "Countless generations have shown us that engaging in yoga and meditation can help us live healthier, more balanced lives. How? Read about it here"

    Arch Albert Tesla // 2013-09-28 22:39:39 // //
  • Is yoga good?

    Arch Albert Tesla // 2013-09-28 22:39:17 // //
  • Why do we call good what we call good?

    Arch Albert Tesla // 2013-09-28 22:39:06 // //
  • The practicality of this question suggests an outside source.

    Arch Albert Tesla // 2013-09-28 22:38:46 // //
  • So is good really a relative term, or is everything else in human experience defined by good?

    Arch Albert Tesla // 2013-09-28 22:38:15 // //
  • So the universe interacting with the human experience has defined what we consider "good".

    Arch Albert Tesla // 2013-09-28 22:37:47 // //
  • So when we feel good, we are more connected to our genetic pre-disposition.

    Arch Albert Tesla // 2013-09-28 22:36:38 // //
  • Through evolution, we have evolved to be wired to what we consider positive stimulus more often than what we call negative stimulus.

    Arch Albert Tesla // 2013-09-28 22:36:06 // //
  • And so of course when we feel better, we think better, because we are all born good.

    Arch Albert Tesla // 2013-09-28 22:35:22 // //
  • I understand why people would doubt the benfits of yoga, because I used to not understand how yoga could do this, when I was younger and I didn't know the benefits of stretching, muscular exertion and meditation on the muscles, NS, mind and spirit.

    Arch Albert Tesla // 2013-09-28 22:34:57 // //
  • Tu eres medico, existe algun motivo para no poder llegar a una profunda meditacion? c.elect.

    Isabel Fernandez Bohorquez // 2013-09-28 16:47:31 // //
  • Deepak es muy dificil para mi lograr una buena meditacion a pesar los videos. Porque???

    Isabel Fernandez Bohorquez // 2013-09-28 16:45:07 // //
  • Great.

    Jose Angel Rivera // 2013-09-28 15:55:48 // //
  • Yes i love meditation and yoga it has changed my life for the better..

    Valerie Sanders // 2013-09-28 15:02:27 // //
  • Yes, its probably all I will end up doing. These work environments I've been in are AWFUL and I don't know if it will get better. Fortunately I know how to be thrifty although I do not prefer to be this way.

    Kim Swanson // 2013-09-28 13:30:51 // //
  • Happy to say this practice has helped me out a lot! I feel fortunate to have had an office visit with Dr.Patel and am greatful to live near the Chopra Center so I can continue to see her. I love the energy I feel when I am at the center. peace and love

    sheilamaye // 2013-09-28 12:30:33 // //
  • The data is very interesting. Thank you.

    Cecile Cole // 2013-09-28 12:29:00 // //
  • Muy Cierto!!! Namaste!!!

    Paty Ar // 2013-09-28 12:28:26 // //
  • yes

    Mária Tóth // 2013-09-28 12:10:11 // //
  • “There is a timeless way to recapture the connection to our true self; the practice of meditation, which allows us to gradually bring harmony, laughter, and love back into our soul.” -Deepak Chopra

    When you know better, you do better. // 2013-09-28 12:08:49 // //
  • Great article! Meditation & Yoga has profoundly change my life for the better. <3

    Amber Johnson // 2013-09-28 12:06:03 // //
  • True

    Benedetta Spada // 2013-09-28 12:00:46 // //
  • 6FANUN

    kindly help me to know this relaxation technique // 2013-09-26 20:50:56 // //
  • I am curious if the relaxation response can help reverse diabetes???

    wolfemaiden // 2013-09-25 14:47:12 // //
  • There is never a bad or a dull day when you do yoga and meditation everyday!

    Sudha Rao // 2013-09-23 08:36:02 // //
  • x~^~<3 Of radiance <3~^~x The resonance of radiance The light of lights within Come step out of ideas Of hate, of fear of pain, of sin For see these are illusion They are not of source above So simply close your eyes & breathe Come walk In fields of love The source of all Within you Of the universe You see Let its light Awake your soul Of radiance Just be!!! x ~*~ <3 ~*~ <3<3<3 ~*~ <3 ~*~ x 'Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing & rightdoing there is a field, I'll meet you there!' - Rumi The word sin actually means to 'miss the mark' most do so unwittingly through ignorance or because of a feeling of lack. Hate & fear are from ego which perpetuates the illusion of separation, Separation gives rise to pain which again is an illusion. Education yourself in the art of being, meditation & yoga allows you to tear down the veil of these illusions. To find the light within & to feel its radiance resonate from you. Come just be what you are A radiant being of light & love x ~*~ <3 ~*~ <3<3<3 ~*~ <3 ~*~ x My mantra I choose Miracles I choose Light I choose Love x ~*~ <3 ~*~ <3<3<3 ~*~ <3 ~*~ x <3~*~ Sat nam ~*~ <3 <3 ~*~ Namasté ~*~ <3 <3~*~ Sat Chit Ananda ~*~<3 <3 ~*~ Salam alaikum ~*~ <3 May the universe bless you, as you bless the universe with your smile x ~*~ <3 ~*~ <3<3<3 ~*~ <3 ~*~ x x ~*~<3 Chris Price <3~*~ x Poem copyright 21/09/2013 Artist unknown

    Chris Price // 2013-09-22 14:47:55 // //
  • Yes, that's right.

    Kartika Natalia // 2013-09-22 10:54:39 // //
  • Please visit Prana sound for some helpful chakra balancing meditations ;) namaste

    Rick Batyr // 2013-09-22 10:38:30 // //
  • I am with you so agreed.

    Fahime Valion // 2013-09-22 09:40:53 // //
  • Yoka balance your mind and body...and make your heart healitier and younger

    Khundee Yensai // 2013-09-22 08:37:16 // //
  • So true I am with you.....agreed!

    Dorethy Kinny // 2013-09-22 01:25:20 // //
  • See the paradox..people from land of spirituality are after money ..and people form land of money are after spirituality!

    Gypsyspirit // 2013-09-22 00:26:44 // //
  • Agree...Thanks

    Thangeh Sri // 2013-09-22 00:00:36 // //
  • Thanks ... !!!

    Moraru Laura Claudia // 2013-09-21 21:30:35 // //
  • I gave up after just a few sessions...could not seem to master anything that was being taught. Felt like I had three left feet. The others were doing exactly what the teacher said...maybe I should give it another chance.

    Victoria Troglen Haynes // 2013-09-21 21:16:17 // //
  • When will you, Dr. Chopra, please teach us the T.M. siddhi techniques? They are so far out of reach financially and I believe everyone should be able to benefit from them. No one owns them. They are from the ancients. You are a profound teacher and it would be wonderful if you could send out this teaching to those who are interested. In service, Om and Prem Namaste

    Ganga Devi // 2013-09-21 20:12:35 // //
  • Besos deepak

    Irma Reyes // 2013-09-21 19:17:21 // //
  • Ohh the changes with daily practice, I need practice yoga urgently!!! regards,

    Monica Gar // 2013-09-21 18:58:38 // //
  • I agree completely! Thank you :) we are engaging in such loving, rebalancing activities tomorrow in Toronto at Yogapalooza where thousands will gather for music, meditation and movement! All free classes:

    Tara Antler // 2013-09-21 18:05:13 // //
  • Daily practice is now part of my life

    Krishna Ruparelia // 2013-09-21 17:08:04 // //
  • I never tire of reading about the benefits of keeps me sane :)

    Spiritual Messages of Comfort // 2013-09-21 16:41:18 // //
  • Meditation balances my days..........

    Myrna Zelaya // 2013-09-21 16:02:27 // //
  • I practice body Balance( combination of tai-chi,yoga and pilates) and i feel much much better since,together with meditation,makes life happier and balanced.

    Indhira Aguiar // 2013-09-21 15:51:52 // //
  • Yes, yoga is meditation in motion. A great exercise that makes your mind and body flexible and strong <3

    Goddesses // 2013-09-21 15:23:35 // //