National Yoga Month is an awareness campaign held during the month of September to educate about the health benefits of yoga and to inspire a healthy lifestyle. And there are many benefits. While decreasing stress, strengthening flexibility and muscle and achieving a deeper spirituality are the obvious benefits, yoga also helps to lower blood pressure, enhance brain function, increase mental function and assist in weight loss.
You’ve probably heard that yoga increases flexibility, decreases stress and promotes well-being. This is all wonderful and those of us who tried yoga to promote well-being don’t really have to be told twice. We know what we’ve discovered is tried and true, according to ancient wisdom, and we are not going to be talked out of our practice. However, did you know those waves of relaxation you experience during yoga and meditation are actually healing you at the genetic level?
Have you ever wondered why some people look 40 years old when they are 60 years old and some look 80 years old when they are only 60 years old? The answer is telomere length—and many things affect it. Recent research with telomeres (the end caps of DNA, which tend to fray and shorten as you age) by genetic researcher Elizabeth Blackburn, PhD (2009 Nobel Prize winner) and health psychologist Elissa Epel, PhD, prove that certain lifestyle habits such as yoga and meditation—or other mindful movement meditations, such as Tai Chi or Qi Gong—can actually lengthen the telomeres or repair them. This is done through the enzyme telomerase. This actually slows the aging process. Now this explains what I call the “yoga glow.” That radiant look both longtime yogis and newbies alike have after yoga class when compared with how they look when they walked into class. This is also a common longterm effect after years of practice.
I know many longtime yogis who look decades younger than their numerical age due to their decades of dedicated practice. And now we know why—yoga and meditation actually heal at the genetic level. So next time you are thinking about trying out a yoga class, just think—you may be adding years to your life, smoothing those worry lines, and tucking that tummy. So in addition to aiding that ailing back, strengthening your core, making your shoes easier to put on, and restoring your balance—it may give you a more youthful radiance.
Did they just prove that yoga is the fountain of youth? Maybe so.