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Practicing Yoga and Tai Chi Could Improve Your DNA


As many of us often experience in our daily lives, stress can take a toll on you, mentally and physically. From headaches and loss of energy to physical pain, stress can cause uncomfortable symptoms and even "accelerated aging." New research suggests practicing yoga or tai chi may slow or even reverse these harmful effects. Participating in mind-body activities may offer a healing power that starts in our DNA.

What Happens to Your Body Under Stress

“When dealing with a stressful situation, many of the body’s systems have natural reactions,” says Curt Woolford, MA, E-RYT, a yoga and tai chi instructor at the Healthplex Sports Club. “In the short term, these reactions are good and help you survive — but when stress becomes chronic, it can be harmful.”

While your nervous system responds with the "fight or flight" reaction, causing your adrenaline to spike, your other systems also react. Your genes release a protein called cytokines that cause inflammation. It can cause a range of symptoms like joint pain, difficulty breathing, and nausea. These reactions can also contribute to long-term health issues such as cancer, faster aging, depression and anxiety.

How Can Yoga and Tai Chi Help?

A new study suggests that activities like yoga and tai chi can help to heal what ails us.

“Mind-body interventions have long been known to reduce stress, and this new data suggests that these activities can guide our brains and DNA to handling stress better on a molecular level. These activities work with our bodies to decrease cytokine production, which means you’ll experience less inflammation and long-term health problems,” says Mr. Woolford.

These exercises can guide your brain and DNA to repair and defend the body from the effects of stress as time goes on.

How to Get Started

While the recent study looked at participants engaging in yoga or tai chi over several months, a few hours of mind-body exercise each week can improve your health in the long run.

“Even after a single session of these exercises, research shows that people report lower levels of depression, stress and sometimes even physical pain,” says Mr. Woolford.

Before you start any new type of exercise, consult with your doctor to make sure these activities are right for you.

To get started, here are a few basic moves you can try:

  • Mountain Pose: Stand with your feet together, with your weight evenly distributed on both legs and your arms at your side. Take a deep breath, straighten your arms and lift them overhead until you feel a stretch.
  • Child’s Pose: Find a comfortable position on your knees. Slowly bring your head to the floor as you stretch your arms out on the floor in front of you until your chest is sitting comfortably on your knees. As you hold the pose, close your eyes and take a deep breath.
  • Shavasana: Lie down on your back. Spread your legs until they are hip width apart and your arms until they are at a 45-degree angle from your torso. Have your palms face the ceiling. Close your eyes and take a deep breath.

Yoga at the Healthplex

The Healthplex Sports Club is committed to providing a safe and challenging environment for people to achieve therapeutic health and wellness. Our staff of certified yoga teachers has trained with masters in various styles and methods to provide you with a variety of classes and formats, enabling you to reach your potential for personal growth and wholeness.

For a complete listing of class dates and times, please visit our Group Fitness Schedules.