Aging is inevitable. We can’t stop it or reverse the aging process. But, it is becoming more apparent that life-style changes can slow down the process and allow us to live longer and healthier lives.
The genes govern cellular processes in our bodies. One of the most fundamental of these processes is cell replication. Our bodies are constantly turning over cells. Dying cells or damaged are replaced by new cells. The cells turn over at different rates but most cells in the body are lost and replaced between every few days to every few months. Needless to say were constantly renewing ourselves.
As we age the tail of the DNA molecule called the telomere shortens. When it gets very short cells have a more and more difficult time reproducing and become more likely to produce defective cells. On a cellular basis this is what produces aging. There is an enzyme in the body called telomerase that helps to prevent shortening of the telomere. So, processes that increase telomerase activity tend to slow the aging process.
Previous research has shown that an intensive meditation practice can increase telomerase activity and slow telomere shortening. These results suggested that meditation could slow aging and increase life span. It’s been anecdotally reported for years that people who practice yoga tend to live long lives. There has, however, not been any systematic empirical evidence obtained to confirm or deny these anecdotes.
In today’s Research News article “Telomerase activity and cellular aging might be positively modified by a yoga-based lifestyle intervention.”
Kumar and colleagues produce evidence from a single case study that yoga practice increases telomerase activity. In addition they show that markers of oxidative stress, another indicator of aging, are reduced with yoga practice.
These are very exciting findings that must be interpreted cautiously since they are from a single case. But, should they be seen in controlled future investigation could suggest that yoga practice, like meditation, can slow cellular aging and perhaps increase longevity. It should be emphasized that the yoga practice used by Kumar and colleagues included meditation. It remains to future research to identify if the observed effects are due to the postures, or to breath control in yoga or to the meditation component or all three.
So, practice yoga and age slowly and healthily.