Researchers in India report that yoga postures, breathing disciplines and meditation may be the key to prolonging that proverbial fountain of youth. Biomarkers found in human blood samples drawn during a clinical trial showed the anti-aging benefits of practicing these ancient holistic practices.
In the Yoga and Meditation Based Lifestyle Intervention (YMLI) clinical trial, scientists enrolled a homogenous, seemingly healthy group of 96 men and women aged 30-65 years old, who had not experienced any significant lifestyle or physical challenges over the preceding three months between August 2015 and May 2016. Once enrolled, participants had 5 milliliters of fasting venous blood drawn to establish baseline markers for a range of primary and secondary aging characteristics. They next practiced yoga and meditation in the 12-week program to measure the disciplines’ anti-aging benefits.
During the trial’s initial 14 days, the group received instructions from registered, specialized yoga instructors for five days each week at the AIIMS health clinic in New Delhi, India. The YMLI instructions incorporated Hatha and Raja yoga techniques including physical postures, breathing exercises and meditation into their 90-minute classes. Following yoga, a 30-minute lecture focused on the importance of a healthy lifestyle and diet in warding off conditions like cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases, among others.
The participants then were required to continue their practices at home for the subsequent 10 weeks and were responsible for self-monitoring their progress in a diary or by regular telephone conversation. At the trial’s conclusion, another 5 milliliters venous blood was drawn to compare the pre- and post-YMLI levels of various markers.
The scientists analyzed the changes in primary and secondary aging characteristic found in participants’ blood before and after the 12-week program. Primary measures included DNA damage that leads to metabolic instability, oxidative stress levels, total antioxidant levels, among others. As secondary factors, they examined cortisol levels – a reading of stress responsiveness – inflammation and cellular plasticity, among others.
The researchers hypothesis was confirmed when they examined the trial participants’ blood at the end of the 12-week trial. In every instance, YMLI was associated with changes for the better, indicating a slow-down of the cellular aging process. The authors hailed their clinical trial as the first to investigate the effects of YMLI on age-related biomarkers. Almost no gender-based biomarker differences appeared in the trial. This trial serves as a springboard bringing the practice of yoga and meditation further into mainstream science surrounding aging and disease prevention.
The study is limited by its small size, homogenous population and lack of a similarly sized control group.
The trial’s findings were published online on Jan. 16, 2017, by Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity.
So, you may want to bend and twist into a yogic position, breathe deeply and meditate in your individual quest to recapture that elusive fountain of youth.
Written By: Susan Mercer Hinrichs, MA, MBA, CPhT