Say the word “meditation” to practice members and you’ll get different reactions every time. Typical responses range from “I’m too busy for that” to “that religious nonsense? Not for me.” For generations, meditation’s strongest associations were with yoga, Buddhism and the like. However, research emerging over the last few years is showing that meditation has many positive impacts for health and longevity. Innovators in mind-body practices are increasingly finding ways to bring meditation out of the realm of the religious and into the realm of health and healing.
It could be more important than we thought.
Among the findings in research papers on the matter, are a number of discoveries pointing to positive impacts on the central and autonomic nervous systems. These learnings are important, given the current knowledge that shows how stress can impact the body over time.
One such study showed that stress, poor diet and sedentary lifestyles had the power to shorten the telomeres which exist in our chromosomes and impact longevity. The study revealed that “being overweight, stressed and sedentary” can “accelerate the shortening of these DNA- protein complexes at the end of chromosomes that protect the genetic material and promote chromosomal stability .”
We might have the ability to impact diet, and introduce more healthy activity to sedentary lifestyles, but stress is unavoidable. It is, quite simply, something every person on the planet will face. Given its inevitability, how we prepare ourselves and our practice members to respond to stress is very important.
Inside the practice, adjusting the subluxation can enhance the body’s ability to interpret and respond to its environment. But what happens away from the practice? It is here that the introduction of meditation into a person’s lifestyle can have powerful impacts. Here’s what some of the research is saying:
- Central and autonomic nervous system interaction is altered by short-term meditation . “Five days of integrative body–mind training (IBMT) improves attention and self-regulation in comparison with the same amount of relaxation training.“ The group who undertook IBMT (or meditation) showed significantly better physiological reactions in heart rate, respiratory amplitude and rate, and skin conductance response than the relaxation control group. The researchers said “These results indicate that after 5 days of training, the IBMT group shows better regulation of the ANS by a ventral mid-frontal brain system than does the relaxation group.” Heart rate variability and other autonomic nervous system measures were covered during the study.
- Another study flagged mediation’s potential to optimize health, delay aging, and speed recovery from injury or disease. Three hypotheses were presented to guide design of future investigations into the mechanisms that caused these outcomes. They were that meditation may: “(1) promote restoration of physiologic set-points to normal after derangements secondary to disease or injury, (2) promote homeostatic negative feedback loops over non-homeostatic positive feedback loops in molecular and cellular interactions, and (3) quench abnormal “noise” in cellular and molecular signaling networks arising from environmental or internal stresses .”
- The impact of changes in the environment upon gene expression is well documented. This includes physical, psychological, social and other components. I.e. “Adverse life experiences give rise to changes in gene expression in circulating immune cells . ”There are encouraging developments on this front, given that studies on meditative practices “positively affect gene expression profiles in immune cells in the circulation demonstrating that the ‘mind-body’ practices may benefit the physiology at its most fundamental level .”
Whilst more studies are necessary to evaluate the molecular networks and mechanisms behind these findings, it is good news. We have long been able to advise on diet and exercise as mechanisms for health. Now we know that, along with adjusting subluxations and improving the body’s ability to respond to its environment, we can provide a little homework for our practice members that can help keep them in an optimal state in terms of stress.
 Mead, M (2008), “Molecular Biology: Telomerase Tells on Lifestyle,” Environmental Health Perspectives, Vol 116(12):A521 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2599779/ retrieved 19 August 2015
 Tang, Y, Ma, Y, Fan, Y, Feng, H, Wang, J, Feng, S, Lu, Q, Hu, B, Lin, Y, Li, J, Zhang, Y, Wang, Y, Zhou, L and Fan, (2009), “Central and Autonomic Nervous System Interaction is Altered by Short-Term Meditation,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, vol. 106 no. 22, 8865-8870, doi:10.1073/pnas.0904031106 http://www.pnas.org/content/106/22/8865.short retrieved 19 August 2015
 Saatcioglu, F (2012), ‘Regulation of gene expression by yoga, meditation and related practices: a review of recent studies,’ Department of Molecular Biosciences, University of OSLO, Norway, http://www.asianjournalofpsychiatry.com/article/S1876-2018(12)00193-1/fulltext, DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ajp.2012.10.002 retrieved 19 August 2015
 Kuntsevich, V, Bushell, W, Theise, N (2010), “Mechanisms of Yogic Practices in Health, Aging and Disease,” Mount Sinai Journal of Medicine, http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/msj.20214/abstract , Volume 77, Issue 5, pages 559–569, September/October 2010