Turning to another aspect of molecular biology and behavior, there are segments of DNA at the end of the chromosomes that are not responsible for the expression of any specific trait. These DNA segments are known as telomeres and they prevent the loss of important genetic material. Over-time, however, the telomeres deteriorate with aging and can be further degraded under conditions of chronic stress. An enzyme known as telomerase facilitates the lengthening and restoration of telomeres, and it is possible to enhance levels of this enzyme. Dr. Helen Lavretsky at UCLA, in collaboration with Dr. Dharma Singh Khalsa of the Alzheimer’s Research and Prevention Foundation published a study evaluating the effects of Kirtan Kriya on telomerase levels within caregivers, who often suffer negative side effects in cognitive ability from increased stress see http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/gps.3790/pdf.

For 12 minutes a day for a total of 8 weeks participants practiced Kirtan Kriya* whereas others in a control group practiced a simple relaxation technique. The study concluded: “…that brief daily meditation practices by family dementia caregivers can lead to improved mental and cognitive functioning and lower levels of depressive symptoms. This improvement is accompanied by an increase in telomerase activity suggesting improvement in stress-induced cellular ageing.” This is more evidence of the role of contemplative practices at the molecular level.

A recent study just published by Dr. Benson and his team has showed more specifically that mind-body interventions cause changes in ”expression of genes associated with energy metabolism, mitochondrial function, insulin secretion and telomere maintenance, and reduced expression of genes linked to inflammatory response and stress-related pathways” http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3641112/pdf/pone.0062817.pdf  This has further expanded our knowledge of the profound and diverse effects of these practices at the molecular level.

In a collaborative study funded by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine on which I (SBSK) am a coinvestigator, the BHI is currently conducting a study comparing different mind-body interventions in healthy individuals under chronic stress using three different types of measures: self-report questionnaires from participants, measures of genomic expression, and biochemical analyses of blood, saliva and urine; see: http://projectreporter.nih.gov/project_info_description.cfm?aid=8326553&icde=16677074&ddparam=&ddvalue=&ddsub=&cr=1&csb=default&cs=ASC.

This study will not only provide information about the efficacy of the different interventions used, but will also assist in identifying the most efficient and cost effective means of measuring the impacts of the interventions. One of the interventions is a Kundalini Yoga protocol developed in collaboration with Shanti Shanti Kaur Khalsa of the Guru Ram Das Center for Medicine and Humanology. Participants assigned to this intervention will practice a brief Kundalini Yoga set at home daily for 8 weeks. A weekly practice session instructed by some Kundalini Yoga instructors in Boston includes the Basic Spinal Energy Series, the Calmness and Anti-Anxiety Series and the Stress Set for the Adrenals and Kidneys. We are looking forward to the results that will further reveal the effects of Kundalini Yoga at the molecular level

Kirtan Kriya* A key practice within Panacea Project®

By Jan Sev Singh & Sat Bir Singh Khalsa, Ph.D. Assistant Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Director of Research, Kundalini Research Institute, Research Associate, Benson Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine, Research Affiliate, Osher Center for Integrative Medicine, Editor in Chief, International Journal of Yoga Therapy

Reprinted from the KRI website, special thanks to them and the Kundalini Research Institute for sharing their wisdom and teachings