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The downward dog, the repetition of mantras and other mind-body interventions can actually affect the expression of your DNA, according to a new study.

Yoga, meditation and other “MBIs” actually decrease the epigenetics of the “fight-or-flight” response, which can cause inflammation and other harmful biological expressions, according to the study in the journal Frontiers in Immunology.

The benefits of the practices exist at the molecular level, said Ivana Buric of Coventry University in the United Kingdom, the lead author.

“These activities are leaving what we call a molecular signature in our cells, which reverses the effect that stress of anxiety would have on the body by changing how our genes are expressed,” said Buric, in a school-issued statement. “Put simply, MBIs cause the brain to steer our DNA processes along a path that improves our well-being.”

The paper is a meta-analysis of 18 studies that looked at the molecular changes of 846 people over 11 years.

The “fight-or-flight” response is triggered by the stympathetic nervous system, which causes a reaction increasing the production of nuclear factor kappa B. The NF-kB regulates the expression of certain portions of DNA. Those changes cause the production of more proteins called cytokines, which cause cellular-level inflammation.

The inflammation for the “fight-or-flight” response was useful in humanity’s past, since it bolstered the immune system and brought other short-term benefits. But long-term stressors prompting the response cause lead to increased risk of cancers and psychiatric disorders, and even accelerated aging.

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