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Telomeres, Yoga, and Youth

There is no getting around it.  We all age.  Our skin loses elasticity.  Our hair turns grey.  Our spines shrink.  We lose brain power.  I myself now see small signs of aging when I look in the mirror…Silver pops of color in my hair and fine lines on my skin. The good news? I don’t have to accept that my youth is fading before my eyes! In recent years scientists have discovered what seems to be the major player in the aging process. Just FYI - this discovery was so important that the Noble Prize for Physiology was awarded to the founders in 2009. They are called Telomeres!

What the heck is a telomere, you might ask? Telomeres are protective caps at the end of our chromosomes.  They start off long in our youth and shorten as we grow older. As they shorten they leave our DNA without protection. That’s when cells start to age and deteriorate. The length of your telomere is a more accurate indicator of your biological age than the number of years you have been living!

Recent studies have shown that living a healthy lifestyle can keep telomeres efficient for longer.  Stress in particular seems to have a major effect on telomere length. And where stress is a problem, yoga can be quite helpful. One study done by The University of California San Francisco tested the effect of yoga on physiological stress and telomere length.  What did they find?  24 men ages 50 to 85 were asked to practice yoga for an hour a day, 6 days per week. They did this for 3 months.  In that time they found that telomere levels shot up 30 percent! They also found a decrease in cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and stress.  It seems that yoga can directly affect our biological clock (aka telomere length).

So, next time you pick up the anti-aging cream or start googling plastic surgery, stop.  Set aside an hour for your yoga practice.  It is the least expensive and most effective path to staying young!

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