Telomerase & Genomics

Past Studies

Study Overview

In this study, The Chopra Foundation and the Chopra Center collaborated with Drs. Elizabeth Blackburn, Elissa Epel, Jue Lin, and Eli Puterman at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) and Drs. William Mobley and Michael Rafii at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) as part of the research study to examine the effects of a weeklong intensive yoga and meditation retreat program (Seduction of Spirit at the Chopra Center for Wellbeing) on stress and aging.

This study examined whether certain aspects of health and well-being can change in a short span of time in people attending a meditation retreat relative to a control group. This attempts to address whether health benefits can be attributed to the meditation practice itself versus a “vacation effect”. Comparisons were also made between participants who were new to meditation versus participants who already had an established practice.

Various measurements were done before attending the retreat, as well as after the retreat. These measurements included markers of aging (telomerase), gene expression, psychological wellbeing assessments, and perceived stress.

Research is revealing that shortened telomeres are involved in every known disease.

Regardless of what health challenges you’re concerned about the most, chances are good that shrinking telomeres play a role.

So in theory, increased telomere protection equal longer telomeres which, in turn, result in better wellbeing and healthier biological age.

Amanda Gilbert, Clinical Research Coordinator at UCSF, describes the Seduction of Spirit study that took place in 2013: “That study [SOS] showed us a number of things. Two out of three of the study groups were new meditators, with no regular meditation practice. We randomized half the group in a vacation group, and the other half as a meditation retreat at the Chopra Center for Wellbeing. What we found was that the novice meditators who went through the meditation retreat showed greater psychological wellbeing that persisted 10 months after the retreat. Instead of just going on vacation, if you go and learn the life affirming tools of a meditation practice, then you see more long term effects in your life. The vacation effect wears off. A second finding was that a 3rd group of experienced meditators, who already had 6 months or more of experience with meditation, were more healthy psychologically and physically at baseline. In experienced long-term meditators, we can see the long term effects and outcomes of a daily meditation practice.”

This study suggests benefits to attending a meditation retreat over vacation in promoting a more resilient response to daily stressors and positive mood. This study is currently pending publication.