Our biology certainly influences our health and behavior, but the environment can also have a significant impact on our health and wellbeing. Thanks to the fascinating field of epigenetics, we now understand that factors like our nutrition, movement habits, stress levels, and feelings of emotional connection can affect the way our genes are expressed. So today host Rachel dips her toes into the world of science to discuss epigenetics, mental health and yoga with guest Valerie Knopik.
Valerie has a PhD in Psychology and postdoctoral training in Psychiatric and Genetic Epidemiology. Active in mental health research, Valerie has a deep interest in how our internal biology and our external environment (including yoga, mindfulness, and meditation) can interact to positively change our mental health landscape.
In this episode, Valerie helps us understand how our genes alone don’t determine our physical or mental health, what kind of environmental factors affect our epigenome, and how various yoga practices can make us more resilient to the environmental stressors we inevitably face.
“There is a way in which the environment gets under the skin to actually affect the way that our genes are expressed.” – Valerie Knopik PhD
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“There are so many different aspects of yoga-related modalities that can help individuals cherrypick what works for them.” – Valerie Knopik PhD
- What got Valerie interested in science and biological psychology [3:28]
- Genetics versus epigenetics, how our “environment gets under the skin” [7:04]
- Defining epigenetics [11:23]
- Interrelating factors which influence our epigenetics [15:39]
- The varied roles yoga practice can play [21:19]
- What research says about the benefits of movement on our epigenome [23:22]
- Overlaps between the concepts of epigenetics and neural plasticity [29:59]
- The importance of supporting mental health; how yoga can help [31:43]
- Yoga practices for burnout [39:34]
- Valerie’s key takeaways [43:57]
- Watch this episode on YouTube
- Mental Health & Wellness Yoga Teacher Training
- Recommended Articles:
- Epi-What? Change Your Internal Landscape Part 2: Epigenetics and How It Reduces Depression and Increases Longevity
- Światowy et al., “Physical Activity and DNA Methylation in Humans”: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8657566/
- Lindholm et al., “An integrative analysis reveals coordinated reprogramming of the epigenome and the transcriptome in human skeletal muscle after training”
- Yoga Medicine Online Burnout Series
- Yoga Medicine Online Monthly Dose: Mental Health Lecture
- Connect with Valerie Knopik:
“So much has a genetic influence, but very few things are 100% genetic.” – Valerie Knopik PhD