Vijayendran Chandran, Mei-Ling Bermúdez,  Mert Koka, Brindha Chandran, Dhanashri Pawale,   Ramana Vishnubhotla, Suresh Alankar,  Raj Maturi, Balachundhar Subramaniam, and Senthilkumar Sadhasivam, et el

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, December 21, 2021

COMMENTARY by Ronald Peters, MD, MPH

Sustained mediation offers a powerful realization – you are not your thoughts; you are who is listening to them.  The continuum of health is body, mind, and Spirit. Psalms 46:10 “Be still and know that I am God”.  Luke 17:21 “The Kingdom of God is within you.”  “What you think you become” is attributed to Buddha. The chattering mind on the other hand is often worried, fearful, frustrated, doubtful, as it contains childhood programing by parents who were also listening to a socially conditioned reactive mind.

However, quieting the reactive mind is not quick and easy.  In this remarkable study, 106 adults meditated for ten hours a day for eight days, while eating a vegan diet. As you can read below, Dr. Chandran and his colleagues “were astonished to find heightened activity in as many as 220 genes directly related to the immune response, including 68 genes associated with anti-virus and anti-cancer responses.” In contrast, patients with severe COVID-19 showed significant reduction in anti-viral gene activity.

You too can experience Advanced Inner Engineering and the unparalleled benefits to your health, as well as Spiritual guidance from within. Vipassana, which means “to see things as they really are”, is one of India’s most ancient techniques of meditation and it is available, free of charge. Please visit the following website for information and location for Vipassana 10-day mediation courses:                       


The positive impact of meditation on human well-being is well documented, yet its molecular mechanisms are incompletely understood. We applied a comprehensive systems biology approach starting with whole-blood gene expression profiling combined with multilevel bioinformatic analyses to characterize the coexpression, transcriptional, and protein–protein interaction networks to identify a meditation-specific core network after an advanced 8-d Inner Engineering retreat program. We found the response to oxidative stress, detoxification, and cell cycle regulation pathways were down-regulated after meditation. Strikingly, 220 genes directly associated with immune response, including 68 genes related to interferon signaling, were up-regulated, with no significant expression changes in the inflammatory genes. This robust meditation-specific immune response network is significantly dysregulated in multiple sclerosis and severe COVID-19 patients. The work provides a foundation for understanding the effect of meditation and suggests that meditation as a behavioral intervention can voluntarily and nonpharmacologically improve the immune response for treating various conditions associated with excessive or persistent inflammation with a dampened immune system profile.

Yoga and meditation are holistic disciplines that integrate both mental and physical methods for human well-being (1). These practices are growing in popularity worldwide, and according to a recent national health survey, 14% of the adult United States population used yoga or meditation within the previous year (2). Several studies have demonstrated multiple

health benefits from such methods (3, 4), including reduced stress (5–8), anxiety (5, 7, 9, 10), fatigue (5, 11), depression (5, 9, 12), chronic pain (13–15), and disease severity for inflammatory bowel disease (16, 17) and cardiovascular disease (6, 18, 19). However, the mechanisms responsible for these improvements are poorly understood. These parameters are typically measured with self-reported surveys before and after meditation interventions, and such an approach may be prone to bias and subjectivity. Several studies on meditative practices have, however, shown changes in gene expression levels, demonstrating that these methods may benefit physiology at its most fundamental level (20, 21). For example, utilizing microarray

technology to study the transcriptomic effects of six individuals of 38 y of twice-daily transcendental meditation practice found 200 genes differentially expressed (DE) (22). Similarly, studying the methylome of peripheral blood mononuclear cells in 17 experienced meditators after a day of intensive meditation revealed 61 differentially methylated regions (23). Studies focusing on the impact of meditation for treating irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, and hypertension have observed that several genes related to fundamental pathways to be DE (24, 25). Together, several previous studies provide strong evidence for the beneficial effects of meditation by modulating the basic cellular pathways. Nevertheless, most of the previous studies are 1) cross-sectional studies (evaluating only

one time point) (26–30), 2) done on highly experienced meditators (26, 27), 3) small sample sized (26–28, 30, 31), 4) tested on handpicked nonspecific biomarkers (29, 30), and 5) confounded with different lifestyle and diet (26, 29, 30).

To understand the meditative effect and to overcome these limitations, 1) we applied unbiased gene expression analyses on four time points before and after the intensive 8-d Samyama meditation (an advanced Inner Engineering program attended by ∼20,000 participants to date), and 2) we analyzed the transcriptomic changes from 388 samples obtained from 106 individuals after a residential meditation retreat including a vegan diet at the Isha Institute of Inner Sciences (McMinnville, TN).


 Several studies on the impact of yoga and meditation on mental and physical health have demonstrated beneficial effects. However, the potential molecular mechanisms and critical genes involved in this beneficial outcome have yet to be comprehensively elucidated. This study identified and characterized the transcriptional program associated with advanced meditation practice, and we bioinformatically integrated various networks to identify meditation-specific core network. This core network links several immune signaling pathways, and we showed that this core transcriptional profile is dysfunctional in multiple sclerosis and severe COVID-19 infection. Very importantly, we demonstrated that the meditative practice enhanced immune function without activating inflammatory signals. Together, these results make meditation an effective behavioral intervention for treating various conditions associated with a weakened immune system. 

Participants spent 8 d in complete silence with more than 10 h of meditation per day. We reasoned that improvement in multiple physical and mental health conditions by this meditative practice would likely reflect significant differences in intrinsic transcriptional networks, rather than changes in expression of a few individual genes. We applied a multistaged approach to characterize the coexpression, transcriptional, and protein–protein interaction (PPI) networks associated with meditation, and we validated several network predictions using multiple approaches.