Like most truth seekers, I was intrigued the first time I heard stories of exceptionally long lived Yogis of India. We hear of Trailanga Swami of Varanasi, who supposedly lived to be around 300 years. There is Devraha Baba – his followers believe that he lived for over 250 years. Then there is the deathless Mahavatar Babaji, immortalised in Paramhansa Yogananda’s Autobiography Of A Yogi.
Is it possible to live that long? Perhaps. But why would I ever want to live that long? Wouldn’t it get boring, being stuck in an ageing body for so many years? Living forever – or for hundreds of years – may or may not be possible, but feeling and looking much younger than one’s biological age is something most people can live with! Scientific studies in recent years support what yogis have been claiming for centuries: meditation, yoga, and living a spiritual life actually reduce the clinical benchmarks of ‘biological age,’ or the age one’s body and mind appear to be. Even our individual cells go through a natural ageing process, one that can be reversed through meditation. Meditation actually changes our very DNA, according to science. Telomeres are like caps on the end of our chromosomes. As we age, they shorten. That shortening is associated with heightened risk for many diseases, including cancer.
The abnormal stress of modern life has been shown to greatly hasten the reduction of those telomeres. The scientist who won the Nobel Prize for her research on telomeres, Elizabeth Blackburn, states that lengthening these telomeres will keep ‘people healthier forlonger, staving off some diseases of ageing.’ Studies of people who meditate regularly have shown that the length of their telomeres actually increase over time, reversing the natural ageing process and giving them some protection from many modern diseases. One study showed that only 15 minutes of meditation each day – or other spiritual practices such as repetitive prayer (Japa or Mantra chanting) and yoga – increased the enzymes responsible for telomere lengthening.
Studies also show that meditation increases or maintains the volume of grey matter in the brain, which normally only decreases with age. Meditation helps one feel, look, and behave much younger than one’s physical age – even on a cellular level.
The more one meditates, the more one is able to identify with what yogis call the immortal soul. Krishna, in the Bhagwad Gita, tells Arjuna: “This Self is not born, nor does it perish. Self-existent, it continues Its existence forever. It is birthless, eternal, changeless, and ever the same. The Self is not slain when the body dies.”This is why yogis easily overcome the fear of death, if not death itself, and often have a childlike attitude in old age – even appearing young.
Why doesn’t everyone in the world meditate, then? People claim they are too busy, or it’s too difficult, or it’s not their thing. But isn’t feeling younger and healthier everyone’s desire? Surely, you have 15 minutes a day to practise something that will give so many benefits. Who would have thought that the secret to immortality has been known for thousands of years, and that it is so easy?
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