Think that relaxation techniques are new-age nonsense with no real health benefits? Think again. A new study reveals that praying, meditating and yoga affect how your body handles stress, inside and out. “It’s not all in your head,” says Dr. Herbert Benson, president emeritus of the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind/Body Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital and an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. “What we have found is that when you evoke the relaxation response, the very genes that are turned on or off by stress are turned the other way. The mind can actively turn on and turn off genes. The mind is not separated from the body.”

The study’s researchers found that participants who practiced one of these techniques had genes that shifted to deal with stress better than those who did not. Even better news? It didn’t matter if they had been practicing these techniques for years or just started—everyone can reap the benefits.

Don’t know how to get started with a meditation or yoga routine? Visit to find a teacher in your area. Also read RH’s special report Get Your Zen On.