Is meditation good for the body?
Eastern medicine has long proclaimed the health benefits of including meditation in a daily routine.
In the last decade, many people have become interested in spiritual awakening, and mindful meditation has become very popular. Even celebrities are proclaiming the benefits of different types of meditative practices.
Oprah Winfrey is one such powerhouse who swears by a type of meditation called ‘Transcendental Meditation’. This practice is a form of meditation which, according to studies, relieves stress and minimises anxiety, in turn reducing the devastating effect of stress on the body.
An interesting fact: Other well-known practitioners have been focusing on the spiritual side of Transcendental Meditation, as it is known, as early as the 1970s when all four Beatles, Mia Farrow and Clint Eastwood began experimenting with the practice, Huff Post reports.
Transcendental meditation has the person who is practising, focus on one word. Focusing on this word helps declutter the mind, and in the long run helps with obsessive, stressful thought patterns.
Comedian and actor Russell Brand, who also practices TM, explained to TM Home; “You take a word given to you by your teacher, and whenever you notice that you are not thinking of that word, you return to it. Eventually, through the repetition of this word, the mind kind of syncs into a state of deep awareness where you are not continually involved in the structure of inner narrative.”
He continues that meditation has taught him to be present. People tend to be focused on the mistakes of the past and on the things that need to be done in future. But being present is essential. “I noticed that part of the point of meditation is to return myself continually to the present moment. To watch how I have a tendency, mentally, to be thinking about something from the past or projecting to something in the future. This kind of inability to just be present in the moment.”
These are sentiments shared by Deepak Chopra in his award-winning book ‘The power of now”. The book teaches that when we are intensely present in the now, we respond from deep consciousness and flow with ease and joy in life. Perspective can be a deciding factor in how you allow stressful situations to affect your everyday life.
What exactly is meditation?
Meditation has many forms. As mentioned above, there are different ways to practise it.
Essentially, meditation is the exploration of the unconscious mind. It is usually practised in silence, or with the help of relaxing binaural beats and ambient sounds. The person who is practising will sit or lie in a comfortable position, with eyes closed, and focus his/her attention on the thoughts that are floating around in the mind. It is an introspective practice and can be done alone or in a group (usually led by a yogi or meditation master). Meditation uses breathing techniques to release tension.
Other popular types of meditation are concentration, heart-centred, mindfulness, Tai Chi and qigong and the lesser-known walking meditation, which works by synchronising your steps and breaths, creating unity in the body.
Heart-centred meditation involves quieting the mind and bringing the awareness to the heart, an energy centre in the middle of the chest, Health Harvard explains.
Mindfulness meditation takes a unique approach to combating stress by focusing on negative thoughts. People who practise mindfulness are encouraged to focus on their fears and ‘bad feelings’ objectively. This helps to get to the root of the thought and see what triggers the negative feeling. It can also assist in solving difficult issues that may be causing stress.
What are the benefits?
A research review published in JAMA Internal Medicine in 2014 found meditation helpful for relieving anxiety, pain and depression. For depression, it was about as effective as an antidepressant.
Burke Lennihan, a registered nurse and teacher of meditation at the Harvard University Center for Wellness, says: “Meditation will help you lower your blood pressure and can help your creativity, your intuition, your connection with your inner self.”
It has been proven that meditating daily affects the sympathetic nervous system. According to Healthline, it controls blood pressure by relaxing the nerve signals that coordinate heart function, the tension in blood vessels and the “fight-or-flight” response.
Meditation has many other benefits, particularly on the body. Yes, it helps gain clarity and therefore can alleviate the effects and causes of specific stressors, but there are other, recorded benefits too.
Students who meditate are found to study better and get higher grades for exams. It improves posture by giving awareness of each part of the body. Also, many people have reported better focus and less chronic pain, which results in a better mood.
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