By Erin Easterly from her blog YogaWisdom.net
The research is in and the results are stunning! Meditation can improve your health in more ways than even the American Medical Association can count. Meditation is proving to be the proverbial fountain of youth. It can renew, revitalize, and refresh nearly every system of your body, mind, and soul.
- Meditation Increases Gray Matter Concentration in the Brain
A group of Harvardscientists used MRI scans to reveal that after 8 weeks of mindfulness meditation gray matter concentration increased in areas of the brain associated with learning, memory, and emotional regulation.
- Long Term Meditation Increases Gamma Brain Waves
Gamma brain waves are associated with cognitive enhancement (i.e. information processing, short and long term memory, number sense, and brain speed).
- Meditation Improves Focus
A study at the University of California revealed that meditators experienced measurable gains in in their ability to maintain focus. Another study found that with only 20 minutes of meditation a day meditators improved performance on tests of cognitive skill, sometimes performing more than 10 times better than a non-meditating control group.
- Meditation Decreases Pain
A research group from the University of Montreal compared Zen masters to non meditating counterparts and found that when exposed to painful degrees of heat the Zen masters’ brains responded differently than non-meditators. Using MRI scans it was revealed that Zen masters’ brains actually registered less pain than non-meditators.
A group of over 200 participants at high risk of stroke divided into two groups. One group took a health education class that focused on diet and exercise. Another group was given training in Transcendental Meditation (TM). Over the next 5 years researchers followed the participants and found that those in the TM group had a 48% decrease in their risk of stroke.
- Meditation Reduces Blood Pressure
Clinical research showed that meditation reduced blood pressure by increasing nitric oxide, a chemical that opens blood vessels. After three months of meditation, 2/3 of participants were able to reduce blood pressure medication.
- Meditation Reduces Inflammation and Inflammatory Disorders
Since inflammation is the root cause of many diseases, meditation may reduce the chance of contracting disease.
- Meditation May Increase Longevity
Telomeres are the end caps of chromosomes. They protect chromosomes from fraying in much the same way that plastic tips on a shoelace keeps the shoelace from fraying. When chromosomes last longer, so does your body. Meditation is proving to not only protect the telomeres but to lengthen them, thus increasing the protection of each chromosome.
- Meditation Reduces Depression
Mindfulness based meditation was found to be an effective intervention for anxiety and depression symptoms. Not only did meditation lessen symptoms, it helped to prevent recurrences.
- Meditation Increases Awareness of Unconscious Responses
People who practice meditation experience a lengthened pause between a stimulus and their responses. Since it is usually unconscious responses that lead us astray in our interactions, this finding can potentially provide the path to better interpersonal relationships.
There are many types of meditation, but most have four elements in common:
a quiet location,
a specific posture,
a focus of attention (a mantra, an object, or the sensations of the breath);
and an attitude of detachment (the ability to allow distractions to come and go without clinging to them.)
To receive the benefits of meditation it is critical to have a consistent practice of at least 20 minutes each day. While more is better, consistency is best!