Benefits of Meditation for Body, Mind and Soul
Modern life is a roller coaster ride. Busy lifestyles and erratic schedules drive people crazy almost to the brink of insanity. These factors culminate in physical mental and emotional stress and ailments leading to further anxieties and worries. In the recent past however, much has been discussed and talked about the merits of meditation, especially as a popular therapy of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). Further, multiple scientific evidences too vouch for its effectiveness that works as an antidote for several ailments besides being a panacea for the overwhelming demands of everyday life.
The Origin and History of Meditation
The word Meditation derived from the Latin words “Meditari” and “Mederi” mean ‘to dwell upon’ and ‘to heal’ respectively. The word also has its origin in the Sanskrit word “Medha” which
The practise of Meditation, deep rooted in the traditions of ancient times has its origins recorded in several places and religions around the world. Speculation has been rife with most archaeologists claiming the possibilities of its inception from the primitive hunters who underwent an altered state of consciousness while staring hard at the flames they had set for cooking and preserving meat. Later, it became extremely popular with the teachings of Buddha. However, until the 20th century this practise existed only in Asia after which it crossed oceans and now is widely accepted throughout the globe as a valuable part of holistic medicine.
What is Meditation
Meditation based on the body-mind intervention is a deep interaction between the brain, mind, body and behaviour. Further, through mind management, meditation imparts a balanced and positive frame of mind. Nevertheless, the definition depends upon the type and form of practise. It involves tuning the mind and attention inwards focusing on a single object, image, thought, feelings, mantras, breath colours or chakras uplifting thoughts to an altered state of consciousness.
Types of Meditation
There are various forms of meditation. Traditional Meditation a form of practice that controls the mind through relaxation of the body generally falls into three or four major categories. They are as follows…
This type is all about concentration centred on a single point of focus. A kind of meditative practice, this involves chanting or repeating a sacred word (specific mantra) focusing on an object, staring at a candle flame, or concentrating on an image or the breath. By persistently bringing back the attention on one particular element the mind develops the ability to remain grounded and at peace. The breathing practice of inhaling through the nose and exhaling through the mouth helps stabilise the breathing rhythm and keeps the brain relaxed and ward off thoughts from being distracted. This is highly beneficial for stabilising blood pressure levels as it helps decrease the stress hormones, cortisol, adrenaline and noradrenalin.
One of the most popular types of meditation, mindfulness meditation is an integral part of Buddhism. In this technique, the focus and experience is primarily on the sensation of the flow of breath. A combination of concentration and being in the present, the mind and thoughts flow and wander, very much aware of the activities around, yet practise detachment without particularly focussing on one specific external aspect. The practise of this type of meditation, enables a person achieve balance and to accept the myriad emotions and feelings of everyday life.
This is a modern approach to develop the habit of regular meditation. Primarily for beginners, this adopts the practice of a guided technique through audio instructions, which drives the meditator to a deep involved state.
This type refers to any kind of activity, which involves some kind of movement like most types of yoga, moving around the house, gardening, cleaning or walking. This kind is suitable for people who are engaged in desk jobs, which requires prolonged hours of sitting and for people who find it distracting to sit still.
The Four Elements of Meditation
There are four basic elements for almost all types of the meditation. They are as follows…
Generally, meditation is done in a calm serene place devoid of any kind of distractions.
Depending upon the type meditation may be practiced in a lying, sitting walking or standing posture.
One of the main aspects of meditation is focus. A meditator may for instance focus on the sensations of breath, mantra (a specific set of words repeated as a chant) of or any object.
It is imperative to adopt an open attitude during meditation. This implies that any distractions and disturbances ought to be accepted and allowed naturally, permitting wandering of mind without any suppression, only to gradually revert to its prime focus. In certain forms of meditations, the person meditating learns to perceive his emotions and thoughts.
The Effectiveness of Meditation
Meditation produces several positive changes within the human body. Certain types of Meditation, however prove effective by working involuntarily through the nervous system. A thirty-minute practice of meditation helps secrete eighteen beneficial hormones effective for promoting optimal health. This helps regulate heartbeat, breathing, sweating and boosts digestion. It consists of two prime parts namely the sympathetic and the parasympathetic nervous system.
The sympathetic nervous system
This prepares the body for action, especially under tremendous stress. During stressful situations, it induces a “fight or flight” response, which leads to rapid heartbeat and increased breathing restricting blood flow and making the blood vessels narrow.
The parasympathetic nervous system
This on the other hand reduces the heart and breathing rates, dilates and enhance blood circulation and improve secretion and flow of the digestive juices.
Benefits of Meditation
Many years ago, meditation had a spiritual implication and the common person’s notion was that it was meant for the saints and the sages only.
For the body
Meditation produces an ultimate sense of relaxation to the body. In addition, this therapy also promotes immune health. Multiple studies reveal that the practice of meditation stimulates the activity of natural killer cells that destroy the cancer cells and other virus.
- Prevents and inhibits virus activity
- Prevents tissue damages due to decreased free radical activity
- Lowers blood pressure
- Promotes healthy flow of blood to the heart
- Stabilises heart rate
- Helps maintain healthy cholesterol levels
- Cuts down risk of cardiovascular diseases
- Reduces respiratory rate
- Enables effective airflow to the lungs
- Helps breathe easy
- Provides respite from asthma
- Relieves excessive sweating
- Soothes the nervous system
- Decreases levels of lactate in blood and thereby alleviates anxiety attacks
- Protects from symptoms of premenstrual syndrome
- Inhibits and controls painful symptoms of chronic diseases
- Alleviates tension of muscles thereby relieving tension headaches and migraines
- Helps weightless and helps maintain healthy BMI
- Provides relief from irritable bowel syndrome
- Decrease symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome caused by inflammation of the nervous system
- Accelerates post operative healing
- Boosts energy
- Improves sexual energy
- Cures infertility
- Stabilises hormone secretion and improves endocrine problem
- Facilitates anti ageing effects
For the mind
- Improves emotional stability
- Promotes balanced personality
- Enhanced social contacts
- Improves productivity
- Alleviates feelings of anxiety, tension and worry
- Controls thoughts
- Improves concentration and focus
- Enhances memory
- Enables better communication between the right and left hemispheres of the brain
- Boosts empathy and listening skills
- Builds better personal and professional relationships
- Cures insomnia and sleep related problems
- Eases phobias and fears
- Encourages creative skills
- Stimulates production of serotonin which improves mood and behaviour
- Enhances judgemental abilities
- Boosts IQ levels
- Lowers dependency on drugs and pills
- Alleviates addiction to alcohol and tobacco
- Stimulates and prevent cognitive decline
For the soul
Regular practice of meditation not just provides positive benefits for the body and mind but helps the soul too. It promotes peace of mind and helps connect with self, set and realise goals. Self-awareness results in better choices and improvement in the quality of life.
- Enables a deeper relationship with God
- Creates harmony of the body mind and soul
- Provides a healthy attitude towards life
- Increases compassion
- Teaches forgiveness
- Helps overcome ego
Risks and Side Effects
Meditation is very effective offering emotional, physical and mental benefits. However, it is imperative that it is practiced the right way with proper guidance. Nevertheless according to some studies meditation does not benefit people with psychiatric and mental disorders, although threes no confirmed analysis on this aspect. In addition, people with physical disabilities too have their inhibitions with the practice.
Meditation cannot be a suitable alternative for conventional medical advice or for postponing a physician’s consultation for medical conditions. Therefore, it is imperative to consult a medical practitioner before embarking on any kind of alternative medical practice. In addition, it is important to seek the guidance of an experienced instructor to reap the multiple benefits of meditation.
Meditation Myth Busters
Most people have a false perception of the practice of meditation.
Meditation as contemplation
Meditation has nothing to do with contemplation, wherein the mind contemplates on an idea or concept. Instead, meditation does not involve the mind to think of a concept but takes it to a realm beyond thought.
Meditation as hypnosis
Meditation does not mean auto suggestion or hypnosis wherein there are possibilities of manipulating or control the suggestions made to the mind. On the contrary meditation keeps the mind calm observing the mind and exploring the innermost thoughts and feelings
Meditation and religion
Meditation does not conform to any religious beliefs or culture. Although some religious practises employ meditation as part of certain rituals, it does not conform to any religious norms or beliefs. It is more a practise of delving deep into the various dimensions of life.
However, regular practice is imperative to reap the complete benefits of meditation. Spending fifteen to twenty minutes helps evolve a new understanding of the mind, body and spirit. Remember as St Francis de Sales said ‘where there is peace and meditation, there is neither anxiety nor doubt’.