Meditation is a well-known therapy of Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM), which is based on mind-body intervention. It originated thousands of years ago and focuses on interactions of brain, mind, body, and behavior. It is a well-known fact that the root of many illnesses is in the mind. So, by attending to the mind through meditation practices, the stresses, worries, anxieties drop off and give rise to a positive state of mind. The attained balanced state of mind has a positive impact on the physical body, brain, and nervous system, thereby speeding up the process of healing and recovery.
Most meditative techniques started in Eastern religious or spiritual traditions. These techniques have been used by many different cultures throughout the world for thousands of years. Today, many people use meditation outside of its traditional religious or cultural settings, for overall health and well-being.
Elements of Meditation
Most types of meditation have four elements in common:
Types of Meditation
In this type of meditation, focused attention is used. This meditation is about being in the present, letting the mind run and accepting whatever thoughts comes up while practicing detachment from each thought.
Mindfulness meditation is an essential component of Buddhism. In one common form of mindfulness meditation, the meditator is taught to bring attention to the sensation of the flow of the breath in and out of the body. The meditator learns to focus attention on what is being experienced, without reacting to or judging it. This is seen as helping the meditator learn to experience thoughts and emotions in normal daily life with greater balance and acceptance.
Transcendental meditation involves repetition of a particular mantra (a sacred word) that prevents the thoughts from distraction, thereby leading to a meditative state. It is helpful in blood pressure reduction and decreases stress hormones, such as cortisol, adrenaline, and noradrenaline.
This meditation is done by closing the eyes and focusing attention on one's breath. The breathing technique in this meditation involves inhaling through the nose and exhaling through the mouth. It helps to slow down the breathing rhythm and relaxes the brain.
Sahaja Yoga Meditation
In this type of meditation a state of "thoughtless awareness" is achieved. Excessive stress producing activity of mind is neutralized without reducing alertness and effectiveness. It is helpful in treating asthma, severe migraine, and menopausal hot flashes.
In this technique, breathing is used to circulate energy through the body organs. Attention is focused on breathing and circulation of energy (called qi or chi).
It is a more modern and easier way to practice meditation and is used by beginners to develop a habit by practicing it on regular basis. Meditation instructions are played in the background by using audio tones. Following the instructions helps slow the mind down to a deep state, with no conscious effort on the part of the meditator.
Why is Meditation Effective?
Meditation works by affecting the autonomic (involuntary) nervous system. This system regulates many organs, muscles, controls heartbeat, breathing, and digestion. It works on body's ability to switch to resting (alpha) or relaxing (theta) brainwave state. In this state, the brain rhythm slows down and useful hormones are released in harmony. These hormones are normally required for the functioning of normal day to day life. When meditation is practiced in blissful state of mind for half hour, it releases eighteen useful hormones for the body, which lowers heart pulse, and breathing rates.
Benefits of Meditation
Meditation provides the benefit by the following ways:
- Meditation prevents stress from getting into the system
- Meditation releases accumulated stress that is in the system
Both of these happen simultaneously, leaving one refreshed, and joyful.
Side Effects and Risks
- Meditation is considered to be safe for healthy people.
- There have been rare reports that meditation could cause or worsen symptoms in people who have certain psychiatric problems, but this question has not been fully researched.
- People with physical limitations may not be able to participate in certain meditative practices involving physical movement.
- Individuals with existing mental or physical health conditions should speak with their health care providers prior to starting a meditative practice and make their meditation instructor aware of their condition.
Before Using Meditation Practices Keep in Mind
- Do not use meditation as a replacement for conventional care or as a reason to postpone seeing a doctor about a medical problem.
- Ask about the training and experience of the meditation instructor you are considering.
- Look for published research studies on meditation for the health condition in which you are interested.
- Tell all your health care providers about any complementary and alternative practices you use. Give them a full picture of what you do to manage your health. This will help ensure coordinated and safe care.
How to Get the Benefits
To experience the benefits of meditation, regular practice is necessary. It takes only a few minutes every day. Once imbibed into the daily routine, meditation becomes the best part of your day.
Successful and busy people from all backgrounds who lead balanced lives are grateful to pause and enjoy a refreshing few minutes of meditation each day. Dive deep into yourself and enrich your life.
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