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Wednesday, 24 July 2019

Here’s What Happens to Your Body When You Meditate

This is quite a long read, but interesting … well I thought so!
As seen in the Sydney Morning Herald and Food Matters site

"It's a piece of advice yogis have given for thousands of years: take a deep breath and relax. Watch the tension melt from your muscles and all your niggling worries vanish. Somehow we all know that relaxation is good for us. 

Now the hard science has caught up: a comprehensive scientific study showing that deep relaxation changes our bodies on a genetic level was published about 7 years ago. What researchers at Harvard Medical School discovered is that, in long-term practitioners of relaxation methods such as yoga and meditation, far more ''disease-fighting genes'' were active, compared to those who practiced no form of relaxation. 

In particular, they found genes that protect from disorders such as pain, infertility, high blood pressure, and even rheumatoid arthritis were switched on. The researchers say the changes were induced by what they call ''the relaxation effect'', a phenomenon that could be just as powerful as any medical drug but without the side effects. ''We found a range of disease-fighting genes were active in the relaxation practitioners that were not active in the control group,'' Dr. Herbert Benson, associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, who led the research, says. The good news for the control group with the less-healthy genes is that the research didn't stop there. 

The experiment, which showed just how responsive genes are to behaviour, mood, and environment, revealed that genes can switch on just as easily as they switch off. ''Harvard researchers asked the control group to start practicing relaxation methods every day,'' says Jake Toby, a hypnotherapist at London's Body-Mind Medicine Centre, who teaches clients how to induce the relaxation effect. ''After two months, their bodies began to change: the genes that help fight inflammation, kill diseased cells, and protect the body from cancer all began to switch on.'' 

More encouraging still, the benefits of the relaxation effect were found to increase with regular practice: the more people practiced relaxation methods such as meditation or deep breathing, the greater their chances of remaining free of arthritis and joint pain with stronger immunity, healthier hormone levels, and lower blood pressure. Benson believes the research is pivotal because it shows how a person's state of mind affects the body on a physical and genetic level. It might also explain why relaxation induced by meditation or repetitive mantras is considered to be a powerful remedy in traditions such as Ayurveda in India or Tibetan medicine. 

But just how can relaxation have such wide-ranging and powerful effects? Research has described the negative effects of stress on the body. Linked to the release of the stress hormones adrenalin and cortisol, stress raises the heart rate and blood pressure, weakens immunity, and lowers fertility. By contrast, the state of relaxation is linked to higher levels of feel-good chemicals such as serotonin, and to the growth hormone which repairs cells and tissue. Indeed, studies show that relaxation has virtually the opposite effect, lowering heart rate, boosting immunity, and enabling the body to thrive. 

''On a biological level, stress is linked to fight-flight and danger,'' Dr. Jane Flemming, a London GP, says. ''In survival mode, heart rate rises and blood pressure shoots up. Meanwhile, muscles, preparing for danger, contract and tighten. And non-essential functions such as immunity and digestion go by the wayside.'' Relaxation, on the other hand, is a state of rest, enjoyment, and physical renewal. Free of danger, muscles can relax and food can be digested. The heart can slow and blood circulation flows freely to the body's tissues, feeding it with nutrients and oxygen. This restful state is good for fertility, as the body is able to conserve the resources it needs to generate new life. 

While relaxation techniques can be very different, their biological effects are essentially similar. ''When you relax, the parasympathetic nervous system switches on. That is linked to better digestion, memory, and immunity, among other things,'' Toby says. ''As long as you relax deeply, you'll reap the rewards.'' But, he warns, deep relaxation isn't the sort of switching off you do relaxing with a cup of tea or lounging on the sofa. 

''What you're looking for is a state of deep relaxation where tension is released from the body on a physical level and your mind completely switches off,'' he says. ''The effect won't be achieved by lounging round in an everyday way, nor can you force yourself to relax. You can only really achieve it by learning specific techniques such as self-hypnosis, guided imagery, or meditation.'' 

The relaxation effect, however, may not be as pronounced on everyone. ''Some people are more susceptible to relaxation methods than others,'' says Joan Borysenko, director of a relaxation program for outpatients at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Centre in Boston. ''Through relaxation, we find some people experience a little improvement, others a lot. And there are a few whose lives turn around totally.'' 

7 Health Benefits of Meditation
One of the easiest ways to achieve this relaxation effect, as mentioned above, is through meditation. So, the next time you tune out and switch off and let yourself melt into a soothing meditation, remind yourself of all the good work it's doing on your body. These are just some of the scientifically proven benefits.

1. Increased Immunity
Relaxation appears to boost immunity in recovering cancer patients. A study at the Ohio State University found that progressive muscular relaxation, when practiced daily, reduced the risk of breast cancer recurrence. In another study at Ohio State, a month of relaxation exercises boosted natural killer cells in the elderly, giving them greater resistance to tumours and to viruses.

2. Emotional Balance
Emotional balance means to be free of all the neurotic behaviour that results from the existence of a tortured and traumatized ego. This is very hard to achieve fully, but meditation certainly is the way to cure such neurosis and unhealthy emotional states. As one’s consciousness is cleansed of emotionally soaked memories, not only does great freedom abound, but also great balance. As one’s responses then are not coloured by the burdens one carries but are instead true, direct and appropriate.

3. Increased Fertility
A study at the University of Western Australia found that women are more likely to conceive during periods when they are relaxed rather than stressed. A study at Trakya University, in Turkey, also found that stress reduces sperm count and motility, suggesting relaxation may also boost male fertility.

4. Relieves Irritable Bowel Syndrome
When patients suffering from irritable bowel syndrome began practicing a relaxation meditation twice daily, their symptoms of bloating, diarrhea and constipation improved significantly. The meditation was so effective the researchers at the State University of New York recommended it as an effective treatment.

5. Lowers Blood Pressure
A study at Harvard Medical School found that meditation lowered blood pressure by making the body less responsive to stress hormones, in a similar way to blood pressure-lowering medication. Meanwhile, a British Medical Journal report found that patients trained how to relax had significantly lower blood pressure.

6. Anti-Inflammatory
Stress leads to inflammation, a state linked to heart disease, arthritis, asthma and skin conditions such as psoriasis, say researchers at Emory University in the US. Relaxation can help prevent and treat such symptoms by switching off the stress response. In this way, one study at McGill University in Canada found that meditation clinically improved the symptoms of psoriasis.

7. Calmness
The simple difference between those who meditate and those who do not is that for a meditative mind the thought occurs but is witnessed, while for an ordinary mind, the thought occurs and is the boss. So in both minds, an upsetting thought can occur, but for those who meditate, it is just another thought, which is seen as such and is allowed to blossom and die, while in the ordinary mind the thought instigates a storm which rages on and on.

How to Switch Off Stress
How can you use relaxation's healing powers? Harvard researchers found that yoga, meditation, and even repetitive prayer and mantras all induced the relaxation effect. ''The more regularly these techniques are practiced, the more deeply rooted the benefits will be,'' Jake Toby says. Try one or more of these techniques for 15 minutes once or twice a day.

Body Scan
Starting with your head and working down to your arms and feet, notice how you feel in your body. Taking in your head and neck, simply notice if you feel tense, relaxed, calm or anxious. See how much you can spread any sensations of softness and relaxation to areas of your body that feel tense. Once you reach your feet, work back up your body.

Breath Focus
Sit comfortably. Tune into your breath, follow the sensation of inhaling from your nose to abdomen and out again. Let the tension go with each exhalation. When you notice your mind wandering, return to your breath.

Mantra Repetition
The relaxation response can be evoked by sitting quietly with eyes closed for 15 minutes twice a day, and mentally repeating a simple word or sound such as ''Om''.

Guided Imagery
Imagine a wonderfully relaxing light or a soothing waterfall washing away tension from your body and mind. Make your image vivid, imagining texture, colour, and any fragrance as the image washes over you."

Words above and more from here

Do You Take Time Out To Relax?
I do my best to take some 'me-time' and relax. Some of my friends say yoga is excellent, a few have tried meditation. I wonder, do you take time out? Have you any tips to share?

Dear reader, you will find a variety of articles and recipe ideas within this blog, and not all may be suitable for you. If you may have any food allergies, or underlying health issues please take these into account. If you are a diabetic and not sure how certain foods may affect your blood sugars, test is best, i.e. use your meter.

All the best Jan


peppylady (Dora) said...

I look at meditating as detox brain and spirit.
Coffee is on

Tom said...

...I'm not sure that this is for me, but I do like quiet personal time.

Elephant's Child said...

Fascinating. I am sure that body and mind have much more influence on each other than is generally realised. I really need to get back to yoga.

Miss Val's Creations said...

I enjoy yoga but would love to meditate. I have tried but feel like I need to take a class to reach that point of deep meditation. This article really has me wanting to explore this now!

Sue (this n that) said...

So many benefits!
I've been practicising meditation for so many years now, even if it's just a quick one minute "check-in" to purposely relax all my muscles.
Good for you spreading the word :D)

sage said...

Yes, anytime things get stressed, I attempt to take time to meditate, even if it is just a few minutes of deep focused breaths and a temple massage

Little Wandering Wren said...

I love my yoga and need to stop and take the time to meditate more outside the yoga setting. This is a great article thanks
Wren x

Bleubeard and Elizabeth said...

I believe I am living proof of this. When I was 19, I was diagnosed with a form of birth defect that showed up as "arthritis," which is actually inflammation of the joints. Within three weeks, I couldn't walk down stairs upright. I had to crawl down backward. At that time, I knew nothing about meditation, so I just started deep breathing exercises and relaxation. I kept repeating I would not let this destroy my life. I said it enough times I began to believe it. A few weeks later I refused to walk down the stairs (my bedroom was on the second floor and my kitchen was on the 1st floor) until I could walk upright. I'm not sure if hunger had anything to do with it, but I know my will to survive did. To this day, I don't allow pain to stop me. In fact, I had a doctor tell me I should try to be more aware of my pain threshold level because I had shut it out to the point where I might not recognize if I was in real danger or real pain. Nice review.

Valerie-Jael said...

Good advice. When I did my rehab we had an hour of meditation and relaxation therapy every day, and it was wonderful. Valerie

Sami said...

I tried a couple of times but couldn't switch off, obviously not doing the right thing :)
Thanks Jan

Ygraine said...

WOW...this is an absolutely fantastic post!!
Reading this, I honestly feel that I could turn my life around...and return from cancer patient, to full health.
When I think about all you've written here, I realise that my entire life has been lived within very high levels of stress.
I think you may well have saved my life here, and, I'm certain, many other people's lives...and how on earth can we ever thank you sufficiently for something like that?
I guess I can only say it most heartfelt thanks!!😊😊

Hugs xxx

mxtodis123 said...

Love meditation, but never any time. I do it once a week in Mindfulness group.

Rain said...

Such a great post. I meditate every day, and I'm about to up it to twice a day because I have some terrible digestive issues and it really helps me out. I also find my depression and anxiety is much better and my overall peace of mind is calmer. It's wonderful, even for 5-10 minutes a day!

Debbie said...

this was EXCELLENT...and i needed this right now. so many people putting so much pressure on me!!

love the "relax" ending, it reminds me of home!!

Sue said...

What a great article, I find it really hard to just concentrate on breathing, my mind just goes walkabout. I must try harder 😁

dellgirl said...

As usual, you put a lot of thought and work into this post. This is really great information and some valuable tips and advice, just what many of us need. Thank you for sharing this, it’s really interesting and helpful.

I hope you have a wonderful day!

Gloria Baker said...

this is wonderful meditate and relax is wonderful I try all days by a while, and is good for the body and the mind! Send you hugs and love Jan!

Practical Parsimony said...

When I had chickens, I would go to my swing and sit watching them and noticing all the green things I had planted and things present when I moved in. I would not necessarily thing, just sort of "feel" things. I was so relaxed I sometimes went to sleep in the swing, and I was not tired. Before and after I had chickens, I sat in the swing and relaxed to sounds of wind and birds. I did not think anything was out of the ordinary. Someone told me I was meditating.

William Kendall said...

Thanks for the information.

mermaidbythec said...

There is no doubt in my mind that meditation has really helped me over the past month. I have two wonderful programs on my pad and I do them every day, might miss the odd day but then I feel odd if I miss it. So here I was ready to go and plug in Headspace or Chakra programs and saw this article and had to write. I also have IBS and the meditation is helping, it won't happen overnight but there is a noticeable improvement. Also I have social anxiety and I have been able to push through and get out a few times a week, and always the breath is what will carry me through any rough spots. Yoga is something I tried but it does not quiet my mind and body as much as meditation, but to each his/her own, just do something to put you in the "space". I am considering doing two sessions a day after reading this blog. Thanks for sharing this wonderful and confirming information. Good luck to all in your endeavours.