Top 5 Physical Benefits of Meditation Practice
Physical Benefits of Meditation by Tobi Warzinek – In this article, I’m going to focus on how Meditation and mind training can change our body in amazing ways. I will explore some solid evidence that shows how Mindfulness might be just what our body really needs. It is well known that regular meditation practice offers numerous benefits on the level of our consciousness. However, few people are aware that their mental & emotional being actually influences and shapes the physical reality to a significant extent. Whether we try to heal, lose weight or build strength and endurance – it will definitely help to calm our restless monkey-mind.
A little bit of relaxation every now and then goes a long way. Our body loves to recharge with healthy food, natural drinking water, little naps and gentle regular exercise. These things and activities provide us with energy and give rise to an increased sense of vitality and happiness. Most people however still don’t know that their mental condition plays a crucial role when it comes to their physical wellbeing. Even with an overwhelming body of scientific evidence pointing to the mind, most people still believe that success, happiness or fitness are exclusively found on the material level alone. To counteract such outdated beliefs I shall explore 5 proven ways in which the mind is actually conditioning our body
1. Physical Benefits of Meditation – Modulating the Endocrine System
A major key to good overall health is balance within our endocrine system. Recent studies have shown that Mindfulness-based practices have a direct influence on the way our hormones are released and regulated. (Increased dopamine tone during a meditation-induced change of consciousness). It is correct to say that the feelings of physical bliss and wellbeing that we experience during proper meditative practices are partly conditioned by the release and modulation of certain neurotransmitters which are responsible for stabilizing mood and emotional states.
Latest research provides strong evidence that Meditation has a big impact on those feelings & emotional states we experience in the body. It is furthermore evident that our mood plays a major role in how we heal from an injury or recover from a hard training session. Our emotional state is basically telling our cells how to behave. (As above, so below’ examining the interplay between emotion and the immune system). The way we direct our mind impacts the body on the cellular level. A positive direction helps to regenerate and balance our physique by regulating and modulating the endocrine system.
2. Physical Benefits of Meditation – Regulating The Nervous System
You have probably often heard that breathing deeply and slowly is really good for you. It’s actually been shown to directly regulate parts of our nervous system. Indirectly it even helps to control our blood pressure to some extent (Slow Breathing Improves Arterial Baroreflex Sensitivity and Decreases Blood Pressure in Essential Hypertension) Besides influencing the nervous system and our heart rate, deep breathing vitalizes and energizes our cells. Given that proper breathing is like a free injection of pure life-force, many people still completely ignore their breath.
If you would like to improve your physical training or increase your overall sense of wellbeing, breathing deeply and correctly is your way. In most meditative traditions you will learn some basic and advanced breathing techniques that will help you to build energy in the body and release tension efficiently. There’s, for example, the Buddhist system of “Mindfulness of Breathing (Anapanasati)”, different Chinese forms of “Qigong” or the old Indian Yogic “Pranayama”. These techniques are amongst some of the oldest documented forms of meditative exercise. They help to bring body and mind into a state of harmonious alignment and clarity.
3. Physical Benefits of Meditation – Controlling Pain & Releasing Tension
Tension and pain are most obviously felt within our body. Unfortunately, they are an unavoidable experience for all of us. We can, however, avoid adding additional suffering on the level of mind and emotion. The art of separating emotional/mental pain from physical discomfort is what we can learn with authentic Meditation practice. It is for example possible to reduce chronic pain by 57% or even 90% (if you’re really good) using mindfulness-based meditation techniques such as MBSR. The benefits of this skill are truly amazing! (Mindfulness meditation-based pain relief: a mechanistic account)
Tension builds as a result of resistance. Such resistance can be broken down into very subtle levels. There can be resistance on the mental, emotional or on the physical plane. If it’s in the mind, it will also have an impact on our “emotional body”. The mental/emotional complex further conditions corporeality. A form of tension that is most refined is caused by resisting the truth of experience which is manifesting itself within this very moment in our consciousness.
Most people live their life not being present. Their mode of existence is almost always characterized by “trying to get somewhere or become something”. This stress expresses itself in our emotional and in our physical state. You could say we live in a world where most people are not really at ease with this moment or with themselves. There’s a really interesting study dealing with this sense of unease: (Just think: The challenges of the disengaged mind). A world full of people who are not at ease is… well, it’s like this.
4. Physical Benefits of Meditation – Preventing Heart Disease
Various researchers point out that Meditation and mindfulness practices are effective modalities that can help in the prevention and mitigation of heart diseases. Cardiovascular disorders are actually amongst the leading causes of mortality all over the world. However, many of these diseases could probably be avoided with proper education, a good lifestyle, regular exercise, medicine and – you guessed it – meditation. (Meditation and Cardiovascular Risk Reduction)
Meditation is efficiently lowering your blood pressure, regulating the heart rate and reducing the untimely release of hormones that cause stress, such as cortisol and adrenaline. These are facts that you can directly experience for yourself. Once your mind is scattered and engaged in negative thoughts such as worries, you can observe the impact on your heart rate and your breath. Negative mental states and inner disorder are literally making your body sick. Positive and uplifting mental states such as kindness are very healthy on the other hand.
5. Physical Benefits of Meditation – Overcoming Insomnia
It’s 2 AM in the morning… You’re wide-awake, desperately trying to get back to sleep. It doesn’t work, so you grab your phone and search for “relaxing sleeping music” on YouTube, answer emails, watch random stuff and try to get over this dreadful insomnia. After all you “should” be sleeping like a rock, right?
But how could you be sleeping like a rock when the mind keeps your body awake and wired? It is mostly due to our busy minds that we have a hard time finding proper rest at night. Of course, there might be other factors involved, such as unsuitable nutrition (too much coffee at the wrong times for example), noisy neighbours, weather conditions or drugs. But it is mostly an untamed mind that goes out and habitually gets involved with problems. A well trained or relaxed mind has no trouble sending the body to sleep – even in difficult environments. For example, take a look at children sleeping in places where adults could never find rest.
There’s some interesting scientific research confirming that meditation practice helps to improve sleep quality. (Mindfulness meditation appears to help improve sleep quality). Once you get better sleep, your body will work way more efficiently during the daytime. It’s all a matter of training an appropriate technique with consistency. That way you will get results relatively fast. When I work with someone on overcoming their sleeping problems, meditation plays a central role in my approach. My clients often get impressive results within just a week of following a few simple exercises. Consequentially they experience their life as much more vibrant and fulfilling.
This article hopefully shows that the mind clearly has a measurable impact on all bodily functions. It continuously tells your body how to behave within this physical world. Some Meditation masters in Thailand say that the mind is like a “leader or governor”. The body mostly follows orders given by conscious and subconscious impulses. It is ruled by intention, attention, motivation, emotional states, decisions, choices and thousands of subtle internal habits. It is as if our entire physical world was a musical instrument that’s being played by the mind. Your body is receiving the various movements of your mind like a car that receives the conscious and subconscious actions of its driver. In turn, it is the driver that receives and experiences the result of his or her choices. The car, as well as the driver, is shaped and conditioned by this process. And so are the other drivers and cars, the roads and everything else in life.
The mind plays a central role in how we live and experience life. An untrained mind is nothing but a slave to countless conditions. True freedom of choice can only begin when we become aware of the very substance that makes those choices. Our internal world shapes our experience of the external, physical realm. The body can only work at its maximum efficiency when the mind is united and well aligned with it. As long as body, mind and emotions are scattered and misaligned, true wellbeing remains merely a nice idea. Learning the art of meditation properly from a qualified instructor is going to completely change the way you experience body, mind and life. Go and give it a try!
Tobi Warzinek is a spiritual teacher and the founder of the Phuket Meditation Center. He has devoted his life to studying and practising traditional Buddhist Meditation since the Year 2002. He stayed in the Tibetan Buddhist monastery of Rabten Choeling as a lay student for 7 years. In 2009 he received the authorisation to teach. Since 2011 he is practising within the Thai forest tradition and currently lives and teaches mostly on Phuket Island in southern Thailand.
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