Benefits of Meditation

What are the benefits of meditation?

Meditation helps to clear the mind and bring clarity

The benefits of meditation are wide ranging: from slowing the heart rate down to helping with concentration and memory.

But it is only in the last few decades in the West that these benefits have started to become well known. Although meditation has been around for thousands of years and has been practiced in many societies and religions across the world, it is only really since the 1960s that meditation has become popular in the West.

The Beatles and Meditation

The Beatles’ infamous visit to the Indian guru Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in the 60s where they learned Transcendental Meditation was one of several high profile reports about meditation and the benefits of meditation.

More and more scientific studies have been made about the benefits of meditation and more and more concrete reports have been filed on what tangible benefits meditation has on both the mind, body and spirit.

In terms of stress management a regular meditation practice is a key component of recovering from stress.

Benefits of Meditation

Meditating helps to calm the mind

So what are the benefits of meditation? What are the reasons that so many people are turning to meditation to deal with anxiety and stress, and why are so many people practicing meditation across the world?

Meditation slows down the heart rate: This helps to calm the body and relax the mind.

Reduces oxygen consumption and carbon dioxide production: Within a few minutes of starting to meditate oxygen consumption and carbon dioxide production can reduce up to 20% below the normal levels.

Raises skin resistance to pain: Meditation helps to raise the body’s resistance to pain and to electrical currents which decreases when the body is stressed or anxious. This means that if you get a knock or hurt yourself you are less likely to feel the pain or react to the pain.

Increases muscle relaxation

Reduction of activity in the nervous system: The branch of the nervous system (the parasympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system) responsible for relaxing and calming you dominates when you meditate.

Production of lactate is decreased: Lactic acid which is produced when the body’s muscles are starved of oxygen (a stitch during exercise) and when the body is in a state of stress decreases 4 times quicker while meditating than in a normal state of rest. A build up of lactate can cause fatigue in the short term and in the long term impair energy production.

Blood circulation increases: Blood circulation increases during meditation meaning that more oxygen is able to reach your muscles – this in turn helps to prevent lactate production (lactate being produced when muscles are starved of oxygen).

Significant effect on the brain: During meditation the brain manufactures alpha and theta brainwaves. You will spend most of your day in beta brainwaves which is important to carry out every day activities but too much can be draining. Attaining alpha and theta brain waves on a regular basis can help to improve memory, increase concentration, help you to relax, boost your energy and happiness.

Studies have shown that most children are regularly in alpha and theta brain waves (ever wondered why your children had so much energy!). As children grow up they start to move into beta brain waves states. And although this is important to get things done it is also important, no imperative, in order to keep your energy up and achieve the other benefits of meditation, to access these alpha and theta brainwaves.

Meditation balances both parts of the brain: Recent research has shown that meditation helps to balance the logical side of the brain and the creative side of the brain. By balancing out the brain this helps to make more balanced and happy individuals.

Meditation helps to combat depression: Regular meditation (once or twice a day for 20 minutes) helps to deal with depression, reduce hypertension and helps to relieve anxiety and migraines.

Meditation improves concentration: Research also shows that regular meditation helps to improve your concentration, memory and creativity. Meditating while you are studying for exams can really help the information to enter into the brain.

Meditate for better sleep: Having a regular meditation practice helps to improve sleep and the actual quality of your sleep. You will find that you will sleep more deeply and will be less prone to waking in the night. If you do wake the mind will be still so it will be easier for you to drop back off to sleep.

Meditation CDs

Meditation CDs and MP3 downloads are an excellent way of benefiting from someone else's meditation instruction. When learning to meditate having a teacher by your side can be invaluable to help you to begin and maintain your practice.

With the advent of the internet and downloading it is now possible to have instruction on your MP3 player or on your computer. Having this expert instruction helps to get the most out of the benefits of meditation.

What products do I recommend to help you to get the most out of meditation and to enter both alpha and theta states?

Alpha & Theta Brainwave Meditation This meditation by Brainsync is one I recommend to people. It uses advanced scientific technology (Binaural Beats) to get the brain into alpha and theta brainwaves. It is like a guided meditation in that you are led on a journey but in the background is music (beats) which help you to enter into an even deeper state.

From having taught many people over the years, I see that individuals find it easier to have someone guiding them in meditation to start off with. Once they have got used to meditating they find that they can meditate on their own.

But I do find that I listen to meditation MP3s even after meditating for over 10 years. I find that it aids my practice.

Guided Relaxation

This MP3 download or CD is also by the company Brainsync. This too is a guided meditation/ guided relaxation where you enter into a magical garden.

There are two tracks one of which is this guided visualization and the second delivers music and alpha waves with which to relax and meditate to.

This guided relaxation helps you to generate powerful states of well-being that increase your inner happiness. But as with any products, to get the most benefit it is important to practice regularly.

One of my students recently asked, how long it takes to get the benefits of meditation. The reply was, "If you want to be fit but only went to the gym once a month it would take you a long time. If on the other hand you went 3 times a day you would be fit within a month."

The same goes for meditation but gradually build your practice up - once or twice a day for 20 minutes is what I recommend for most people. If you feel you can do more then try it out but do take care, if it seems too much, stop and reduce the time you are meditating.

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