Meditation lowers heart rate and blood pressure

The best meditation style is the one that feels right for you.

by Sarah McLean — 

About 10 million Americans say they practice meditation daily. Like taking time daily to brush their teeth, those who meditate usually practice 10 to 30 minutes of silence each day, which gives them a break from the constant bombardment of information everyone faces.

Whether practiced on its own, or following yoga or tai chi, meditation produces physical relaxation and proven stress-relieving benefits such as reduced anxiety, lowered heart rate and decreased blood pressure.

“The body knows to heal itself,” says David Orme-Johnson, a psychologist and meditation researcher. Science continues to validate meditation health claims. Recent studies link the practice with reducing pain, depression and insomnia. Along with diet and exercise, meditation also can help improve outcomes for patients with heart disease, cancer or diabetes.

While styles and techniques vary widely — from concentrating on an object or thought to following the breath — anyone can meditate successfully. All one needs to do is allow the mind to settle, without expecting or forcing anything to occur. Forcing the mind just leads to thinking, and meditation is really about transcending thought and taking a break from thinking. Like a timeout or, shall we say, a time-in.

Meditation is a proven way to cut through those layers of stress. Our attention is deliberately focused, and we slowly see the false layers of ourselves begin to dissolve as we return, once again, to the source of our happiness. Meditation’s purpose is to transform the state of our hearts and minds and bring us back to ourselves. As we become healthier, happier and realize greater self-awareness, more benefits begin to follow naturally — improved mental functioning, greater intuition, more creativity and greater access to unconscious resources and abilities.

The best meditation style is the one that feels right for you. The many different methodologies include but are not limited to: concentration, primordial sound, watching your breath, mindfulness, Zen, visualization and devotion. You may decide to experiment with a few different styles and see how each feels. Find one or two styles you like, and focus on those. Above all, pay attention to your self and make sure your meditation feels right for you.

Types of meditation

  • Concentration: focusing attention on an object, such as a candle, to slow down.
  • Zen: sitting perfectly still and following the breath, or doing koan practices to achieve insight about existence.
  • Transcendental: repeating a sound until the mind empties of all thoughts.
  • Contemplation: thinking about elevated subjects, such as love and God.
  • Active meditation: may include yoga, tai chi, walking, chanting or dance.
  • Visualization: may include imagining a different environment to evoke a different mood.

Basic steps to begin a meditation practice

  • Commit to meditating for 20 to 30 minutes. You might be able to meditate for only a couple of minutes at first, but that is enough to get you started.
  • Create a completely quiet space. Turn off the TV, radio, CD player, cell phone, etc. Make sure you will not be disturbed.
  • Sit comfortably in a chair, couch, or on the floor. Do not lie down or you will fall asleep.
  • Close your eyes. Scan your body for tension. Let it go and be still.
  • Begin to silently repeat a sound or phrase. You can use Om, One or Love. Best to avoid using something that will stimulate too much thought.
  • When your meditation time is up, stop repeating the sound and sit still with your eyes closed for a minute or two. Do not get up and rush around. Lie down and rest a while, if time permits.
  • For best results, repeat the meditation each morning and early evening before eating
  • Never judge your meditation as good or bad. Meditation is practiced to have a better life, so having a particular kind of experience during meditation is not necessary. It is a time of rest or rejuvenation for your nervous system.

Healing power

Recent studies show that meditation, along with diet and exercise, has many benefits. Here are some of the findings:

Heart — Can reduce the buildup of plaque in the coronary arteries.

Pain — Has been shown to reduce the brain’s reaction to pain.

Blood pressure — Can improve vascular function and lower blood pressure.

Breast cancer — Can produce higher levels of the immune cells that combat tumors in the breast.

Immune system — Helps produce higher levels of antibodies against viruses.

Premenstrual syndrome — Can cause symptoms to subside.

Menopause — Reduces the intensity of hot flashes.

Infertility — Reduces incidence by lowering anxiety, depression and fatigue.

 

Sarah McLean is a personal meditation instructor and former education director at the Chopra Center for Wellbeing in Southern California. She teaches the Primordial Sound Meditation technique in Sedona, Ariz. ww.MeditateInArizona.com.

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 26, Number 3, June/July 2007.

 

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