The benefits of meditation are many-fold, providing a way to get in touch with what’s going on in our lives as well as our bodies. The use of biofeedback has shown the medical community how the mind can control our physical reactions to pain and other stimuli. Yoga, through the practice of the asanas (poses) and pranayama (controlled breathing), offer its students a window into their interior thoughts and well-being by way of meditation.
Through the practice of pranayama, yoga students improve their oxygen intake, which allows for more mental clarity and is one of the many benefits of meditation. The benefits of meditation also include decreased heart rate while increasing blood flow through the circulatory system. Studies have also shown that heart patients improve their exercise levels in terms of duration if they incorporate some form of meditation in their lifestyle, and those with high blood pressure can decrease it through meditation.
Other benefits of meditation include reduced headaches and muscle pain, through relaxation, while increasing self-confidence and serotonin levels, which elevate mood in depressed or anxious patients. Two more benefits of meditation are a reduction in menstrual cramps and increased immunity to diseases. Meditation has even been used by psychologists to treat patients with specific phobias by reducing stress levels.
The benefits of meditation have clinical proof; in a study conducted by Harvard Medical School, researchers found that meditation counteracted stress levels when subjects were confronted with “fight or flight” situations. The benefits of meditation showed up when other areas of the brain were utilized rather than the hypothalamus — the area in the brain that reacts to stress.
In another study noted in “Psychology Today,” researcher at MIT tracked the brain wave patterns of employees working in a stressful high-tech company. The workers were divided into two groups: One was shown how to meditate, and the other was the control. The benefits of meditation became apparent when researchers noted a marked shift in brain wave activity to the left frontal lobe in those who meditated, along with elevated mood.
What is even more telling, when it comes to the benefits of meditation, is how it can reverse heart disease. The medical journal Stroke discussed the findings of a study of patients with hardened arteries. Those who meditated showed a significant decrease in arterial wall thickness while those who didn’t increased in thickness. So there’s science behind the benefits of meditation.