Meditation has been touted as a good tool for stress relief. But what if you are like me and just can’t seem to stop your thoughts from spiraling around in your head?
I have a solution.
Try Vedic meditation.
Vedic meditation is so simple you’ll wonder how it is possible. I’m not going to give a lengthy biochemical explanation here. Suffice it to say that in practicing Vedic meditation, your brain waves eventually change into the waves that control relaxation.
Practiced over time, your body and mind will be able to get into the relaxation state more quickly and you will learn how to handle stressful situations with a calmer response.
There are many different ways of meditating that can be helpful. Since we are all different – biochemically, spiritually and mentally – you may need to try a few different methods before you find one that is a good fit.
One is not necessarily better than another. The best method is the one that works for you.
Here are a few commonly used and scientifically classified methods that work for various people.
Focused Attention Meditation
In this practice, the mind is focused on a single object. This could be a visualization, breathing, a mantra, a part of the body, an object, etc.
Vedic meditation falls into this category as you would choose a mantra to focus your attention. As you continue your practice, you are able to avoid distractions and keep your mind focused on the mantra. It is important to stick to the practice, as your abilities develop over time.
Other examples of focused attention meditation include, Buddhist meditation, Chakra meditation, Kundalini meditation and Pranayama meditation. There are many others as well.
Open Monitoring Meditation
In this practice, the mind is kept open to thoughts and feelings, but is non-reactive. It is to experience the moment. An example of this is the popular Mindfulness meditation.
Effortless Presence Meditation
This is actually where you want to eventually go with your meditation practice of any kind. It is the state in which your attention is not focused on anything in particular, but you experience a deeper state of consciousness.
All the other types of meditation are practiced to train the mind to achieve this level of consciousness.
Some examples of meditation practice that start with this premise are Taoist meditation and Raja yoga. (source)
1- Meditation lowers the risk of heart attach and stroke.
This study published in Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes, investigated the effects of transcendental meditation on heart disease risk.
The investigators studied 201 African American men and women, (a group found to be at higher risk for heart disease in general) already diagnosed with coronary heart disease. The subjects were randomly assigned to participate in either a health education class about heart-friendly diet and exercise, or to attend a transcendental meditation program. All of the participants continued to receive their normal medical care as well, including appropriate medication.
The researchers found that,
After roughly five years of follow-up, the researchers found a 48% reduction in the overall risk of heart attack, stroke, and death from any cause among members of the meditation group compared to those from the health education group. The meditating group enjoyed an average drop of 4.9 mm Hg in systolic blood pressure compared to the control group and also reported less stress and less anger.
2- Meditation helps with stress management.
This study investigated the effects of meditation on stress-induced changes in cognitive functions.
The investigators had 32 healthy adult male students who had never meditated before. They had them practice a guided meditation for 20 minutes and then they exposed them to a stressful situation by having them play a stressful computer game.
The researchers found that the,
Practice of meditation produced a relaxation response even in the young adult subjects who had never practiced meditation before. The practice of meditation reduced the physiologic stress responses without taking away the beneficial effect of stress, namely, improved memory scores. (source)
3- Meditation decreases depression.
This study conducted at 5 middle schools in Belgium, found that,
students who follow an in-class mindfulness program report reduced indications of depression, anxiety and stress up to six months later. Moreover, these students were less likely to develop pronounced depression-like symptoms. (source)
4- Meditation decreases anxiety disorders.
Many studies, such as this one, find that,
A group mindfulness meditation training program can effectively reduce symptoms of anxiety and panic and can help maintain these reductions in patients with generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, or panic disorder with agoraphobia.
5- Long term meditation improves brain processing.
This study involved MRI studies of the brain of those who meditate and those who do not. The meditators had an increase in the amount of cortical folds (the white matter of the brain that looks like cauliflower). The cortical folds play a key role in memory, attention, thought and consciousness. These researchers found that,
long-term meditators have larger amounts of gyrification (“folding” of the cortex, which may allow the brain to process information faster) than people who do not meditate. Further, a direct correlation was found between the amount of gyrification and the number of meditation years, possibly providing further proof of the brain’s neuroplasticity, or ability to adapt to environmental changes.
These are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the positive effects of any type of meditation on the mind, emotions and body.
The mantra you choose does not need to have any particular meaning – it is not an affirmation. The point of having a mantra is that repeating it will focus your mind.
Traditionally the word was Om. But I use a short phrase (two syllables) from a musical composition that I love and it seems to work for me.
The How To
As with all seated meditation, you should be seated on a cushion on the floor or even a chair. It is important that your spine should be straight. I sit on a cushion on the floor against the wall (even there I find I have to correct my posture every so often to keep from sloughing).
I then repeat the mantra slowly and coordinate my deep breathing with the syllables. This requires attention to the breath and the posture and can keep the mind focused.
I started with doing this for 2 minutes at a time.
Seriously, you are supposed to do this for at least 20 minutes, but as with any new practice you can head into it slowly.
It works for me.
Now I’m up to 5 minutes before I get distracted. I plan to continue and my goal is 20 minutes at a time. I’d also like to do this every day and that is a goal as well.
So far I haven’t had any major effects, but I do feel that my mind is very focused after even the short amount of time I put into meditation.
I am excited to pursue this new avenue towards better health!
What about you? Do you meditate and if so, has it helped you? Leave a comment and let me know!