Meditation has positive effects on both the mind and the body. It helps an individual deal with mental turmoil, and aids in both anger management and stress reduction. From a physiological aspect, it is known to boost immunity levels, and promote healing.
Here are some intriguing findings that researchers have come upon with regards to meditation:
~ During meditation, there is a significant drop in the body's oxygen requirements; the respiratory rate slows down, indicating deep relaxation.
~ The heart rate of a person also slows down, and blood pressure drops.
~ There is a change in brain wave patterns, as they switch from the normal, chaotic beta waves to the slower alpha waves, indicating that the brain is in a rested, but alert state.
~ The body's rejuvenating parasympathetic system is switched on, indicated by several key signs -- less blood flow to the skeletal muscles, change in perspiration levels and muscle tension.
~ A study conducted upon medical students just before their examinations, revealed that those of them who practised meditation had a higher number of immunity-boosting cells in their saliva than others. This protected them against a stress-induced weakening of the immune system.
~ A study conducted by the Institute of Respiratory Medicine in Australia, subjecting 50 asthma patients to Sahaja Yoga techniques over four months resulted in a "greater reduction in airway hyper responsiveness (the `twitchiness' which is the tendency of the lungs to overreact to harmless substances). Those doing yoga also reported less tension and fatigue than their peers in the comparison group."
~ Olympic trainers like Aladar Kogler have found meditation helps athletes concentrate better on the field.
Shameem Akthar, a certified yoga acharya with the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centre (headquartered in Canada) guides you through five yoga postures widely used for meditation.
Points to note:
~ Before embarkng upon this meditation programme, choose any one of the five positions explored in the following pages. Practice it so you can hold the posture from anywhere between five to 20 minutes.
~ Although there are several methods of dhyana, the most basic one is to sit in a comfortable pose, shut your eyes, and focus on your breath. As the mind begins to wander, bring it back to focus repeatedly and solely on breath awareness. Initially this may seem impossible! But the idea is not to control the mind as much as to control its meanderings. Start with a three-minute session, increasing it till you can keep at it for 20 minutes.
Text: Shameem Akhtar
Also read: 6 yoga steps to ease joint pain
Photographs: Saisuresh Sivaswamy
Catch more of Shameem's yoga writings at jaisivananda.blogspot.com