|Though a variety of meditation techniques exist, there
are basic elements that anyone can master. Doing as little
as 20 minutes per day is enough to begin to see benefits.
|1. Sit or lie in a comfortable position with your eyes
|2. Focus your attention on the repetition of a word,
sound, phrase or prayer, doing this silently or whispering.
An alternative is to focus on the sensation of each breath
as it moves in and out of your body.
|3. Every time you notice that your attention has wandered
(which will occur naturally), gently redirect it back,
without judging yourself.
Meditation: More than just a "feel-good" state
Meditation -- focusing the mind continuously on one thought, phrase
or prayer for a period of time -- naturally leads to the "relaxation
response," changes in the body that are deeply restorative and which
quicken healing. These changes include reductions in heart rate,
blood pressure, respiratory rate, oxygen consumption, blood flow
to skeletal muscles, perspiration and muscle tension, as well as
an improvement in immunity. The relaxation response works much like
pushing a "reset" button, enabling your body to return to a state
of optimal balance. Many studies have been done that show the effectiveness
of meditation in treating a number of health conditions.
Some remarkable benefits are possible for women who meditate regularly.
One study found that women with PMS (premenstrual syndrome) reduced
their symptoms by 58 percent. Another study found that women going
through menopause could significantly reduce the intensity of hot
Even those women struggling with infertility can benefit: In a
study of a 10-week group program that included meditation (along
with exercise and nutrition changes), the women had significantly
less anxiety, depression and fatigue, and 34 percent became pregnant
within six months.
Researchers have also found that new mothers who use meditation
with images of milk flowing in their breasts can more than double
their production of milk.
The healthy heart
The heart has been the focus of hundreds of studies of meditation
worldwide. Regular practice of meditation has been found to significantly
reduce blood pressure in people with hypertension. These reductions
can endure over the long term: In one study, the reductions achieved
during an eight-week program were still in place three years later.
Other studies have focused on meditation in relation to heart
disease. For example, patients with coronary-artery disease who
meditated daily for eight months had nearly a 15-percent increase
in exercise tolerance. Patients with ischemic heart disease (in
which the heart muscle receives an inadequate supply of blood) who
practiced for four weeks had a significantly lower frequency of
premature ventricular contractions (a type of irregular heartbeat).
Patients undergoing heart surgery can also reap the rewards of
meditation. In one study, angioplasty patients who used meditation
had significantly less anxiety, pain and need for medication during
and after the procedure. In another, those having open-heart surgery
were able to reduce their incidence of postoperative supraventricular
tachycardia (abnormally high heart rate).
The immune response
There's also evidence that meditation has immune-enhancing effects.
For example, medical students who meditated during final exams had
a higher percentage of "T-helper cells," the immune cells that trigger
the immune system into action. Nursing-home residents trained in
meditation had increased activity of "natural-killer cells," which
kill bacteria and cancer cells. They also had reductions in the
activity of viruses and of emotional distress.
Cancer patients have also experienced the benefits of meditation.
In one study, patients with metastatic (spreading) cancer who meditated
with imagery regularly for a year had significant increases in natural-killer