All throughout the ancient world people practiced yoga and meditation, from India to Egypt and Ancient China the prevalent principles of the natural laws are apparent in art and scriptures. Ancient civilizations were so advanced because there was no access to news or television programming, they were more connected with nature. It was a norm to practice daily, often times for hours on breathing and consciousness.
But while meditation has been around for thousands of years, it is only recently that scientists have oriented their researches on the practice. Many studies and billion dollars have been spent to prove, now, its physiological effects on practitioners. The conclusion is easy : people that meditate regularly actually have a better way of organizing their time and when unexpected things arise in their daily life they are much better able to handle these things more effectively and efficiently than someone that does not practice meditation. But what happens exactly to our body when we meditate ?
The neuroscience of meditation
According to research by Ph.D Emma M. Seppala studies show that a regular practice of meditation decreases depression and increases positive emotion, not only does meditation practice improve one’s ability for introspect but it increases focus, boosts health, happiness, and emotional intelligence. Numerous studies by Harvard researchers have concluded that a regular meditation practice of at least 30 minutes a day drastically changes the brains activity by building brain cells and increasing gray matter. Through meditation one can train the brain to react differently to outside circumstance. The neuroscience of meditation is very extensive, through MRI scans scientists have observed during meditation, a part of the brain called the amygdala which is known for processing emotional stimuli shows decreased activity. The various things happening in one’s environment can trigger stressful reactions, over periods of time. Engaging in meditation helps to calm down the activity in the amygdala region of the brain and increase focus and attention. By observing MRI scans neuroscientists have learned that meditation strengthens the brain by reinforcing the connections between brain cells.
As if that wasn’t convincing enough, another research concludes that mindfulness meditation may be effective to treat anxiety to a similar degree as antidepressant drug therapy. The many benefits of meditation practice have contributed to a better quality of life for dedicated practitioners; boosting energy levels, concentration, and better stress management.
From Meditation to psychotherapy ?
Some researchers believe that meditation might be the key to help ease off dependency on pharmaceutical drugs. For over 30 years Dr. Ronald D. Siegel author of The Mindfulness Solution, serves on the board of directors and faculty at the Institute for meditation and psychotherapy. Dr. Siegel is a long time student of mindfulness and teaches internationally about the benefits and practices of mindfulness meditation for patients experiencing depression, anxiety, chronic pain, and other issues. Dr. Siegel explains that the human mind naturally has thoughts constantly traveling through the mind, we are always experiencing change, comparing and contrasting with our environment and others around us, which causes psychological and emotional distress. By introducing mindfulness into their lives on a regular basis patients begin to experience less stressful emotions when presented with challenges in their daily life. As we know a meditation practice strengthens the brain by reinforcing the connections between brain cells, promotes cortical plasticity in adults areas important for cognitive and emotional processing and well-being, and increases thickness in parts of the brain that deal with attention and processing sensory input.
But in the other hand, if you sit down on a cushion and count your breath for two months, all sorts of things— wounds, memories, traumas—are going to come up. That’s why, yet some scientist have argued that much of this research has been poorly designed. Johns Hopkins University researchers carefully reviewed published clinical trials and found that more high-quality work is needed before the effect of meditation on other ailments can be judged.