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How Does Meditation Affect the Body?
Along with the wonderful spiritual and emotional benefits of learning meditation, there are a number of physical benefits you’ll enjoy as well. The most common are reduced stress and decreased muscle tension.
The Mayo Clinic reports there is research that suggests meditation may also have a positive impact on a wide range of health conditions, including allergies, anxiety disorders, asthma, binge eating, depression, fatigue, heart disease, high blood pressure, pain, sleep problems, substance abuse and even cancer. According to experts, meditation is best used as a supplemental treatment in combination with other medical interventions.
According to Dr. Richard Keller, MD, chronic stress is a killer, causing high blood pressure and constriction of the blood cells, depression and sometimes harmful addictions. According to Dr. Randy Zusman, MD, calming the mind during meditation, focusing attention on breathing and relaxing in a quiet state all help to reduce feelings of stress. A study conducted by Zusman found that deep, controlled breathing also allows the body to produce increased levels of nitric oxide, a compound that helps open up constricted blood vessels and ultimately causes a reduction in blood pressure.
Improved heart health
A study published by the American Heart Association reported that participants who meditated throughout the study experienced a decrease in the thickness of their arterial walls, while those who did not meditate experienced no change to their arterial walls. The resulting decrease in arterial wall thickness translates into a lower risk of heart attack and stroke.
Decreased muscle tension
Drawing attention to different areas of the body by controlling breathing and calming the mind will help muscles relax. In fact, there’s a specific technique called Progressive Muscle Relaxation that can be used at the beginning of a meditation session to systematically tense and then relax muscles throughout your body.
By meditating, promoting inner peace and relaxing, you clearly reduce stress. According to a 2003 study published in the Psychosomatic Medicine, meditation also has a demonstrably positive effect on the immune system and the brain.
Researchers are conducting new studies, and more benefits of meditation are being revealed every day. For example, according to a 2003 report in the New York Times, there are a number of small studies showing that cancer patients who meditated had significantly better emotional outlooks than a control group, and meditation also provides relief for patients who suffer with anxiety and chronic pain.