The Transcendental Meditation technique has
proven to be a successful coping strategy in helping to deal with drug addiction," a
useful tool in psycho-neuro-immunology (PNI) by helping to control the immune system, and
an effective manager of stress and pain.
A strong link has also been established
between the practice of TM and longevity. Only two factors have been scientifically
determined to actually extend life: caloric restriction and lowering of the body's core
temperature. Meditation has been shown to lower core body temperature.
Most of the people who get on meditation do
so because of its beneficial effects on stress. Stress refers to any or all the various
pressures experienced in life. These can stem from work, family, illness, or environment
and can contribute to such conditions as anxiety, hypertension, and heart disease. How an
individual sees things and how he or she handles them makes a big difference in terms of
how much stress he or she experiences.
Research has shown that hormones and other
biochemical compounds in the blood indicative of stress tend to decrease during TM
practice. These changes also stabilize over time, so that a person is actually less
stressed biochemically during daily activity.
This reduction of stress translates directly into a
reduction of anxiety and tension. Literally dozens of studies have shown this.
Chronic pain can systematically erode the
quality of life. Although great strides are being made in traditional medicine to treat
recurring pain, treatment is rarely as simple as prescribing medication or surgery.
Anxiety decreases the threshold for pain and pain causes
anxiety. The result is a vicious cycle. Compared with people who feel relaxed, those under
stress experience pain more intensely and become even more stressed, which aggravates
their pain. Meditation breaks this cycle.
Childbirth preparation classes routinely teach pregnant
women deep breathing exercises to minimize the pain and anxiety of labor. Few call it
breath meditation, but that's what it is.
Meditative techniques are also a key element in the
Arthritis self-help Course at Stanford University. More than 100,000 people with arthritis
have taken the 12-hour course and learned meditation-style relaxation exercises as part of
a comprehensive self-care program. Graduates report a 15 to 20 percent reduction in pain.
In one study overseen by Dr. Kabat-Zinn, 72
percent of the patients with chronic pain conditions achieved at least a 33 percent
reduction after participating in an eight-week period of mindful meditation, while 61
-percent of the pain patients achieved at least a 50 percent reduction. Additionally,
these people perceived their bodies as being 30 percent less problematic, suggesting an
overall improvement in self-esteem and positive views regarding their bodies.
Meditation may not eliminate pain, but it
helps people cope more effectively.
Meditation and other approaches to deep relaxation help
center people so they can figure out how they'd like to handle the illness and proceed
with life. Dr. Ainslie Meares, an Australian psychiatrist who uses meditation with cancer
patients, studied seventy-three patients who had attended at least twenty -sessions of
intensive meditation, and wrote: "Nearly all such patients can expect significant
reduction of anxiety and depression, together with much less discomfort and pain. There is
reason to expect a 10 percent chance of quite remarkable slowing of the rate of growth of
the tumor, and a 50 percent chance of greatly improved quality of life."
Meditation is a key component of Ornish
therapy, the only treatment scientifically proven to reverse heart disease.
As soon as Dr. Benson learned that TM
reliably reduced blood pressure in meditators, he taught the relaxation response to 36
people with moderately elevated blood pressure. After several weeks of practice, their
average blood pressure declined significantly, reducing their risk of stroke and heart
Couples dealing with infertility may become
depressed, anxious and angry. To help them cope, Alice D. Domar, Ph.D., a psychologist at
the Mind/Body Medical Institute, taught the relaxation response to one group of infertile
couples. Compared with a similar group of infertile couples who did not learn deep
relaxation, the meditators experienced less distress-and were more likely to get pregnant.
This disease causes scaly red patches on
the skin. A pilot study at Dr. Kabat-Zinn's clinic suggests that compared with the skin
patches of people with psoriasis who receive only standard medical therapy, the skin
patches of those who also meditate clear up more quickly.
Asthma, emphysema and chronic obstructive
pulmonary disease (COPD) all restrict breathing and raise fears of suffocation, which in
turn makes breathing even more difficult. Studies at Dr. Kabat-Zinn's clinic show that
when people with these respiratory conditions learn breath meditation, they have fewer
Meditation can ease physical complaints such as
premenstrual syndrome (PMS), tension headaches and other common health problems.
Meditation gives people a psychological buffer so that
life's hectic pace doesn't knock them out. Practicing meditation is like taking a vacation
once or twice a day. When you nurture yourself, you accrue tremendous spin-off benefits.
For example, when you are under high stress, it can worsen
symptoms of PMS because stress can cause the muscle tension associated with PMS complaints
such as fatigue, soreness and aching. On the other hand, when you meditate regularly, you
dramatically reduce your body's response to stress, and that can ease the discomfort
associated with PMS. The results may not be apparent for several months. You will probably
need to meditate regularly for several months before your body responds positively.
Meditation can also improve irritable bowel syndrome,
ulcers, and insomnia, among other stress-related conditions. Eighty percent of the people
who use meditation to relieve insomnia are successful.
Meditation can help prevent or treat stress-related
complaints such as anxiety, headaches and bone, muscle and joint problems. Meditation also
provides an inner sense of clarity and calm, and that, in itself, may help ward off
According to one study, meditation may relieve the
discomfort of fibromyalgia, a condition that causes fatigue and intensely painful
"trigger points." When 77 men and women with fibromyalgia followed a ten-week
stress-reduction program using meditation, all reported that their symptoms improved. And
half described their improvements as "moderate to marked."
Next Topic: Benefits
of Meditation on Health: Psychological