With stress related doctor visits on a steady rise, it has become more important than ever to reserve the necessary time to rejuvinate your senses and give your mind and body a rest.
The ancient technique of meditation teaches us how to apply focus to our surroundings by bringing us closer to the sensations of our body.
By observing the activity of your mind, the process of your breath, and the details of your present moment, you are tapping into a deeper connection. This is exactly when your mind can relax and be at peace.
In ancient Buddhist and Tibetan meditation culture, these underlying currents of the present moment enable us to energize our consciousness and balance the mind.
In more recent years, science has demonstrated that even the smallest forms of sickness are far more difficult to overcome when the mind is in constant distress.
When the mind is uneasy, a sense of urgency is communicated to the body, which will cause the nervous system to respond with anxiety and adrenaline.
Your body will eventual need a chance to rest, and meditation has been proven to provide the perfect environment for this to effectively happen. These revelations give rise to Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) — an established set of meditation techniques shown to reduce symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression.
Most meditation techniques focus on two important factors: silence and breathing.
In silence, you will experience higher level of awareness and a sensation of peace. With less sensory input, a more healthy and calm signal is relayed to your body and your mind is triggered into a natural process of recovery. Your body is better prepared to process any mental and physical disturbances.
Breathing is the most crucial aspect of this natural process. By focusing on your breath, your mind is brought back into the energy of your body by triggering a state of coherence in the nervous system. With each conscious breath, your body is nourished with fresh nutrients.
Neuroscientists at Stanford University published a study of 14 patients who were assessed over 8 sessions. During the breath-focused attention technique, less negative emotions were felt by participants, which was found to be directly related to reduced activity in the amygdala –- the area of the brain that regulates feelings of danger and fear. Simultaneously, activity in other regions of the brain that govern focus and attention were found to be much more active.
Mindful Breathing and the Relaxation Response
The technique of mindful breath focuses the attention of the practitioner on inhaling and exhaling. As this natural process generates a subtle energy, and the mind is drawn closer to the moment, all thoughts, worries, and concerns are filtered out in a healthy and natural way.
When the mind is triggered into a relaxed state, you are sending a powerful message to your body that it is time to recalibrate and reenergize.
A pioneer in mind body medicine, Dr. Herbert Benson coined the term 'relaxation response' as the ability for the body to stimulate relaxation. This has been referred to as a scientific term for meditation.
The relaxation response corresponds to a part of the brain called the hypothalamus, which when triggered, sends out neurochemicals that counteract the hyper activity in the nervous system.
This release of neurochemicals is believed to be responsible for the experience known as inner peace.
Dr. Herbert Benson describes it as:
“A physical state of deep rest that changes the physical and emotional responses to stress and is opposite of the "fight or flight response.”
The relaxation response is the ability of the body to induce decreased activity of muscle and organs allowing the body to heal and the mind to settle down.
The relaxation response is also responsible for:
- Decrease in blood pressure
- Increase in Alpha brainwaves
- Higher level of energy and stamina
- Better sleep
- Vibrant sense of mental and spiritual well-being
- Decrease respiratory rate and less anxiety
- Reduced muscle tension