Like pigeon pose for your tight hips, you’re looking for that special sauce to help your inner calm carry you on. They say meditation can help, but what’s all this chatter about a little bit of sitting and ommming?
Experts tout meditation increases levels of happiness, helps you sleep, repairs emotional trauma, lowers risk of heart disease and just plain makes you feel good.
Right, but how?
Without getting bogged down in too much science, we’ve gathered the basic 411 on what actually happens in your brain and body when you develop a regular meditation practice.
When the mind is busy processing the gazillion bits of information coming at it all the time, it gets tired. Sleep doesn’t always help because our dream centres become active and the mind can really go wild – just as if it was really happening.
Studies on meditation indicate that activity in several brain centres decreases when you focus mindfully on say, your breathing, and nothing else – when you take a time-out to breathe for a few minutes and consciously relax. Here are some bits of the brain that slow down:
- The Frontal Lobe: our planning and reasoning centre, and happens to be the most highly evolved part of our brains. It’s also the place where our sense of “I” or ego lives.
- The Parietal Lobe: this is where we process information from the world around us – the senses if you will – and gives us, also, our sense of time and space.
- Thalamus: Our sensory filtration system. It lets in information that you want or need in a given moment and chucks the rest.
- Reticular Formation: this is your built-in alarm system and is, in fact, the gatekeeper of arousal and alarm. It takes in stimuli and lets you know when you need to bolt or stay put.
In a nutshell, when these centres that are highly associated with stress responses, get a chance to dial back and rest, it makes them more efficient when we’re not meditating – when we actually need them.
Hence, we’re sharper, we remember more and are way more efficient in almost every conceivable way, physically and emotionally.
Not only that, we’re way more relaxed during and after meditation. When we chill-out, our parasympathetic nervous system takes over and subtly lowers our blood pressure, heart rate and oxygen consumption.
Why is that good?
It puts us in rest and digest mode. The body can better digest food, decrease and rid itself of the stress hormone cortisol (give those adrenals and the ol’ heart a break, yo!) and allows us to recover from and manage fatigue, pain and stress – plus deal with it more efficiently.
So there it is. Science speaks.
But really, the proof is in the pudding. Commit to a meditation practice and see what unfolds. It could be your healthiest new habit!