Part 3: What Happens During Meditation?
Modern medicine does not say that meditation works. You won’t find a doctor that will prescribe meditation as the sole means of healing your illness in traditional medicine, anyway. Yet, meditation is something that doctor’s do tell you about in other ways.
For example, how many times has your doctor told you that stress was a problem in your health issue? Or, perhaps he told you of the need to relax more so that you can overcome your headaches, your pain, or your tension? In your doctor’s words, he is encouraging you to clear your mind of the things you worry about and concentrate instead on relaxing. That is what meditation can do for you.
Yet, the mechanics behind how meditation works is something completely different. Not many actually realize how meditation works or why it matters that they know why it works. You’ll learn both elements here.
In studies that have been done, there is evidence that meditation can produce a reaction in the body. It has been shown to provide a healthy state of relaxation. Physically, your body reacts in several ways.
- Your breathing becomes regulated, smoother and deeper.
- Your heart rate decreases which means your heart is beating slower.
- It can help to decrease the amount of the stress hormone, called plasma cortisol that is produced by your body.
- It can decrease your pulse rate.
- It can increase a brain wave stimulation that causes you to relax. This is called your EEG or electroencephalograph alpha which is directly associated with the body’s ability to relax
- Probably the most astonishing physical experience to the body is the decrease in your metabolic rate, or the rate at which your body takes fuel and burns it for energy. This rate seemed to have dropped by some 20 percent in those that had otherwise normal metabolic rates.
Yet, not just physical changes happen during meditation. In addition, your body enters into a state of profound rest, rest that goes beyond that of any other stage of consciousness you could be in.
During this time, your mind and your brain are extremely alert and in tune. This has been shown through medical experiments as well. Patients were told to meditate while their brain’s activity was monitored.
During these tests, there were indications that your brain was in a state called “restful alertness” where it was completely and extremely alert but calm and focused.
It has also been shown in the way that your body reacts to various stimuli. For example, most individuals experience stimulations that allow them to be faster in movements. They may be more creative as well. Some are able to comprehend at a higher level after they’ve meditated as well.
As mentioned, the body’s metabolic rate also drops, which means that you don’t eat nearly as much as you should. Patients that have been monitored during one specific technique of meditation known as Transcendental meditation, called TM for short, had metabolic rates that dropped below that of those that were in a deep sleep pattern.
Your heart rate will drop by several beats each minute as well as your breathing reduces by an average of two breaths for each minute.
More Results of Transcendental Meditation
Another result of Transcendental meditation was the effect that it seemed to have on patients and their blood pressure rates. In those that had normal levels of blood pressure considered healthy, nothing changed and those numbers remained in low numbers. But, those that started with higher, above average and healthy blood pressure numbers saw a fall in their blood pressure rates. It fell to a considerably lower level in these patients.
Another area that was tested during this type of meditation is that of the body’s relaxation of its muscles. This can be hard to measure but during some tests, doctors will administer a very low level of electrical current and monitor the reaction that your body’s muscles have to it.
Individuals that have a fall in their skin’s resistance are known to be people that suffer from tension and anxiety or have high levels of stress. If you had a rise in your resistance, on the other hand, that means that your muscles are very relaxed.
Once tested, it was easy to tell how the effects of meditation are. Those that meditated then had this electrical test down were found to have significantly more relaxed muscles than those that did not.
As you can see, there is a real physical and mental change in the body when you are or have been meditating. But, doctors want to learn more and often people ask, why meditating has this effect on the body and mind. For that, let’s explain a bit more.
One of the marked improvements during meditation happens to the individual’s nervous system. Instead of what normally happens, a different branch of this system takes charge, which it normally does not. This branch, called the parasympathetic branch, is prone to help relax and calm you and your body.
Another example of what happens to the body is that of the amount of lactate in your blood before and after meditation. Lactate is a naturally produced substance that is necessary in the body. It is produced by your metabolism and is done so in the muscles surrounding your skeleton.
When you meditate, this lactate level drops significantly; which therefore causes your metabolic rate to significantly drop, as we mentioned. In fact, the amount of lactate in your body decreases by some four times the rate that it would if you were lying on your back and had not meditated.
In addition to this, the amount of lactate produced in your body fits the fact that your blood will flow faster and more effectively throughout your body during and after meditation. Because your blood is flowing faster (in some areas by up to 30 percent!) that means that oxygen is getting to your muscles faster.
When your muscles have an increased amount of oxygen, which they need, they don’t produce nearly the amount of lactate that they would otherwise. Therefore, meditation helps to increase your blood flow and decrease your metabolic rate.
Many of the things that happen to your body while you are meditating are actually quite like what happens to the body when you are sleeping. Your breathing and heart rate drop. Your body and mind enter a very restful, deep relaxation and enter a very restful, deep relaxation.
But, are you sleeping when you meditate, then?
The question that many face is how your body can be both so relaxed and yet so alert. You see, when you meditate, your body is extremely alert, not nearly sleeping.
When you are meditating, your body enters a type of rest that is similar to that of deep sleep and/or a hypnotic state. That’s due to the fact that your body responds to the meditation in all of the ways that we’ve listed which causes the relaxed state to happen.
Behind everything is your ability to tell your mind and your body to relax. When you enter meditation in a complete manner and these things happen, you’ve learned to access your body’s relaxation response, something that allows you to then control when and how well you can relax.
In addition to this, many doctors and researchers believe that those that meditate also are able to allow their own body to make the right decisions about healing.
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There are many theories on how meditation happens and what the real physical and mental change that happens in your body when you meditate is. What’s important for you to realize, then, is that a physical as well as a mental change happens in your body. That change is one of serenity and enlightenment, two things that each person should strive to achieve for their ultimate state of mind.