MEDITATION AND SIGNIFICANCE OF RESEARCH STUDY
Meditation and Significance of Scientific Research
Around 1,500 BCE in the ancient scriptures, the Vedas (in Aranyaka and Brahmana layers of the Vedas) we see the mention of meditation. Upanishads describe it as contemplation; as a path towards realisation of self. Sage Patanjali's laid the path towards self-realisation through Ashtanga yoga where dhyana is the seventh limb that leads to Samadhi.
Dhyana derived from the Sanskrit root Dhi meaning "imaginative vision" and dhyana, or "meditation, contemplating, reflecting on whatever one focused during dharana. Meditation or dhyana is a process towards enlightenment. Under the regular guidance of a "guru" the "dispeller of darkness” one can begin the inward journey, journey to the self.
Dhyana- seventh limb of Ashtanga yoga:-
Sage Patanjali’s emphasises the practice of all the eight limbs of Ashtanga yoga in the sequence to reap the fruit of self-realisation. Practising Yama, niyama asana and pranayama are vital for a practitioner to prepare his physical body for anatarmukha sadhana, towards dhyana. The regular practice of pranayama helps to regulate the breath, calm the mind, relaxes the body.
Thus the regular practice of asana and pranayama align the energy centres of the body suitable for the free flow of prana Shakti within and aids the practice of dhyana.
Asan for meditation:-
Meditation postures vary with the technique chosen. Regarding seated meditation techniques few do not emphasis on being at ease while most emphasize sitting relaxed, erect, with spine straight, folded legs, hands resting on the laps above the knee forming Gyan or any meditative mudra and with relaxed neck .basically, we should be able to practice meditation comfortably with no bodily discomfort for experiencing its true essence. Hence the emphasis on practising Asan and pranayama. E.g. Padmasan, sukhasan, swastikasasn. Exercising in the early hours, i.e. in the Brahmamimuharta is ideal, before going to bed either.
To begin with can practice for a minimum of ten minutes and slowly your body will guide along the process and can try for half an hour which varies for each. Diet plays a vital role in a practitioner. A diet that is suitable for our body and satvic is ideal. As we practice meditation as per Ashtanga yoga, our organisation as well our mind guides us as to what it wants to have. We need to listen to and become aware and acknowledge its suggestions.
I quote, “if you can master the nine gates of your body-eyes, ears, mouth, nose, sex organ and rectum –then all the secrets of nature will open to you.”-Yogi Bhajan
Purpose of meditation:-
Acharya Shriram Sharma: “Meditation is the key for opening the doors of mysteries to your mind.”
Through meditation, we can observe our mind, become conscious of its various functions namely manas, buddhi, ahamkara and Chitta. Meditation is time with our “self”. A time to connect with our breath, to be in the present, to re-establish the rhythm within. Meditation is a process of cleaning and calming the mind; knowing the power within. Truly a divine experience.
Individuals becoming more aware of health and wellbeing meditation is like prevention is better than cure. Anxiety and stress-related problems have an impact on once health.
Udupa, (2000) explains, “Anxiety is an excessive outpouring of acetylcholine from the cerebral cortex which stimulates the autonomic nervous system, mainly the sympathetic nervous system .this in turn, produces an excess of adrenalin and nor-adrenalin. These neuro-hormone circulate in blood to produce a series of changes in the functioning of various organs, resulting in tachycardia, hypertension, tremors, excessive perspiration etc. because of the interference with circulation in skeletal muscles there occurs anaerobic cellular metabolism leading to excessive liberation of lactates into the blood, leading to rise in the occurrence of psychosomatic diseases.”
Pandya (April 1994) said that “Devotional practice of meditation with purity of thoughts results in the secretion of various neurotransmitters like Dopamine, Acetylcholine GABA, Serotonin, Endorphins and encephalin in a regulated manner which in turn increases the internal happiness, concentration, memory, emotional maturity and overall body energy of the practitioners.
When we practice meditation, it causes a significant alteration in brain usage patterns, neural chemistry, and emotional balance, inducing relaxation, regulating attention, and developing an attitude of detachment from one's thoughts. Evidence from a meta-analysis of ten neuroimaging studies suggests that the caudate body, entorhinal cortex, and medial prefrontal cortex have a central role in supporting the general aspects of meditation effects. Each meditation technique is unique while the primary aim of mediation is relaxation. (calming the mind). Becoming aware and transforming one's state of mind, turning inwards to concentrate on the inner self is its true essence its purpose.
Research study and significance:-
The role of scientific research in this field of meditation and studying the human master brain is immense. In the 1960s western scientists reviewed Swami Rama at Menninger Clinic, and he was the first yogi to be studied. Swami Rama demonstrated his ability to voluntarily control his bodily processes (such as heartbeat, blood pressure, and body temperature) which science had up until then considered being involuntary. Another pioneer in this process was Dr Herbert Benson, who probed the effectiveness of meditation through his research at Harvard University in the early 1970s. Before that time, meditation was still considered a religious practice, and thus not appropriate for healthcare purposes. With his contribution, this began to change.
There are several studies of the brain, namely PET and fMRI that identified several brain areas linked to anxiety or psychological problems (Davidson et al. 1999). Several studies by (ter et al. 1998), (Nordahl, Benkelfat, Semple, Gross and King, 2000) consistently implicate that cingulate as well as the amygdala, hippocampus, thalamus and hypothalamus in most types of mental disturbances (Swedo et al. 2004). Studies show that anxiety is associated with several neurotransmitters and hormones, including excitatory amino acid glutamate, an inhibitory amino acid - aminobutyric acid, and other neurotransmitters and neurochemical compounds such as catecholamine’s, dopamine, cholecystokinin, the corticotropin-releasing hormone. Also, increased blood pressure, increased glucose and cortisol level, immune system and digestion shut down, acidic skin, etc.
Researchers studied various meditation techniques and their effect on the overall wellbeing of the practitioners.as per studies; meditation may release emotional and mental blockages, from abuse and traumatic images to unprocessed anxiety, grief or anger.
Join us to know more meditation techniques, their research study and the benefits of practising that particular technique .like it is said every individual is unique and prefers a method suitable to his requirements, maybe you might get insights of a beautiful technique of your own. Would be interesting to know your important views in the comments section. Thank you.
“When Meditation has its full impact, the body begins to secrete nectar or ambrosia, which symbolises immortality.
The body begins to perceive, think and understand things in a different way altogether changing all the electric circuits of the body.”- Osho