By Jena Covello and @sofiamcgrand
Are you meditating yet?
Meditation has been around for 5,000 years or so. According to wall arts found in India of people seated in meditative positions with eyes half-open, meditation dates back to approximately 5,000 to 3,500 BC. But the oldest written mention of meditation dates back to around 1,500 BC. in the Vedas. The Vedas are the most ancient Hindu scriptures that were written in Sanskrit and contain hymns, philosophy, and guidance on rituals of the religion Vedic.
Around the 6thcentury, the Buddha was looking for enlightenment and started to study meditation and philosophy under great Yogis. He was unsatisfied with this methodology, so he created his own and that’s when he became the Buddha and spent the rest of his life teaching meditation and spiritual awakening to others.
By the 18thcentury, the translation of Eastern texts into European languages sparked the minds of many intellectuals. And soon after the Transcendentalist movement was developed in the US. But it wasn’t until the early 20thcentury that Yoga and meditation were properly introduced to the US by a charismatic Swami Vivekananda who presented the studies in a rational way.
Fast forward to the 21stcentury, chances are you yourself have meditated or know someone who does. Having a consistent meditation practice has been linked to being happier, healthier, and more successful. In today’s fast paced world, taking a few minutes a day to meditate and reflect is very profound. It’s no wonder why this ancient practice has been around for so long, there are countless scientific benefits.
A study published in the Canadian journal Cancer, showed that meditation had an impact on certain types of DNA in breast cancer patients. The length of telomeres, the small protective caps on the end of chromosomes, were physically lengthened as the result of meditation. Shorter telomeres are linked to cancer, heart disease, and diabetes.
A December 2013 study from the University of Wisconson-Madison showed that the DNA of participants who meditated “showed a range of genetic and molecular differences, including altered levels of gene-regulating machinery and reduced levels of pro-inflammatory genes, which in turn correlated with faster physical recovery from a stressful situation.”
According to a study published in the journal Frontiers in Immunology, experts reveal a pattern in the molecular changes which happen to the body as a result of mind-body intervention and how those changes benefit our mental and physical health.
The researchers focus on how gene expression is affected- the way that genes activate to produce proteins which influence the biological makeup of the body, immune system and brain.
When a person is exposed to a stressful event, their sympathetic nervous system the system, also known as the 'fight-or-flight' response, -- is triggered, which increases production of a molecule called nuclear factor kappa B (NF-kB) which regulates how our genes are expressed.
NF-kB activates inflammation at the cellular level and if activation persists, this can lead to higher risk of cancers, accelerated aging and psychiatric disorders like depression.
People who practice mind-body intervention decrease production of NF-kB and cytokines, leading to a reversal of the pro-inflammatory gene expression pattern and a reduction in the risk of inflammation-related diseases and conditions.
Additional benefits of meditation:
- Enhances focus and attention
- Enhances self awareness
- Improves ability to look within
- Improves ability to be creative
- Improvements in ability to regulate emotions and emotion intelligence
- Improvements in immune function
- Increased brain matter, cognitive benefits, and improvements in memory (even in disorders like Alzheimer’s)
- Reduction of pain and inflammation like arthritis
- Reduced stress
- Reduced depression and feeling of loneliness
- Reduced anxiety
It’s important to remember that meditation is not one size fits all. There are different types of meditation, and the goal is to find the one that best works for you. Tomorrow we will break down the different types of meditation you can try.
***THESE STATEMENTS HAVE NOT BEEN APPROVED OR REGULATED BY THE FDA. WE ARE NOT DOCTORS, THEREFORE ALWAYS CONSULT WITH YOUR DOCTOR FIRST.