The scientific studies on Meditation
show that meditating boosts the immune system, and brain scans suggest that it actually rewires and retrains the brain
to reduce stress.
Time Magazine did a cover article
on Meditation in August 2003 and reported that "meditation is being recommended by more and more physicians as a way
to prevent, slow or at least control the pain of chronic diseases like heart conditions, AIDS, cancer and infertility. It
is also being used to restore balance in the face of such psychiatric disturbances as depression, hyperactivity and attention
That article also reported tests using the
most sophisticated imaging techniques were proving that the brain waves actually change during meditation. Several
doctors at Harvard Medical School studied meditation and found that when people were meditating they used 17% less
oxygen, lowered their heart rates by 3 beats per minute. Meditators increased their theta brain waves much more than when
reading a book or listening to music, and essentially deactivated the frontal areas of the brain that receive and process
Another study at the University of Wisconsin used brain
imaging to reveal that meditation shifts activity in the prefrontal cortex from the right hemisphere to the left. People who
have a negative disposition tend to be right-prefrontal oriented compared with left-prefrontals who are reported to have
more enthusiasm, more interests, relax more and tend to be happier. This research suggests that with regular meditation, there
is a pronounced change in brain wave patterns, shifting from the alpha waves of stimulation to the theta waves that dominate
the brain during periods of deep relaxation.
Others like Dr. Dean Ornish and Jon
Kabat-Zinn are demonstrating that meditation may also influence physical healing in significant ways. Kabat-Zinn studied a
group of people with psoriasis, which is a skin condition that can be treated with ultraviolet light. The skin of those who
were taught to meditate cleared up at four times the rate of the nonmeditators. He also measured the antibody levels of people
getting flu shots. The meditators had lots more antibodies weeks longer after receiving the shot. He suggests that
the better your meditation, the healthier your immune system.
study has shown that women who meditate and use guided imagery have higher levels of immune cells that are known
to combat breast tumors. And for a long time now, medical science has supported meditation as a way to reduce blood
Simply sitting silently for as little as 10 minutes a day, you
can train yourself to focus on your breathing and on the present moment instead of obsessing about the past or fretting about
A Word from Dr. Simon
Peace is the fruit of a life lived in present moment awareness. It is a precious commodity, for our human minds are
programmed to obsess perpetually over the past and prepare relentlessly for an uncertain future. Peace is birthed from the
womb of a quiet mind. Meditation is peace technology. The most common explanations I hear for why people do not practice meditation
are, “I’m too busy," "I’ve got too much to do to sit still," and "I never seem to have
enough time.” Realize this: Your ability to project into the future means you’ll never finish everything on your
plate. Peace is not the outcome of having completed your work. It is the natural consequence of knowing that time and individuality
are constructs of the mind.
To glimpse the peace that passes understanding, go to a natural place,
close your eyes, center in your heart, and tune into the sounds surrounding you. Listen to the birds declaring their presence,
the breath of the wind or the murmuring flow of a stream. Notice the tendency of your mind to pull you forward into something
you have to do before you can rest in the present. Awareness of this tendency gave birth to the science of yoga, defined by
Maharishi Patanjali as the “quieting of the thought waves of awareness.” Knowing what you know to be true, choose
to spend a few moments each day cultivating peace. Your mind, heart, body, family, and friends will share in the prize.
A word from Dr. David Simon is Reprinted with permission from Chopra Center Namaste.
Meditation Changes The Brain
ScienceDaily (Mar. 27, 2008) — Can we train ourselves to be compassionate? A new study suggests the answer is yes. Cultivating compassion
and kindness through meditation affects brain regions that can make a person more empathetic to other peoples' mental states,
say researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
This study was the first
to use functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to indicate that positive emotions such as loving-kindness and compassion
can be learned in the same way as playing a musical instrument or being proficient in a sport. The scans revealed that brain
circuits used to detect emotions and feelings were dramatically changed in subjects who had extensive experience practicing
The research suggests that individuals
-- from children who may engage in bullying to people prone to recurring depression -- and society in general could benefit
from such meditative practices, says study director Richard Davidson, professor of psychiatry and psychology at UW-Madison
and an expert on imaging the effects of meditation. Davidson and UW-Madison associate scientist Antoine Lutz were co-principal
investigators on the project.The study was part
of the researchers' ongoing investigations with a group of Tibetan monks and lay practitioners who have practiced meditation
for a minimum of 10,000 hours. In this case, Lutz and Davidson worked with 16 monks who have cultivated compassion meditation
practices. Sixteen age-matched controls with no previous training were taught the fundamentals of compassion meditation two
weeks before the brain scanning took place."Many
contemplative traditions speak of loving-kindness as the wish for happiness for others and of compassion as the wish to relieve
others' suffering. Loving-kindness and compassion are central to the Dalai Lama's philosophy and mission," says Davidson,
who has worked extensively with the Tibetan Buddhist leader. "We wanted to see how this voluntary generation of compassion
affects the brain systems involved in empathy."
Various techniques are used in compassion meditation, and the training can take years of practice. The controls in
this study were asked first to concentrate on loved ones, wishing them well-being and freedom from suffering. After some training,
they then were asked to generate such feelings toward all beings without thinking specifically about anyone.Each of the 32 subjects was placed in the fMRI scanner at the UW-Madison
Waisman Center for Brain Imaging, which Davidson directs, and was asked to either begin compassion meditation or refrain from
it. During each state, subjects were exposed to negative and positive human vocalizations designed to evoke empathic responses
as well as neutral vocalizations: sounds of a distressed woman, a baby laughing and background restaurant noise."We used audio instead of visual challenges so that meditators
could keep their eyes slightly open but not focused on any visual stimulus, as is typical of this practice," explains
The scans revealed significant activity
in the insula - a region near the frontal portion of the brain that plays a key role in bodily representations of emotion
- when the long-term meditators were generating compassion and were exposed to emotional vocalizations. The strength of insula
activation was also associated with the intensity of the meditation as assessed by the participants."The insula is extremely important in detecting emotions in general and specifically
in mapping bodily responses to emotion - such as heart rate and blood pressure - and making that information available to
other parts of the brain," says Davidson, also co-director of the HealthEmotions Research Institute.Activity also increased in the temporal parietal juncture, particularly
the right hemisphere. Studies have implicated this area as important in processing empathy, especially in perceiving the mental
and emotional state of others."Both of these
areas have been linked to emotion sharing and empathy," Davidson says. "The combination of these two effects, which
was much more noticeable in the expert meditators as opposed to the novices, was very powerful."
The findings support Davidson and Lutz's working assumption that through
training, people can develop skills that promote happiness and compassion. "People are not just stuck at their respective
set points," he says. "We can take advantage of our brain's plasticity and train it to enhance these qualities."The capacity to cultivate compassion, which involves regulating thoughts
and emotions, may also be useful for preventing depression in people who are susceptible to it, Lutz adds."Thinking about other people's suffering and not just your own
helps to put everything in perspective," he says, adding that learning compassion for oneself is a critical first step
in compassion meditation.The researchers are interested
in teaching compassion meditation to youngsters, particularly as they approach adolescence, as a way to prevent bullying,
aggression and violence. "I think this can be one of the tools we use to teach emotional regulation to kids who are at
an age where they're vulnerable to going seriously off track," Davidson says.
Compassion meditation can be beneficial in promoting more harmonious relationships
of all kinds, Davidson adds. "The world certainly could use a little more kindness and compassion," he says. "Starting
at a local level, the consequences of changing in this way can be directly experienced."Lutz and Davidson hope to conduct additional studies to evaluate brain changes that
may occur in individuals who cultivate positive emotions through the practice of loving-kindness and compassion over time.This research was published March 26 in the PLoS One.
Antoine Lutz, Julie Brefczynski-Lewis,
Tom Johnstone, Richard J. Davidson. Regulation of the Neural Circuitry of Emotion
by Compassion Meditation: Effects of Meditative Expertise. PLoS ONE,
2008; 3 (3): e1897 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0001897 Adapted from materials provided by University of Wisconsin-Madison.
University of Wisconsin-Madison
(2008, March 27). Compassion Meditation Changes The Brain. ScienceDaily.
Retrieved September 5,
Massage does much more than just relax your muscles
There was a great article in the NY Times by RONI CARYN RABIN Published: September 20, 2010 reporting a study
done by researchers at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles on massage. The upshot was that they did blood draws before,
during, and after massage and discovered that there was a significant decrease in levels of the stress hormone cortisol in blood and saliva, and in arginine vasopressin,
a hormone that can lead to increases in cortisol. They also had increases in the number of lymphocytes, white blood cells
that are part of the immune system.
The subjects experienced greater increases in
oxytocin, a hormone associated with contentment, and decreases in adrenal corticotropin hormone, which stimulates the
adrenal glands to release cortisol.
To read the entire article: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/21/health/research/21regimens.html
Head's Up on Posture: Don't Be a Slouch!Edward L. Maurer, D.C., D.A.C.B.R..National University of Health SciencesSusan Spinasanta Senior
An Early Message
When I was a child, my grandmother was constantly after me saying, "Sit up straight!
Don't slump in the chair! Walk tall!" At just about every family gathering, I could count on Grandma giving me a lecture
about posture. The message was the same even as I got older. In my teenage years the reminders became a source of embarrassment
and sometimes I would actually try to hide to escape her persistent pestering!
Well, now I'm an adult with children
of my own. Often, while observing my youngest, the faint stirrings of Grandma's voice resound in my head. I'm actually surprised
to hear my own voice echoing her very words to this child!How Poor Posture Happens
posture is easy, whereas adapting habits of good posture often requires conscious effort. Most people do not think about their
posture until someone brings it to their attention. The benefits of good posture far outweigh the ease of slouchy poor posture.
You could say that poor posture habits have followed trends in society. Children carry huge overloaded backpacks,
adults lug briefcases to work, and thousands of people spend hours hunched over a computer whether for work or play.
Poor posture is not only habitual, but is also seen in people with low self-esteem, degenerative problems affecting the
spine, pain causing muscle guarding, and obesity.
Change takes willpower! However … the rewards of good
posture are well worth the effort. You will feel great, and your physical appearance will look tall and confident! What Does Good Posture Look Like?
The body is straight, but not robotic! The appearance is relaxed
as the ears, shoulders, hips, knees and ankles align in one straight line. If you hung an imaginary plumb line from the earlobe,
the line would hang straight through the middle of the anklebone.
Good posture means there is musculoskeletal balance. This balance helps to protect
the joints in the spine from excessive stress. It also guards against injury and possible deformity. Good posture is a great
'tool' to possess to help prevent pain.
Starting Your Day
- Stand up and stretch
your arms above your head!
- Wrap your arms around your body and turn as far as you can to the left, then to the right."
- Exercise regularly to keep the abdominal muscles strong to help support the spine.
- Avoid wearing high-heeled
shoes. Choose shoes that offer good foot support and comfort. Some styles can affect the body's center of gravity. Flat shoes
- Look at yourself in the mirror. Think about your posture and how to maintain it throughout the
day's activities. Practice makes perfect!
Purses – Backpacks – Briefcases
Carry only the items that are required for each particular day.
Avoid a heavy purse (tote, bag) worn over
one shoulder. This can place too much weight on one side of the body and can cause neck, shoulder, and back pain. If you must
use a bag or briefcase with a single strap, make sure the strap is padded and wide.
People of all ages use a
backpack today— preschoolers, students, office employees, teachers, backpackers, even grandparents! Many people pack
the backpack to its absolute capacity! Some children carry almost as much weight in their backpack as they weigh! A loaded
backpack should not exceed 15% of the body's weight and never more than 25 pounds! Consider the following backpack tips:
a backpack made of a lightweight material.
- Make sure the shoulder straps are adjustable, wide and padded. A backpack
with a waist/hip strap is preferable. Wear the pack with both shoulder straps and hip strap.
- Pack the heavier items
close to the back. Backpacks with many compartments will help you equalize and distribute the load. Pointy objects should
be packed away from the wearer's spine.
- Parents can talk to their child's teacher and arrange for a separate set
of books to be kept at home eliminating the need to haul books back and forth.
a Desk – Posture Friendly Tips
- Choose office furniture that is ergonomically
designed and that fits your body.
- Sit with your back against the back of the chair with knees at hip level. Consider
using a footrest. A small pillow or rolled towel placed at the lower back can offer needed support.
- The workstation
or desk should be at elbow height. Adjust chair height to meet this need.
- Sit with your shoulders straight and parallel
to the hips.
- Don't slouch or lean forward to view work or the computer monitor. Either move closer to the work or
move the work closer to you. Tilt the monitor so the center of the screen is at eye level for easy viewing.
cradle the phone between your head and shoulder! It is much better to use the speakerphone or hold the phone in your hand.
- Get up, walk tall and stretch often!
Going to Sleep
A firm mattress
will help keep your spine aligned! However, a few other tips to maintain great posture during sleep include:
sleep on your stomach. Sleep on your side or back.
- When lying on your back, place a pillow under your knees. This
will ease low back tension.
- When lying on your side, place a pillow between slightly bent knees. This will help keep
the spine straight.
- Although oversize cushy pillows are inviting, they do not benefit your spine! Instead, use a
pillow that allows your head to align with the rest of your body.
Of course there are hundreds of other
suggestions to help establish a lifestyle supporting good posture.
We thank Dr. Maurer and Ms.
Spinasanta for these great tips and suggest you talk with your Doctor, Chiropractor or Neuromuscular Therapist to evaluate
your individual body position and learn more ways to improve upon that.
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