APRIL 2014
Khaas Baat : A Publication for Indian Americans in Florida
Health & Wellness

Meditation, not Medication, for Stress - Part II

Dr. M. P. Ravindra Nathan

By M. P. Ravindra Nathan,

Medical Benefits of Meditation

How many times have you heard our yoga teachers say, “Take a deep breath and relax. Watch the tension melts away from your muscles and all your niggling worries vanish.” Gurudev Amrit Desai, a renowned yoga scholar, always advises, “Enter the ‘stress-free’ zone with yoga and meditation.” Sri Sri Ravi Sankar, the internationally acclaimed master of the ‘art of living,’ says, “When we have higher goals in life, it leads to stress and restlessness that can only be released through a few minutes of meditation and introspection. Meditation gives you deep rest. The deeper you are able to rest, the more dynamic you will be in activity.”

Medical research has clearly documented many tangible benefits of meditation. The Nobel Prize winner for Medicine in 2009, Dr Elizabeth Blackburn, demonstrated that stress reactions shorten the length of telomeres and decrease telomerase activity in our chromosomes, thus accelerating cellular aging. Meditation seems to reverse these processes, improve cell longevity and increase the life span!

Sri Swami Rama, one of the first yogis studied by Western scientists at Meninger Clinic, Houston, in the 1960s, demonstrated his ability to voluntarily control bodily processes such as heartbeat, blood pressure and body temperature that are normally considered to be involuntary. Imagine having complete control of your mind and through that, your entire body!

A study at the Ohio State University found that “a month of relaxation exercises boosted natural killer cells in the elderly, giving them a greater immunity to tumors and viruses.” Subjects who practice meditation have significantly lower blood pressure and healthy vascular reactivity according to studies from Harvard Medical School. The body becomes less responsive to stress hormones. This is the essence of bio-feedback as a treatment for hypertension. In addition, “inflammation,” the basis for many diseases in the body including heart disease, arthritis, asthma, etc., seems to be alleviated by this technique. Dean Ornish, the famous cardiologist, has always said, “Heart disease starts in the mind.” Tibetan monks who sit in caves and meditate for hours on end seem to live up to 130 to 140 years!

Meditation can make you a better person by helping you to cultivate inner peace, self-awareness, ability to focus and responsibility for actions. That is why many famous personalities have turned to meditation for their success. The legendary computer icon Steve Jobs had attributed some of his achievements to Zen Meditation. Many athletic greats such as Joe Namath, Barry Zito and Arthur Ashe have spoken about the benefits of meditation as a tool for athletic success. Certain attributes like love and compassion are more manifest among those who meditate regularly.

It is clear that a peaceful and relaxed mind can think better, leading to healthy responses to adverse situations, enhancing your creativity and boosting your productivity while maintaining good health. It doesn’t matter what type of meditation – Transcendental in the Indian tradition, Zen or Vipasana, the Buddhist technique or Vajrayana, the rigorous type espoused by Tibetan monks – you follow. Having a guru would be beneficial to get started.

Remember, meditation is a spiritual journey, needing months or years of practice to become good at it. So, if you are a beginner, allow yourself just five minutes of silence twice a day and gradually increase it to 15 minutes. Believe me, the “sound of silence” can be invigorating and I promise you the rewards will be great. And as Gita teaches us, “One who has control over the mind is tranquil in heat and cold, in pleasure and pain, and in honor and dishonor; and is ever steadfast with the Supreme Self.”

Dr. M. P. Ravindra Nathan is a cardiologist and Emeritus Editor of AAPI Journal. He is the author of the newly released book, “Stories from My Heart” (www.amazon.com or www.bn.com )

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