Today many people practice meditation for stress relief and to improve their overall quality of
life. However, is there evidence that meditation is effective? If its effects can be proven, how can meditation be practiced by people with different fitness levels and abilities to concentrate?
A study conducted at Johns Hopkins University in 2013 show that mindfulness meditation can affect anxiety and depression symptoms. The effects were “small” but significant for some individuals, and were seen across a broad range of clinical conditions.
The Journal of the American Medical Association published an article discussing the results of this research. It states, “These small effects are comparable with what would be expected from the use of an antidepressant in a primary care population but without the associated toxicities.”
A 2012 University of California study found that just two weeks of meditation training helped to focus and improve participant’s working memory capacity. One of the central aims of meditation is to improve concentration, which in turn helps to improve cognitive skills.
In addition there are some studies which show improved results for addiction treatment among those who practice meditation. For example, a study conducted by the Texas Tech Neuroimaging Institute compared mindfulness training with the American Lung Association’s Freedom From Smoking program. The study found that people who learned mindfulness meditation were more successful at quitting smoking. The researchers suggested that meditation improves self-control and therefore increases the likelihood of quitting smoking.
The positive effects of meditation inspire many people to start practicing it; however, not all of them are able to continue. Some people complain about having to sit for a long time, while others find it boring. Researchers at Swami Vivekananda Yoga Research Foundation in India developed a method of meditation that allows people with different health conditions and with no prior experience to practice meditation efficiently. It is known as cyclic meditation and it is based on the alternation between stimulation and relaxation of the nervous system.
This method includes practicing of some simple physical poses as well as breathing and relaxation techniques. It does not require sitting for a long periods, which many people find difficult. This makes the method easy and even enjoyable – especially for beginners.
A review article published in the International Journal of Yoga called “A review of the scientific studies on cyclic meditation” states that their study showed that cyclic meditation is not only accessible to people with a wide range of skill levels, but it is also more relaxing than some other meditation and relaxation methods.
Here in Whitehorse I teach cyclic meditation at the Canada Game Centre. I am a yoga therapist trained in India. The class is on Monday morning. Make sure you do not eat or drink anything except water before the class. The early morning is the best time to tune in to positiveness and mindfulness for the whole week.