Sydney: Researchers have shed light on the possible associations between meditation and improved mental and physical health.
Based on the archaic definition of meditation - “a meditator sits and like a log he does not think” - researchers surveyed 343 long-term Sahaja yoga meditation practitioners and compared their results to the general population.
“We found that the health and wellbeing profile of people who had meditated for at least two years was significantly higher in the majority of health and wellbeing categories when compared to the Australian population,” Sydney Morning Herald quoted research leader Dr Ramesh Manocha, from the university’s psychiatry discipline.
The study highlighted Sahaja yoga meditation as it focuses on achieving “mental silence”, the closest practice to the “log” definition which was found by the researchers in old texts.
Dr Manocha asserted that the study showed those who achieved mental silence more often had more health benefits.
“The frequency with which they were experiencing mental silence and its relationship to a [health] advantage was very significant.”
A recent study from the University of California’s Centre for Mind and Brain found that meditation might slow the ageing process.
The researchers revealed that people who went on a three-month meditation retreat had signs of stronger telomeres, which play a part in protecting cells from ageing.
Researchers at Harvard Medical School have also divulged that people who practised meditation long-term had more active “disease-fighting” genes than those who did not practise any type of relaxation.
Dr Maarten Immink, the director of human movement at the University of South Australia, revealed that meditation has also been shown to strengthen the hippocampus, part of the brain tied to memory.
“Along a number of lines we have evidence that meditation promotes quality of life as we get older,” Dr Immink said in an interview last year.
“Stress-reduction means that our metabolism works better, our immune systems work better, our whole body systems work better.”
Sydney Meditation Centre director Kevin Hume insisted that meditation largely comprises focusing on the present to clear the mind and relax.
Hume said his meditation classes attracted bankers, IT professionals, corporate lawyers and executives because it aids them deal with extremely stressful workplaces.
“We’re moving a long way from the old shaved head ‘ohm’ on top of the mountain thing.
“Curiously, I’ve come across meditators from the 70s who are now very senior executives in various corporations.
“They practise covertly, it’s like a secret vice they’ve had for the last 30 or 40 years.
“They’re often people who are renowned in their organisations for their ability to focus, for their ability to be empathetic managers, for their ability to be emotionally strategic in how to manage people in conflict or crisis situations.”
Hume said that some other effects he observed included an enhanced attention span, a greater ability to handle emotions and improved sleep patterns.
“The research indicates very clearly that if you incorporate it into your fitness regime as a matter of regular practice you’re going to have much more long-lasting and observable effects.”
Dr Immink said other research demonstrated that practising meditation even for a short time had an impact.
“We’re not talking about lifetime meditation to get changes, they’ve put people through four weeks of meditation and they’ve done some neuroimaging while they’re doing certain things and their brains have changed.”
“So it’s quite powerful,” Dr Immink added.
The study has been published in the journal of Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine.