By Amruta Kulkarni, CYT 500
In Yoga, most of us were originally taught that meditation sessions had to be at least 30 minutes in length to be beneficial. This school of thought has been around for centuries and few have challenged this guideline.
When we consider the benefits of Yogic meditation, we often visualize monks in monasteries or swamis in ashrams, giving up modern lifestyles for years of solitude and isolation. New research, however, shows that everyone may be able to benefit from fewer and shorter meditation sessions than researchers ever imagined.
According to the “Journal of Neuroscience” in April of 2011, the first study showing the relationship between short meditation sessions and pain was conducted at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. For the study, researchers taught 15 healthy volunteers who had no meditation experience to do a technique of mindfulness meditation called focused attention. During the practice, the participants observed their breathing while letting go of distractions, such as bodily sensations, emotions, and thoughts.
Volunteers received four 20-minute training sessions and were exposed to five minutes and 55 seconds of pain. New brain imaging equipment known to be more effective than traditional MRIs was used to examine the brains of the volunteers before and after training.
During the process, small heating devices that reached temperatures of 120 degrees Fahrenheit were placed on the right legs of each participant. Normally, this would produce considerable discomfort over a span of five minutes.
The study showed the following results:
1. Meditation reduced the pain of every participant. Levels ranged from 11 percent to 93 percent.
2. Meditation also reduced activity in the somatosensory cortex, the region involved in interpreting the location and severity of pain.
3. Meditation increased the activity in the orbito-frontal cortex, the anterior cingulated cortex, and the anterior insula – all areas that help to interpret pain signals from the body.
Researchers surmised that the meditation may have been effective because its use activated several different areas of the brain rather than just one. They were also surprised by the level of the pain relief experienced compared to the length of the training and the time spent in meditation. Studies also showed that the more activated these areas of the brain were by longer periods of meditation, the more effective the pain relief.
Although the group was small and the pain was mild compared to that suffered by cancer patients, the findings suggest that further research is needed to examine the effectiveness of meditation as an alternative to pain medications and as a tool to empower patients.
© Copyright – Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division
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