It’s a piece of advice yogis have given for thousands of years: take a deep breath and relax, watch the tension melt from muscles and all the niggling worries vanish. Somehow we all know that relaxation is good for us.
Now the science has caught up: a comprehensive scientific study showing that deep relaxation changes our bodies on a genetic level. Genes that protect from disorders such as pain, infertility, high blood pressure and even rheumatoid arthritis were switched on. The changes, say the researchers, were induced by what they call ‘the relaxation effect’, a phenomenon that could be just as powerful as any medical drug but without the side effects. ‘We found a range of disease-fighting genes were active in the relaxation practitioners that were not active in the control group,’ Dr Herbert Benson, associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, who led the research, says. The good news for the control group with the less-healthy genes is that the research didn’t stop there.
The experiment, which showed just how responsive genes are to behaviour, mood and environment, revealed that genes can switch on, just as easily as they switch off. ‘Harvard researchers asked the control group to start practising relaxation methods every day’ says Jake Toby, hypnotherapist at London’s BodyMind Medicine Centre, who teaches clients how to induce the relaxation effect. ‘After two months, their bodies began to change: the genes that help fight inflammation, kill diseased cells and protect the body from cancer all began to switch on.’ (Harvard research was supported by other universities research studies).
The beneficial effects were increased with regular practice.
Below are the most evident benefits.
Emotional balance, means to be free of all the neurotic behavior that results from the existence of a tortured and traumatized ego. This is very hard to achieve fully, but meditation certainly is the way to cure such neurosis and unhealthy emotional states. As one’s consciousness is cleansed of emotionally soaked memories, not only does great freedom abound, but also great balance. As one’s responses then are not colored by the burdens one carries, but are instead true, direct and appropriate.
Women are more likely to conceive during periods when they are relaxed rather than stressed. Stress reduces sperm count and motility, suggesting relaxation may also boost male fertility.
RELIEVES IRRITABLE BOWEL SYNDROME
When patients suffering from irritable bowel syndrome began practising a relaxation meditation twice daily, their symptoms of bloating, diarrhoea and constipation improved significantly. The meditation was so effective some researchers recommend it as an effective treatment.
LOWERS BLOOD PRESSURE
A study at Harvard Medical School found that meditation lowered blood pressure by making the body less responsive to stress hormones, in a similar way to blood pressure-lowering medication. British Medical Journal report found that patients trained how to relax had significantly lower blood pressure.
Stress leads to inflammation, inflammation is linked to heart disease, arthritis, asthma and skin conditions such as psoriasis, for instance. Relaxation can help prevent and treat such symptoms by switching off the stress response. In this way, some research found that meditation clinically improved the symptoms of psoriasis.
The simple difference between those who meditate and those who do not, is that for a meditative mind the thought occurs but is witnessed, while for an ordinary mind, the thought occurs and is the boss. So in both minds, an upsetting thought can occur, but for those who meditate it is just another thought, which is seen as such and is allowed to blossom and die, while in the ordinary
… think positive