Harvard Medical catching up with yogis
- This from another group:
It's a piece of advice that yogis have given for thousands of years: take a deep breath and relax. Watch the tension melt from your muscles and all your niggling worries vanish. Somehow we all know that relaxation is good for us. Now the hard science has caught up for a comprehensive scientific study showing that deep relaxation changes our bodies on a genetic level has just been published.
What researchers at Harvard Medical School discovered is that, in long-term practitioners of relaxation methods such as yoga and meditation, far more "disease-fighting genes" were active, compared to those who practised no form of relaxation.
In particular, they found 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 that a range of disease-fighting genes were active in the relaxation practitioners that were not active in the control group," explains Dr Herbert Benson, associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, who led the research.
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," explains 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."
More encouraging still, the benefits of the relaxation effect were found to increase with regular practice the more people practised relaxation methods such as meditation or deep breathing, the greater their chances of remaining free of arthritis and joint pain with stronger immunity, healthier hormone levels and lower blood pressure.
Benson believes the research is pivotal because it shows how a person's state of mind affects the body on a physical and genetic level. It might also explain why relaxation induced by meditation or repetitive mantras is considered to be a powerful remedy in traditions such as Ayurveda in India or Tibetan medicine.
But just how can relaxation have such wide-ranging and powerful effects? Research around the world has described the negative effects of stress on the body. Linked to the release of the stress-hormones adrenalin and cortisol, stress raises the heart rate and blood pressure, weakens immunity and lowers fertility.
By contrast, the state of relaxation is linked to higher levels of feel-good chemicals such as serotonin and to the growth hormone which repairs cells and tissue. Indeed, studies show that relaxation has virtually the opposite effect, lowering heart rate, boosting immunity and enabling the body to thrive.
"On a biological level, stress is linked to fight-flight and danger," explains Dr Jane Flemming, a London-based GP. "In survival mode, heart rate rises and blood pressure shoots up. Meanwhile muscles, preparing for danger, contract and tighten. And non-essential functions such as immunity and digestion go by the wayside."
Relaxation, on the other hand, is a state of rest, enjoyment and physical renewal. Free of danger, muscles can relax and food can be digested. The heart can slow and blood circulation flows freely to the body's tissues, feeding it with nutrients and oxygen. This restful state is good for fertility, as the body is able to conserve the resources it needs to generate new life.
While relaxation techniques can be very different, their biological effects are essentially similar. "When you relax, the parasympathetic nervous system switches on and that is linked to better digestion, memory and immunity, among other things," explains Jake Toby. "So as long as you relax deeply, you'll reap a variety of rewards."
But, he warns, deep relaxation isn't the sort of switching off you do relaxing with a cup of tea or lounging on the sofa. "What you're looking for is a state of deep relaxation where tension is released from the body on a physical level and your mind completely switches off," he says. "The effect won't be achieved by lounging round in an everyday way, nor can you force yourself to relax. You can only really achieve it by learning a specific technique such as self-hypnosis, guided imagery or meditation."
The relaxation effect, however, may not be as pronounced on everyone. "Some people are more susceptible to relaxation methods than others," cautions Joan Borysenko, director of a relaxation programme for outpatients at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston, US. "Through relaxation, we find that some people experience a little improvement, others a lot. And there are a few whose lives turn around totally."
The health benefits of deep relaxation
The next time you tune out, switch off and let yourself melt, remind yourself of all the good work the relaxation effect is doing on your body. These are just some of the scientifically proven benefits...
Relaxation appears to boost immunity in recovering cancer patients. One study at Ohio State University, in the US, found that progressive muscular relaxation, when practised daily, reduced the risk of breast cancer recurrence. In another study at Ohio State, a month of relaxation exercises boosted natural killer cells in elderly people, giving them more resistance to tumours and viruses.
A study at the University of Western Australia found that women are more likely to conceive at periods when they're relaxed rather than stressed. Another study at Trakya University, Turkey, found that stress reduces sperm count and motility, a finding that implies that relaxation may boost fertility in men, too.
Irritable bowel syndrome
When patients suffering from irritable bowel syndrome practised a relaxation meditation twice daily, symptoms such as bloating, belching, diarrhoea and constipation improved significantly. The method was so effective that the researchers at the State University of New York at Albany, recommended it as an effective IBS treatment.
A study at Harvard Medical School found meditation lowered blood pressure by making the body less responsive to stress hormones, in a similar way to blood pressure-lowering medication. Meanwhile, a report in the British Medical Journal found that patients trained to relax had significantly lower blood pressure.
Stress leads to inflammation, a state linked to heart disease, arthritis, asthma as well as skin conditions such as psoriasis, say researchers at Emory University in the US. Relaxation can play a role in preventing and treating such symptoms by switching off the stress response. In this way, one study at McGill University in Canada found meditation clinically improved symptoms of psoriasis.
The BodyMind Medicine Centre, W1, teaches deep relaxation techniques that enable people to access the relaxation effect at home. For information go to relaxationeffect.com
Take a deep breath... How to relax deeply
So how can you access relaxation's healing powers? Harvard researchers found that yoga, meditation and even repetitive prayer and mantras all induced the relaxation effect. "The more regularly these techniques are practised, the more deeply-rooted the benefits will be," says Jake Toby. Have a go at one or more of the following for 15 minutes once or twice a day.
Starting with your head and working down to your arms and feet, notice how you feel in your body. Taking in your head and neck, simply notice if you feel tense, relaxed, calm or anxious. See how much you can spread any sensations of softness and relaxation to areas of your body that feel tense. Once your reach your feet, work back up your body.
Sitting comfortably, become aware of your breath, following the sensation of inhaling from your nose down to your abdomen and out again. As you follow your breath, notice your whole body and let tension go with each exhalation. Whenever you notice your mind wandering, come back to your breath.
The relaxation response can be evoked by sitting quietly with eyes closed for 15 minutes twice a day, and mentally repeating a simple word or sound such as 'Om'.
Imagine the most wonderfully relaxing light, or a soothing waterfall washing away any tension or worries from your body and mind. Make your image as vivid as possible, imagining the texture, colour and any fragrance as the image washes over or through you.
Sometimes stress can cause serious illness. Take a look at the book by Lawrence LeShan, You Can Fight For Your Life about turning on the immune system after counseling discovers the source of overwhelming stress, causing terminal cancer to go into remission. Enough talking will let feelings come out. I like the meditation approach myself because it also allows access to the origin of stress by letting meditation put the intellect “to sleep”, to let feelings bubble up past the intellectual screen that is usually filters or suppresses those feelings. Find a way to work out a solution to the stress, the feelings, and realize the illness is not worth embracing the stress.
--- On Tue, 7/28/09, Jeff Belyea <jeff@...> wrote:
From: Jeff Belyea <jeff@...>
Subject: [Meditation Society of America] Harvard Medical catching up with yogis
Date: Tuesday, July 28, 2009, 1:39 PM
This from another group:
http://www.independ ent.co.uk/ life-style/ health-and- families/ features/ relax-your- way-to-perfect- health-1763109. html
It's a piece of advice that yogis have given for thousands of years: take a deep breath and relax. Watch the tension melt from your muscles and all your niggling worries vanish. Somehow we all know that relaxation is good for us. Now the hard science has caught up – for a comprehensive scientific study showing that deep relaxation changes our bodies on a genetic level has just been published.
I would like to comment a little more. My previous message is the way I actively approach an illness. I would also say that just meditating without a medical issue does calm a person and relieve the chaos in the mind that occurs from normal living. I am sure that relieving that stress would make for a healthier person. Try meditating and you will observe that after about twenty minutes, all those feelings that are banging around will settle down and you will be aware of your central dominant feeling. Meditate another twenty minutes and that will settle also. The problem is that the dominant feeling will occur in the next session, so you have to actively work on you issues between sessions by actively trying to change behavior. For instance, if you find yourself trying to be dominant with another for no evident benefit, let then have their way if no harm is likely to come from doing so. You might feel like you are giving up a part of yourself in doing so, but do it to become a better person. It takes three or four sessions for the chaos to settle enough for the twenty-minute intervals to become evident. After all you have a lifetime of feelings accumulated. After meditating for a few weeks, you are likely to have your friends comment that you are calmer and easier to be with. So for a healthy and fruitful life, as I once saw on a bumper stickers in Berkeley, CA, “Don’t hesitate to meditate” rather than “My karma ran over your dogma”.
--- On Thu, 7/30/09, WestWindWood <westwindwood2003@...> wrote:
From: WestWindWood <westwindwood2003@...>
Subject: Re: [Meditation Society of America] Harvard Medical catching up with yogis
Date: Thursday, July 30, 2009, 1:07 AM
Sometimes stress can cause serious illness.
- Yo WestWind and Papajeff,
Great stuff and thanks for sharing.
Here's a list of 101 Benefits of Meditation
(from http://www.ineedmotivation.com/blog/2008/05/100-benefits-of-meditation/ )
1- It lowers oxygen consumption.
2- It decreases respiratory rate.
3- It increases blood flow and slows the heart rate.
4- Increases exercise tolerance.
5- Leads to a deeper level of physical relaxation.
6- Good for people with high blood pressure.
7- Reduces anxiety attacks by lowering the levels of blood lactate.
8- Decreases muscle tension
9- Helps in chronic diseases like allergies, arthritis etc.
10- Reduces Pre-menstrual Syndrome symptoms.
11- Helps in post-operative healing.
12- Enhances the immune system.
13- Reduces activity of viruses and emotional distress
14- Enhances energy, strength and vigour.
15- Helps with weight loss
16- Reduction of free radicals, less tissue damage
17- Higher skin resistance
18- Drop in cholesterol levels, lowers risk of cardiovascular disease.
19- Improved flow of air to the lungs resulting in easier breathing.
20- Decreases the aging process.
21- Higher levels of DHEAS (Dehydroepiandrosterone)
22- prevented, slowed or controlled pain of chronic diseases
23- Makes you sweat less
24- Cure headaches & migraines
25- Greater Orderliness of Brain Functioning
26- Reduced Need for Medical Care
27- Less energy wasted
28- More inclined to sports, activities
29- Significant relief from asthma
30- improved performance in athletic events
31- Normalizes to your ideal weight
32- harmonizes our endocrine system
33- relaxes our nervous system
34- produce lasting beneficial changes in brain electrical activity
35- Cure infertility (the stresses of infertility can interfere with the release of hormones that regulate ovulation).
36- Builds self-confidence.
37- Increases serotonin level, influences mood and behaviour.
38- Resolve phobias & fears
39- Helps control own thoughts
40- Helps with focus & concentration
41- Increase creativity
42- Increased brain wave coherence.
43- Improved learning ability and memory.
44- Increased feelings of vitality and rejuvenation.
45- Increased emotional stability.
46- improved relationships
47- Mind ages at slower rate
48- Easier to remove bad habits
49- Develops intuition
50- Increased Productivity
51- Improved relations at home & at work
52- Able to see the larger picture in a given situation
53- Helps ignore petty issues
54- Increased ability to solve complex problems
55- Purifies your character
56- Develop will power
57- greater communication between the two brain hemispheres
58- react more quickly and more effectively to a stressful event.
59- increases one's perceptual ability and motor performance
60- higher intelligence growth rate
61- Increased job satisfaction
62- increase in the capacity for intimate contact with loved ones
63- decrease in potential mental illness
64- Better, more sociable behaviour
65- Less aggressiveness
66- Helps in quitting smoking, alcohol addiction
67- Reduces need and dependency on drugs, pills & pharmaceuticals
68- Need less sleep to recover from sleep deprivation
69- Require less time to fall asleep, helps cure insomnia
70- Increases sense of responsibility
71- Reduces road rage
72- Decrease in restless thinking
73- Decreased tendency to worry
74- Increases listening skills and empathy
75- Helps make more accurate judgements
76- Greater tolerance
77- Gives composure to act in considered & constructive ways
78- Grows a stable, more balanced personality
79- Develops emotional maturity
80- Helps keep things in perspective
81- Provides peace of mind, happiness
82- Helps you discover your purpose
83- Increased self-actualization.
84- Increased compassion
85- Growing wisdom
86- Deeper understanding of yourself and others
87- Brings body, mind, spirit in harmony
88- Deeper Level of spiritual relaxation
89- Increased acceptance of oneself
90- helps learn forgiveness
91- Changes attitude toward life
92- Creates a deeper relationship with your God
93- Attain enlightenment
94- greater inner-directedness
95- Helps living in the present moment
96- Creates a widening, deepening capacity for love
97- Discovery of the power and consciousness beyond the ego
98- Experience an inner sense of "Assurance or Knowingness"
99- Experience a sense of "Oneness"
100- Increases the synchronicity in your life
and the 101st is that Meditation is free!
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--- In email@example.com, WestWindWood <westwindwood2003@...> wrote:
> I would like to comment a little more.Â My previous message is the way I actively
> approach an illness.Â I would also say
> that just meditating without a medical issue does calm a person and relieve the
> chaos in the mind that occurs from normal living.Â I am sure that relieving that stress would make for a healthier
> person.Â Try meditating and you will
> observe that after about twenty minutes, all those feelings that are banging
> around will settle down and you will be aware of your central dominant
> feeling.Â Meditate another twenty
> minutes and that will settle also.Â The problem is that the dominant feeling will occur in the next session, so you have to actively work on you issues between sessions by actively trying to change behavior.Â For instance, if you find yourself trying to be dominant with another for no evident benefit, let then have their way if no harm is likely to come from doing so.Â You might feel like you are giving up a part of yourself in doing so, but do it to become a better person.Â It
> takes three or four sessions for the chaos to settle enough for the
> twenty-minute intervals to become evident.Â
> After all you have a lifetime of feelings accumulated.Â After meditating for a few weeks, you are
> likely to have your friends comment that you are calmer and easier to be
> with.Â So for a healthy and fruitful
> life, as I once saw on a bumper stickers in Berkeley, CA, âDonât hesitate to
> meditateâ rather than âMy karma ran over your dogmaâ.
> --- On Thu, 7/30/09, WestWindWood <westwindwood2003@...> wrote:
> From: WestWindWood <westwindwood2003@...>
> Subject: Re: [Meditation Society of America] Harvard Medical catching up with yogis
> To: firstname.lastname@example.org
> Date: Thursday, July 30, 2009, 1:07 AM
> Sometimes stress can cause serious
> http://www.independ ent.co.uk/ life-style/ health-and- families/ features/ relax-your- way-to-perfect- health-1763109. html
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