Why Meditate? (Who would have thought getting jiggy would have something to do with it?!)

Why Meditate?

The Band asked me this question in recent times (although he already has a healthy meditation practice underway, started during our years in California and which has carried him through many trying times since then). Even though I feel that I can reel off a bunch of reasons without giving it too much thought, I felt that it may be enlightening to do some actual research on what is being said nowadays about this age-old practice.

Anyone who knows anything about meditation knows about how it can benefit your health, concentration, stress levels etc. etc. but what I found quite interesting whilst doing a bit of Google-ing this past weekend is how much scope it’s getting from a sexual point of view! Seems that this is something that, in our stressful days, people are getting more and more wound up about.

This information is predominantly taken from a website called http://www.bermansexualhealth.com/, and is quoted specifically from Dr. Jennifer Berman, author, educator and urological surgeon, who is the medical director of Bermans female sexual function site.

Their vision and mission are to present timely, accurate, useful education and information in the areas of male and female sexual function, prostate health, gynaecological issues, male and female incontinence and male fertility to empower the visitor with information. They do not diagnose nor prescribe but pride themselves on making every effort to inform and educate, providing powerful tools for empowering those who visit their sites. All their information is written by or reviewed by clearly identified medical and health care professionals, generally with links to information about the author.

So, not a bunch of new-age hippie-types, all chanting in tune and floating about in tie-dyed, diaphanous kaftans!  So, here I hand over to Dr. Berman:

“If you had asked me 5 years ago whether I thought that meditation was an integral component of health and wellness, I probably would have shrugged and perhaps even chuckled. Well, since then, I have learned that meditation; in particular it’s effect on stress reduction, is an integral part of health wellness and sexuality and should be incorporated into everyone’s daily routine.

Easier said than done you may say. Take it from me, a Type A, multi-tasking do-it-all woman who can’t sit still for 5 minutes, much less try to clear my mind and to still for 20 minutes.

I am going to convince you about the importance of incorporating meditation into your life and daily routine and give you some simple techniques as well as recommendations. I want to hear back from you after 6 weeks of doing this and hear your thoughts and experience. I guarantee you, and I say guarantee with all sincerity, you will see changes including improvements in mood, sleep, patience, concentration, energy as well as your libido.

Though meditation is usually recognized as a largely spiritual practice, it has many health benefits. You would be surprised how meditation techniques are not only being implemented into general medical health care but also in managing serious medical conditions and chronic diseases. Research studies have demonstrated that practicing meditation can alleviate symptoms of anxiety and depression and has eliminated the need for medications in various chronic inflammatory conditions of the skin, irritable bowel, lupus as well as arthritis. It has also proven effective in managing symptoms of ADHD in both children and adults. The bottom line is, in my mind, it has a direct effect on stress reduction, which in turn decreases inflammation.

Everything bad that happens to us in life, health wise, is related to inflammation. Alzheimer’s disease is inflammation of nerve cells in the brain; Multiple sclerosis is inflammation of the peripheral nerves in our body, cardiovascular disease is inflammation of the small vessels of the heart, cancer is basically inflammation gone out of control. Believe it or not, depression is associated with high levels of inflammation, which generally correlate with high levels of stress. When there is inflammation in your body, cells either die at an increasing rate or burst and release more inflammatory mediators called oxygen free radicals. Meditation actually decreases inflammation levels in your body, which is one of the mechanisms by which it has healing effects on your body and mind.

Additionally, during meditation the brain waves actually change from the active alpha waves to the calming theta waves. Theta waves are associated with a feeling of calm as well as increased GABA secretion, which is a neuropeptite that causes feelings of relaxation. I’ve listed below some of the main effects of meditation that have been documented in the medical literature.

It lowers oxygen consumption and decreases oxygen free radicals

Decreases cortisol, the stress hormone

It increases blood flow to the brain and increase brain chemicals such as GABA, Dopamine and Seratonin

Increases exercise tolerance and sugar metabolism

Helps with symptoms of PMS and PMDD

Lowers blood pressure and brings high blood to normal.

Reduces anxiety attacks by lowering the levels of cortisol, norepinephrine and ephingrine the fight or flight hormones

Decreases muscle tension (any pain due to tension) and headaches.

Increases your immune system and alleviates symptoms of allergies by decreasing inflammation

Improves wound healing following surgery

Effects of Stress on our Bodies

Normally, any life threatening situation triggers off the STRESS RESPONSE. In everyday life, any number of events can be triggers for stress, including work, children, our relationships, finances, family members, and many more. The stress response is designed to enable a person to act quickly and survive intense, short-term challenges, which require less brains and fast reflexes. This survival response is well suited if we are in a life threatening situation, however the same response is triggered in traffic jams, work related irritations, family squabbles and many such situations-.which results in our body preparing for a life-death situation. And then as these situations don’t come to an end, with a single confrontation, we remain in a perpetual state of stress. As such, our cortisol levels rise, which effects sugar metabolism and we gain weight. Our epinephrine and norepinephrine the fight or flight hormones, remain elevated and we become anxious and depressed and lose our interest in sex.

During stress, the heart beats faster and blood pressure rises. The blood flow is diverted from the internal organs to the muscles as well as the areas of the brain that control muscle coordination. As a result, the rain releases chemicals that help the body cope better with injuries, including those that block pain and help the blood clot faster and less of the feel good chemicals such as GABA dopamine and serotonin. All these symptoms lead to the feeling of being run down, tired, moody and basically stressed.

While meditation is not a magic bullet or quick fix, it is probably one of the most effective means for reducing if not eliminating stress in your life as well as the harmful effects that stress has on your body (not to mention your sex life). Meditation comes to the rescue in such a situation and induces ‘RELAXATION RESPONSE’. Meditation has a counter-balancing effect on the fight-or-flight response in most stress-inducing situations. Relaxation is achieved by countering the stress related activation in your brain. Meditation actual activates areas of the brain responsible for relaxation.

Unlike some medications, meditation has no potential side effects. People with physical limitations may find it easier to practice than strenuous physical exercise for stress relief, plus, no special equipment is required. Unlike enlisting the help of a professional, meditation is free. However, it does take discipline and commitment, so some people may find it more difficult to maintain as a habit than methods that enlist the help of someone or something outside themselves for added motivation. Also, some people may find it more difficult to free their minds of the thoughts of the day, and thus find it more difficult than methods like journaling that involve focusing on these events.

I hope that this has given you a brief insight as to the importance and health benefits of meditation. I urge all of you to start today, and as I mentioned earlier I want to hear back from you in 3-6 weeks. If you attempt to mediate daily, I GUARANTEE you will begin to notice dramatic differences in your life. I am speaking to you here professional as well as from my own personal experience. And as with anything good, it doesn’t come easy and does require time and effort in the beginning as well as commitment to make a change and improve your life, sexuality and health.”

So, that’s Dr. Berman’s take on meditation. Pretty convincing, no?! Seems like one of those wonderful situations where there’s nothing to lose and a whole lot to gain.