Over the past four decades substantial scientific research has highlighted meditation as an alternative mind-body therapy that is generally associated with healing, spiritual growth, and enlightenment.
Types of meditation
Meditation techniques can be grouped into two basic approaches- concentrative meditations and mindfulness/ insight meditations. The aim of concentration meditation is to focus on a sound, image or sensation in order to still the mind and achieve greater awareness.
Mindfulness meditation, on the other hand, involves becoming more alert to the continuous passing stream of thoughts, images, emotions and sensations without identifying oneself with them. Such practice helps in developing a non-reactive state of mind, which is the foundation for a calm and peaceful state of consciousness.
Effects of meditation
Relaxation is one of the primary components of all kinds of meditation which induces a pleasant and deep relaxed state of body and mind. Various effects include a decrease in the rate of metabolism, muscle relaxation, slow and rhythmic breathing, decrease in heart rate and blood pressure, and so on.
Meditative interventions have been found to be beneficial in treating various clinical conditions. These include- hypertension (Barnes et al., 1997); cardiovascular disorders (King, Carr, & D’Cruz, 2002); pain syndromes and musculoskeletal diseases (Astin, 2004); respiratory disorders such as asthma, congestive obstructive pulmonary disease (Wang, Collet, & Lau, 2004) and more.
Past studies have also established a link between meditation and increased visual imagery abilities (Heil, 1983), enhanced attentive ability (Linden, 1973), increased reaction time (Robertson, 1983), and enhanced perceptual motor speed (Jedrczak, Toomey, & Clements, 1986).