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Health benefits of a meditation practice

Meditation, or Dhyan, is the sixth limb of yoga described in Patanjali's philosophy. We discussed its importance in the yogic path in our previous article, as it flows from the state of concentration into the one of Samadhi.

In this article, we'll lean over the scientific interest of meditation for the practitioner. We'll observe the proven benefits of meditation, concentration, and mindfulness on mental and physical health and discuss what is required to access those benefits.


Mindfulness, concentration, and meditation

First, let's define mindfulness, concentration, and meditation, as these concepts are slightly different but can all positively affect health.

Mindfulness is the act of giving our attention to the present moment. It is about focusing on what we are doing and how we feel each second. It can be practiced in every moment and activity and doesn't require stillness or a particular environment. One can be mindful while practicing yoga, bathing, eating, or even washing dishes. It is the simple act of being in the moment and giving your action your best effort and attention.

Concentration is one of the eight limbs of yoga, known as Dharana. We discussed its yogic meaning deeply in a previous article, but it is simply about focusing our attention on a specific object or point of focus. Concentration requires more stillness, as the mind shouldn't be disrupted to stay focused. In concentration, the practitioner has to direct his full attention to the image of his choice, which is of great interest to him. It empties the mind of other disturbances and thoughts, and only the chosen picture remains with the awareness of concentration.

Meditation is also a limb of Patanjali's yoga and is considered an extension of concentration. In the meditative state, the practitioner can extend the concentration over a long period. He becomes so focused on his chosen image that he stops realizing that he is concentrating. This state requires complete stillness of the body and the mind.


Access the health benefits

Too often, people think that one needs to stop thinking to be meditating and get the positive effects of the practice. This belief pressures the individual to achieve something, and he starts analyzing whether he is practicing "correctly" or not. This belief is false. There is no need to reach the pure meditative state to access the health benefits associated with meditation. Mindfulness, concentration, and meditation can each bring positive effects on both mental and physical health.

It is also important to note that it doesn't matter if the practitioner has a strong background and experience in meditation or if he has just started being mindful. The positive effects are present at every level. They'll increase with practice as the yogi develops his capacity to focus.

Instead of being used as a performance or goal to achieve, mindfulness, concentration, and meditation should be used as a way to integrate calmness into life. It can be done through various techniques, such as paying attention to our actions and bodily sensations, guided relaxation, therapeutic body scans, or guided imagery.

Those new to the practice can include simple measures in their daily life to help them sustain it. These measures can involve leaving notes in random places reminding them to pause and breathe, setting an alarm, or including meditation in a specific moment of our routine.

When practiced regularly, mindfulness and meditation bring systemic effects on health.


The effects of meditation on health

The health benefits of mindfulness and meditation are now strongly supported by science. Research shows that it benefits stress resilience, hormonal regulation, anxiety relief, emotional resilience, and self-discipline. It has also been shown that meditation can positively affect heart conditions and pain management. It has proven helpful in slowing aging and reducing cancer risks.

Meditation and mindfulness practices have these effects because of their ability to increase the hormonal production of cortisol and GABA levels, both of which play an essential role in pleasure and stress reduction.

The practices also can increase the brain's plasticity, which is essential for resilience and new skills development. They can also act on the conservation of telomeres (part of our DNA involved in aging processes).


Everything in human health is interconnected, which is why mindfulness can have systemic effects. When we learn to stop and breathe for a while and live in the present moment, we automatically feel less stressed and anxious. Being less stressed in our daily lives can create emotional resilience, and it takes us less time to return to recover after getting upset. This process reduces the risks of heart conditions, cancers, and fast aging.


At Japam, we teach meditation as a part of our Hatha, Ashtanga, and yoga therapy practices and encourage mindfulness in all we do. We are conscious of the health benefits of general yoga practices and do our best to build practices that help you access these effects.

Don't hesitate to contact us or visit us in person at the studio if you have questions about yoga philosophy or yoga's effects on health.

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