Mindfulness and Meditation at DAA

The past few years has seen an explosion in research on the benefits of meditation.  As a lifelong martial artist and meditator I continue to practice and experience the benefits of meditation.  As part of my role as social worker I wanted to bring these benefits of meditation to DAA and that’s exactly what we’ve been doing! 

Our program consists of two weeks of practice with Mr.B to get the basics down.  After that students and/or teachers can continue on their own or as a group activity.  Since meditation is a part of many spiritual and religious traditions we make sure to use simple language and concepts to avoid infringing on the culture and beliefs of our families and students.    

If you would like to continue to help your child with their meditation practice here are the basics they have learned and practiced at DAA:

  1. Sit upright
  2. Choose a hand position that you like
  3. Check that your stomach, chest, and head are relaxed and open
  4. Choose one meditation object to focus on; either the feeling of the air coming in and out of your nose or your stomach moving with your breathing
  5. If you get distracted or forget that you are meditating that’s ok—just come back to your practice and get back in the ZONE!

Here are some of the benefits for meditation in case you want to know why we think it is so important for our students:

a.     Experienced meditators show brain activation of the brain area known as the prefrontal cortex (PFC) which is associated with attention, working memory and mental thought [1]

b.     An area of the brain known as the cortex has been shown to thicken in experienced meditators.  This area is associated with consciousness, motor control, and self-awareness [2]

c.      Meditation also has been shown to increase cognitive function and memory [3]

d.     Meditators also show an increase in GABA neurons.  This increase has been shown to reduce anxiety and depression [4]

e.     Meditation helps regulate the parasympathetic nervous system which means a decrease in heart rate, blood pressure, and oxygen metabolism [5] [6]

f.      After meditation increases in melatonin, associated with calmness, and serotonin, associated with positive emotions, were observed [7]

g.     Meditation has been shown to pump up our immune system by raising the level of cytokines and decreasing stress by lowering the level of the stress-related hormone cortisol [8]

h.     According to a study by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, some intensive meditative breathing exercises may relieve asthma [9]

Since research into meditation is still new and developing we still don’t know all of the systems involved in making meditation so healthy for the mind and body.  By focusing on breathing and gaining conscious control over these functions, we are somehow gaining conscious influence over mechanisms in the body we had assumed were completely unconscious.  The future of this research will need to delve into how meditation is able to effect systems that we normally do not have access to! [10].

Sources:

[1] Brefczynski L JA, Lutz A, Schaefer HS, Levinson DB, Davidson RJ (2007) Neural correlates of attentional expertise in long-term meditation practitioners. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 104:11483–11488

[2] Kang D, Jo H, Jung W, Kim S, Jung Y, Choi C, Lee S, An S, Jang J, Kwon J (2013) The effect of meditation on brain structure: cortical thickness mapping and diffusion tensor imaging. SCAN 8:27–33

[3] Travis F, Tecce J, Guttman J (2000) Cortical plasticity, contingent negative variation, and transcendent experiences during practice of the transcendental meditation technique. Biol Psychol 55:41–55

[4] Elias AN, Wilson AF (1995) Serum hormonal concentrations following transcendental meditation—potential role of gamma aminobutyric acid. Med Hypotheses 44:287–291

[5] Sudsuang R, Chentanez V, Veluvan K (1991) Effects of Buddhist meditation on serum cortisol and total protein levels, blood pressure, pulse rate, lung volume an reaction time. Physiol Behav 50:543–548

[6] Travis F (2001) Autonomic and EEG patterns distinguish transcending from other experiences during transcendental meditation practice. Int J Psychophysiol 42:1–9

[7] Walton KG, Pugh ND, Gelderloos P, Macrae P (1995) Stress reduction and preventing hypertension: preliminary support for a psychoneuroendocrine mechanism. J Altern Complement Med 1:263–283

[8] Jones BM (2001) Changes in cytokine production in healthy subjects practicing Guolin Qigong:a pilot study. BMC Complement Alternat Med 1:8

[9] O’Connor E, Patnode CD, Burda BU, Buckley DI, Whitlock EP. Breathing Exercises and/or Retraining Techniques in the Treatment of Asthma: Comparative Effectiveness. Comparative Effectiveness Review No. 71. (Prepared by the Oregon Evidence-based Practice Center under Contract No. 290-2007-10057-I.) AHRQ Publication No. 12-EHC092-EF. Rockville, MD: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. September 2012.

[10] Buckman, J. (2015).  Meditational techniques and the accompanying biological markers. University of Michigan School of Social Work.