We have all heard about the good things that we experience because of meditation and yoga. Most of the benefits enlisted come from experiences of people who have been practising for quite some time. To the sceptical mind, testimonials are not enough. Even so, there are scientific studies that do support the observations and experiences of practitioners.
With the help of MRI scans, we are able to know the physical effects of meditation and yoga on the brain.
What Studies Reveal
Based on MRI scans of people who engage in meditation or yoga, activities in the frontal lobe and parietal lobe are reduced during meditation. The frontal lobe is basically the part of the brain handling all the thinking, reason, analysis and emotions. Sensory data is processed in the parietal lobe, while the reticular formation causes the reaction to the stimuli received through the senses.
During meditation, frontal lobe activities are significantly diminished. Sensory processing is also reduced as a person meditates. This happens as the person focuses on a single point only. It could be breathing or it could be a part of the body or an activity. This discourages the mind to entertain wandering thoughts and over-thinking, which usually result in unhappiness.
As people get older, the grey matter volume in the brain also diminishes. But thanks to meditation, this reduction is slowed down. It has been found that people who have been meditating for years tend to have better preserved brains than those who do not meditate at all. Meditation practitioners still lose some grey matter as they age, but the rate is much lower when compared with those who do not practise meditation. This makes meditation an excellent remedy for the negative impact of aging to the human brain.
Less Stress and Fear
Many people engage in meditation basically to better manage stress in their lives. This can be supported by physical evidence in brain activities and brain structure. Over time, people who engage in meditation tend to have reduced cell volume in the amygdala. This part of the brain is focused on stress, fear and anxiety. With meditation, it becomes less active, making the person more relaxed and focused when handling difficult situations.
Better Focus and Attention
Meditation teaches us to focus on breathing alone. This simple exercise translates in better focus and concentration during work or any daily activity. The brain tends to be sharper as it is freed from mindless worries and over-thinking. Improved memory and attention are also among the effects of meditation.