Express News Service

CHENNAI: The ancient practice of meditation can do more than just relax the mind. Recent studies have revealed that meditation can positively impact heart health by reducing stress and lowering blood pressure and heart rate. Mindfulness and meditation can benefit overall health, including heart health. The age-old practice uses quiet contemplation, breathing and sustained focus to help let go of stress and feel more calm and peaceful. It can be thought of as a mini-vacation from stress in life.

Psychological stress increases the activation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis and the sympathetic nervous system. This caused a release of harmful hormones cortisol, adrenaline and noradrenaline. These harmful hormones fasten the heart rate, increase cardiac output and narrow the arteries. As meditation induces deep relaxation in the mind and body, the stress subsides, and stability is restored.

How to make meditation a habit?
Once people understand the basics of the practice, the next challenge is making it a habit. Like every other lifestyle change, it takes time to incorporate meditation into everyday life and build it into a routine. Here are some tips:

  • Set a daily alarm on the phone or block out time on a digital calendar.
  • Try an app that reminds it’s time to meditate and then record the length of the session.
  • Start by practising for a few minutes every day and increase the time in small amounts until the goal is reached.

Meditation to connect with the heart’s energy

  • Sit in a comfortable position and close your eyes.
  • Let go of any thoughts and the world outside.
  • Focus the attention on the spiritual heart centre (the middle of the chest) and be aware of the heart as a space.  
  • Resting the attention on the heart centre, breathe gently and sense the breath flowing into the heart. One may also visualise a coolness permeating the chest.
  • Breathe normally and steadily.
  • For the next few minutes, sit and listen to the heart. The heart will gradually begin to release emotions, wishes, memories, dreams and fears long stored inside. If the mind wanders, gently return the focus on the heart.
  • Upon completing the meditation practice, take a few moments to reflect on the practice.

Why meditation can be useful for heart health?
Several studies have shown that meditation can lower stress levels, reduce cortisol levels and improve heart health. Meditation can activate the “rest-and-digest” functions of the body, which counteracts the “flight-or-fight” responses. With daily meditation practice, people can lower their heart rate and blood pressure, which may reduce the risk of heart diseases.

Here’s a look into what different studies have to say about meditation and heart health.

  • Researchers in 2013 at the University of Sydney found that meditation can improve HRV. It is a 
    significant marker of mental and physical health. After spending ten intensive days learning how to meditate, meditation drastically improved the heart’s responsiveness.
  • In 2021, the American Journal of Biomedical Science and Research published a report on meditation’s effect on heart rate. It revealed that with time, meditation helps the heart to beat slower and become more consistent. This indicates that meditation may be effective in preventing heart diseases.
  • The International Journal of Exercise Science published a study in 2017 on the effect of meditation on stressed college students. Throughout the six-week-meditation programme, blood pressure and pulse decreased significantly. 

Like every new endeavour, it also takes a little time to learn meditation and build confidence. However, the important thing is to practise every day, even for a few minutes. Doing some meditation, no matter how brief, is always better than nothing. One can also set up a schedule to create a routine. Also, one should try to practise meditation simultaneously every day. Daily practise can bring immense benefits, not only for the heart but the mind, body and soul.

(The writer is the founder of Divine Soul Yoga.)

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