Living a long and healthy life means taking more deep breaths say experts and studies. With most people describing their lives as stressful, little thought is placed on how this can impact your overall health and longevity. Simple breathing practices and mediation has been shown to not only improve stress levels but also to improve heart and cognitive health, lower blood pressure and boost longevity.
“Each tradition has a different aim for the meditation practices it introduces, so each will have associated ways of offering techniques for working with the breath,” says Lodro Rinzler, a Buddhist meditation teacher.
She added: “In Buddhist meditation, we encourage people to relax with the breath as is because the intention is to become familiar with all of who you are and what is happening right now, as opposed to what we wish might happen.
“Many people come to meditation because they want to feel less stressed out or anxious, to sleep better, or any of these other touted results of the practices.
“But there's more to it than just getting a good night's sleep. The practices are transformational for one's whole life if given the proper time and instruction.”
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A study published in Springer Link looked at cognitive ageing and long-term maintenance following meditation training.
Sustained attention is effortful, demanding, and subject to limitations associated with age-related cognitive decline, began the study.
It added: “Researchers have sought to examine whether attentional capacities can be enhanced through directed mental training, with a number of studies now offering evidence that meditation practice may facilitate generalized improvements in this domain.
“Performance improvements observed during periods of intensive practice were partially maintained several years later.
“Importantly, aging-related decrements in measures of response inhibition accuracy and reaction time variability were moderated by levels of continued meditation practice across the follow-up period.”
The study concluded that intensive and continued meditation is associated with enduring improvements in sustained attention, supporting the notion that the cognitive benefits of dedicated mental training may persist over the long-term when promoted by a regimen of continued practice.
The 20-year study found that those who participated in transcendental meditation showed a 23 percent decrease in the primary outcome of all-cause mortality (death).
Specifically, the group who practised transcendental meditation had a 30 percent decreased risk of cardiovascular mortality.
The researchers concluded that the benefits of meditation are almost as good as those resulting from medication for hypertension.