01.11.2015 Meditation

Why Meditation Works

Regular meditators vouch for its effectiveness but science seeks proof. Naturopath Lyn Craven explores some recent findings in support of this ancient healing practice

There are many different styles of meditation and no doubt most of you have explored a variety of disciplines. Most people have now heard of the extensive benefits resulting from daily meditation practice but how do we really know it works?

As with all things in life scientists are eager to challenge, research and assess meditation with a view to positive outcomes.

Sometimes we simply have to accept that something actually does work and that it generates the results we seek since not everything can always be tested. However, over the last few years various studies and trials have been conducted to try and unravel the positive effect meditation has on us.

In its April 6, 2011 edition, for instance, The Journal of Neuroscience states, "Meditation produces powerful pain-relieving effects in the brain."

"This is the first study to show that only a little over an hour of meditation training can dramatically reduce both the experience of pain and pain-related brain activation," said Fadel Zeidan, PhD, lead author of the study and post-doctoral research fellow at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center.

"We found a big effect - about a 40% reduction in pain intensity and a 57% reduction in pain unpleasantness. Meditation produced a greater reduction in pain than even morphine or other pain-relieving drugs, which typically reduce pain ratings by about 25%."

This in itself is a remarkable achievement for such a simple healing tool like meditation and brings to light the effectiveness and subtle powers of meditation when practised on a regular basis.

Meditation produced a greater reduction in pain than even morphine or other pain-relieving drugs...

The Journal further quotes:

"Both before and after meditation training, study participants' brain activity was examined using a special type of imaging - arterial spin labeling magnetic resonance imaging (ASL MRI) - that captures longer duration brain processes, such as meditation, better than a standard MRI scan of brain function. During these scans, a pain-inducing heat device was placed on the participants' right legs. This device heated a small area of their skin to 120° Fahrenheit, a temperature that most people find painful, over a 5-minute period."

"The scans taken after meditation training showed that every participant's pain ratings were reduced, with decreases ranging from 11 to 93 percent, Zeidan said."

At the same time, meditation significantly reduced brain activity in the primary somatosensory cortex, an area that is crucially involved in creating the feeling of where and how intense a painful stimulus is. The scans taken before meditation training showed activity in this area was very high. However, when participants were meditating during the scans, activity in this important pain-processing region could not be detected.

The above trial showed clearly how meditation can be used to assist with pain release and pain management. Some pain management clinics are now incorporating the use of meditation to assist with individual programs.

Migraine relief

Meditation can also be used for migraine sufferers, though continual practice may be required depending on tolerance of each person's pain threshold due to this type of pain being in the head area. It always appears a little easier to implement pain release using relaxation techniques when the physical pain is elsewhere in the body. Often it is easier for the recipient when they are being guided in meditation.

Over the years of teaching meditation I have observed profound changes in people experiencing many positive outcomes. To date no one I have met has failed to learn the meditation techniques I teach which is called creative visualization. Everyone has enjoyed this type of meditation since it does not encroach on anyone's spiritual beliefs and allows people from all walks of life and levels of development to participate.

Anxiety disorders

Meditation has proven excellent for helping people with long standing anxiety and sleep problems.

One woman I met had not had a full night's sleep in over two years since an intruder broke into her home and attacked her. Every night afterwards she had trouble sleeping. Her body was on high alert, waiting for pending danger. She had attended sleep clinics, taken sleeping drugs and many other medicines over time. She had meditated previously but was never consistent. The type of meditation she explored previously differed to creative visualization. This client advised me that after attending two sessions and listening to the meditation CD I provided while she lay in bed, she was able to sleep right through the night without waking for five hours. That was incredible for her as she had previously been unable to relax as she was exceptionally anxious and fearful. Listening to the healing journey CD allowed her body to relax fully and drift off to sleep.

She was also given Bach Flower remedies for fear and anxiety. When fear is deeply ingrained in us we are totally consumed by it and it then affects our ability to live life fully without hindrance.

Meditation has proven excellent for helping people with long standing anxiety and sleep problems.

Meditation helps with Insomnia

According to Ramadevi Gourineni, principal study investigator and director of the insomnia program at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Illinois, "Insomnia is thought to be a 24-hour problem of hyper-arousal. Moreover, elevated measures of arousal are seen throughout the day."

The study collected data from 11 healthy subjects between the ages of 25 and 45 years who suffered from chronic primary insomnia. Participants were divided into two intervention groups for two months. The first group was taught Kriya Yoga, a form of meditation that is used to focus internalised attention and has been shown to reduce measures of arousal. The second group received health education.

Participants of the health education group also received information about health-related topics and how to improve health through nutrition, exercise, weight loss and stress management.

Results suggested that patients saw improvements in subjective sleep quality and sleep diary parameters while practising meditation. Patients who practised meditation saw improvements in sleep latency, total sleep time, total wake time, wake after sleep onset, sleep efficiency and sleep quality.

Natural therapies, in particular energy healing, indicates how fear is held deep at the cellular level.

Chinese medicine often talks of fear weakening the Kidney energy. Whatever we experience emotionally, mentally, energetically and spiritually will eventually affect our physical body in some way.

Guided journeys

People become more confident, gain stronger self esteem, become more pro-active and make positive constructive changes in their lives by experiencing specific guided journeys. These journeys are tailored to the individual problem allowing the recipient to free up and let go of deeply embedded emotions.

Research has proven that meditation has the ability to train the mind to do certain things, create certain moods or have particular effects on the body and mind. Research also indicates meditation helps balance out the levels of particular chemicals in the body and brain that affect mood swings. Meditation research also shows how tension can be resolved, resulting in improved lifestyles for people who may struggle to find ways to relax.



Lyn will continue her look at meditation's benefits including enhancing neuroplasticity next month.

Lyn Craven

Lyn Craven is a practitioner of Naturopathy, Bowen Therapy, Energy/Reiki therapist, meditation teacher and Corporate Health Consultant. She is also a health researcher/writer and has produced a meditation CD assisting people to manage anxiety and stress. She runs a private practice in Sydney and can be contacted on +61403 231 804