Mindful Meditation – The Power of Breath
Updated: Oct 4, 2022
Mindful meditation is now at the leading edge of scientifically supported medical interventions. The research is quite clear, Mindful Meditation is a powerful means to greatly improve both your mental and physical well-being. In fact, Mindfulness practices are now integral components of several university programs from medical schools to the classroom of future lawyers and engineers (7; 11; 12). It is also being used by some of the most successful business organizations on our planet today (13; 14).
BENEFITS OF MINDFUL MEDITATION
Peer review research has shown that Mindful Mediation.
Increases cognitive function (increased neuroplasticity & cortical thickening) (2; 3; 4; 5)
Improves working memory capacity (6)
Decreases stress (7)
Increases immune function (increased CD4 + T cell count) (1)
Decreases Inflammation (decreased NF-kB transcription activity, decreased CRP levels, and cortisol levels) (1)
Slows biological aging (increased telomerase activity and telomere length) (1; 8; 9; 10)
Deep slow breathing helps to stimulate the vagus nerve which helps to lower the heart rate. It lets you tap into your parasympathetic nervous system.
WHAT IS MINDFUL MEDITATION
When I talk to people of about Mindful Mediation, they often have a wrong perception about what it is actually is. Mindful Mediation is not about trying to achieve some dream type, euphoric state out there in “La La Land”.
In fact, it’s about increasing your awareness and your attention of the present moment, the moment you are actually living in! After all, the past is done, the future is yet to occur, and all we really have is the “present”. It makes every moment active, aware and focused.
THE POWER OF BREATH
Breathing exercises are one of the first steps in learning mindfulness practices. This is something I myself practice. Each morning I spend about 20 minutes performing a simple breathing exercise, followed by my Tai Chi routine. I have also found this routine to be extremely effective for many of my patients who suffer from musculoskeletal pain, headaches, insomnia, back pain, sciatica, stress and a wide range of other conditions.
Breathing exercises are the simplest way to experience the present moment and calm your mind and body. Our breath helps us to anchor our attention to the present moment. As simple as this exercise may seem its benefits can be substantial. I would like to share a breathing exercise with you.
TRY THIS SIMPLE, POWERFUL BREATHING EXERCISE
Do this simple yet powerful breathing exercise at least once a day. The entire routine will take you just 15 to 20 minutes. I recommend making this exercise a part of your daily routine (just like brushing your teeth), and performing the exercise at the same time each day (make it a habit). Use your cell phone to time yourself, and set it to a soft chime.
The objective of this exercise is to bring your attention into the moment-to-moment sensory experience of your breathing.
Prepare Your Body
Find a quiet place to sit, where you won’t be disturbed.
Sit in a comfortable position, with your body in an upright position. If you are suffering from back pain make sure the chair you’re sitting in gives you good lumbar support. Your spine should be fairly straight but still relaxed (not rigid). Imagine a string on the top of your head gently pulling you up and elongating your spine.
Before beginning the exercise close your eyes, and consciously relax your face, neck, shoulders, arms, the core of your body, and finally your legs. (Simple things like unclenching your jaw and shaking out your arms and legs will help.)
Gently place your tongue on the roof of your mouth (just behind your upper teeth), and do all breathing through your nose. Research has shown that breathing through your mouth is associated with poor posture (anterior posture), increased muscle tension, and stress. (14)
Start the process with slow deep breaths (4 to 5 count inhalation and 4 to 5 count exhalation).
Let your mind follow your breathing as your belly expands with each inhalation, and gently contracts with each exhalation.
It is important that you follow your breath through its full cycle of inhalation and exhalation. Your breath should be a continuous cycle; do not pause at the end of inhalation or exhalation, and do not hold your breath.
Continue breathing with this rhythm cycle with your focus on your breathing.
It is very common during this process to become distracted. In mediation, we call this “monkey mind.” Our thoughts continually pull us in multiple directions, and that’s OK. If you find your thoughts are being hijacked away from your breathing, just gently bring your focus back to your breath. Over time, this focus and attention will get much easier.
Your breath can have a profound effect on your physical and mental well-being. So, it is well worth investing your time in this simple exercise. By practicing simple mindfulness, you will find yourself becoming more aware, having a better sense of well-being and growing your happiness. In future blogs, I will show you how you can use your breath to tap into both your parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems, and how to use it to help you fall asleep or to increase your energy and attention span during the day when you feel the need for that sudden jolt of caffeine.
What to learn more? Check out Dr. Abelson's Tai Chi Playlist on YouTube.
DR. BRIAN ABELSON DC.
Dr. Abelson (Brian) is the developer of Motion Specific Release (MSR) Treatment Systems. His clinical practice in is located in Calgary, Alberta (Kinetic Health). He has recently authored his 10th publication which will be available later this year.
Dr. Abelson believes in running an Evidence-Based Practice (EBP). EBPs strive to adhere to the best research evidence available while combining their clinical expertise with the specific values of each patient.
Mindfulness meditation and the immune system: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials. David S. Black, George M. Slavich. s.l. : NY Academy Science, 2016, Vols. 1373(1): 13-24.
Meditation experience is associated with increased cortical thickness. Lazar, S. W. 1893–1897 , s.l. : Neuroreport , 2005, Vol. 16.
Long-term meditation is associated with increased grey matter density in the brain stem. Vestergaard-Poulsen, P. et al. 170–174 , s.l. : Neuroreport, 2009, Vol. 20.
Short-term meditation induces white matter changes in the anterior cingulate. Tang, Y. Y. et al. s.l. : Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA , 2010, Vols. 107, 15649–15652.
Stress reduction correlates with structural changes in the amygdala. Hölzel, B. K. et al. 11–17, s.l. : Soc. Cogn. Affect. Neurosci., 2010, Vol. 5.
Examining the protective effects of mindfulness training on working memory capacity and affective experience. Jha, Amishi P.,Stanley, Elizabeth A.,Kiyonaga, Anastasia,Wong, Ling,Gelfand, Lois. s.l. : Emotion, Feb 2010, Vol. Vol 10(1), pp. 54-64.
The Harvard Gazette. https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2018/04/less-stress-clearer-thoughts-with-mindfulness-meditation/ . [Online]
Human telomere biology: A contributory and interactive factor in aging, disease risks, and protection Science . E.H. Blackburn, E.S. Epel, J. Lin. s.l. : 80, 2015, Vol. 350, pp. pp. 1193-1198.
Antiaging effects of an intensive mind and body therapeutic program through enhancement of telomerase activity and adult stem cell counts. K.S. Rao, S.K. Chakraharti, V.S. Dongare, K. Chetana, C.M. Ramirez, P.S. Koka, K.D.Deb. s.l. : J. Stem Cells, 2015, Vol. 10, pp. 107-125.
How “reversible” is telomeric aging? Epel, E. s.l. : Cancer Prev. Res., 2012, Vol. 5, pp. pp. 1163-1168, 10.1158/1940-6207.CAPR-12-0370 .
Meditation for Law Students: Mindfulness Practice as Experiential Learning Law and Psychology Review. s.l. : U. of Pittsburgh Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2016-26, 2017, Vol. Vol. 41, p. 157.
Harvard Business Review. https://hbr.org/2019/01/how-mindfulness-can-help-engineers-solve-problems . [Online]
Why big companies like Apple promote mindfulness and how you can start. https://financialpost.com/personal-finance/business-essentials/why-big-companies-like-apple-promote-mindfulness-and-how-you-can-start. [Online]
Cuccia AM, Lotti M, Caradonna D. Oral breathing and head posture. Angle Orthod. 2008;78(1):77–82.