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MEDITATION
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 MEDITATION

 The scientific studies on Meditation show that meditating boosts the immune system, and brain scans suggest that it actually rewires and retrains the brain to reduce stress.

Time Magazine did a cover article on Meditation in August 2003 and reported that "meditation is being recommended by more and more physicians as a way to prevent, slow or at least control the pain of chronic diseases like heart conditions, AIDS, cancer and infertility. It is also being used to restore balance in the face of such psychiatric disturbances as depression, hyperactivity and attention deficit disorder."

That  article also reported tests using the most sophisticated imaging techniques were proving that the brain waves actually change during meditation. Several doctors at Harvard Medical School studied meditation and  found that when people were meditating they used 17% less oxygen, lowered their heart rates by 3 beats per minute. Meditators increased their theta brain waves much more than when reading a book or listening to music, and essentially deactivated the frontal areas of the brain that receive and process sensory information.

Another study at the University of Wisconsin used brain imaging to reveal that meditation shifts activity in the prefrontal cortex from the right hemisphere to the left. People who have a negative disposition tend to be right-prefrontal oriented compared with left-prefrontals who are reported to  have more enthusiasm, more interests, relax more and tend to be happier. This research suggests that with regular meditation, there is a pronounced change in brain wave patterns, shifting from the alpha waves of stimulation to the theta waves that dominate the brain during periods of deep relaxation.

Others like Dr. Dean Ornish and Jon Kabat-Zinn are demonstrating that meditation may also influence physical healing in significant ways. Kabat-Zinn studied a group of people with psoriasis, which is a skin condition that can be treated with ultraviolet light. The skin of those who were taught to meditate cleared up at four times the rate of the nonmeditators. He also measured the antibody levels of people getting flu shots. The meditators had lots more antibodies weeks longer after receiving the shot. He suggests that the better your meditation, the healthier your immune system.

Yet another study has shown that women who meditate and use guided imagery have higher levels of immune cells that are known to combat breast tumors. And for a long time now, medical science has supported meditation as a way to reduce blood pressure.

Simply sitting  silently for as little as 10 minutes a day, you can train yourself to focus on your breathing and on the present moment instead of obsessing about the past or fretting about the future.

 

 

Compassion Meditation Changes The Brain

ScienceDaily (Mar. 27, 2008) — Can we train ourselves to be compassionate? A new study suggests the answer is yes. Cultivating compassion and kindness through meditation affects brain regions that can make a person more empathetic to other peoples' mental states, say researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

This study was the first to use functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to indicate that positive emotions such as loving-kindness and compassion can be learned in the same way as playing a musical instrument or being proficient in a sport. The scans revealed that brain circuits used to detect emotions and feelings were dramatically changed in subjects who had extensive experience practicing compassion meditation.
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The research suggests that individuals -- from children who may engage in bullying to people prone to recurring depression -- and society in general could benefit from such meditative practices, says study director Richard Davidson, professor of psychiatry and psychology at UW-Madison and an expert on imaging the effects of meditation. Davidson and UW-Madison associate scientist Antoine Lutz were co-principal investigators on the project.The study was part of the researchers' ongoing investigations with a group of Tibetan monks and lay practitioners who have practiced meditation for a minimum of 10,000 hours. In this case, Lutz and Davidson worked with 16 monks who have cultivated compassion meditation practices. Sixteen age-matched controls with no previous training were taught the fundamentals of compassion meditation two weeks before the brain scanning took place."Many contemplative traditions speak of loving-kindness as the wish for happiness for others and of compassion as the wish to relieve others' suffering. Loving-kindness and compassion are central to the Dalai Lama's philosophy and mission," says Davidson, who has worked extensively with the Tibetan Buddhist leader. "We wanted to see how this voluntary generation of compassion affects the brain systems involved in empathy."
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Various techniques are used in compassion meditation, and the training can take years of practice. The controls in this study were asked first to concentrate on loved ones, wishing them well-being and freedom from suffering. After some training, they then were asked to generate such feelings toward all beings without thinking specifically about anyone.Each of the 32 subjects was placed in the fMRI scanner at the UW-Madison Waisman Center for Brain Imaging, which Davidson directs, and was asked to either begin compassion meditation or refrain from it. During each state, subjects were exposed to negative and positive human vocalizations designed to evoke empathic responses as well as neutral vocalizations: sounds of a distressed woman, a baby laughing and background restaurant noise."We used audio instead of visual challenges so that meditators could keep their eyes slightly open but not focused on any visual stimulus, as is typical of this practice," explains Lutz.
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The scans revealed significant activity in the insula - a region near the frontal portion of the brain that plays a key role in bodily representations of emotion - when the long-term meditators were generating compassion and were exposed to emotional vocalizations. The strength of insula activation was also associated with the intensity of the meditation as assessed by the participants."The insula is extremely important in detecting emotions in general and specifically in mapping bodily responses to emotion - such as heart rate and blood pressure - and making that information available to other parts of the brain," says Davidson, also co-director of the HealthEmotions Research Institute.Activity also increased in the temporal parietal juncture, particularly the right hemisphere. Studies have implicated this area as important in processing empathy, especially in perceiving the mental and emotional state of others."Both of these areas have been linked to emotion sharing and empathy," Davidson says. "The combination of these two effects, which was much more noticeable in the expert meditators as opposed to the novices, was very powerful."
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The findings support Davidson and Lutz's working assumption that through training, people can develop skills that promote happiness and compassion. "People are not just stuck at their respective set points," he says. "We can take advantage of our brain's plasticity and train it to enhance these qualities."The capacity to cultivate compassion, which involves regulating thoughts and emotions, may also be useful for preventing depression in people who are susceptible to it, Lutz adds."Thinking about other people's suffering and not just your own helps to put everything in perspective," he says, adding that learning compassion for oneself is a critical first step in compassion meditation.The researchers are interested in teaching compassion meditation to youngsters, particularly as they approach adolescence, as a way to prevent bullying, aggression and violence. "I think this can be one of the tools we use to teach emotional regulation to kids who are at an age where they're vulnerable to going seriously off track," Davidson says.
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Compassion meditation can be beneficial in promoting more harmonious relationships of all kinds, Davidson adds. "The world certainly could use a little more kindness and compassion," he says. "Starting at a local level, the consequences of changing in this way can be directly experienced."Lutz and Davidson hope to conduct additional studies to evaluate brain changes that may occur in individuals who cultivate positive emotions through the practice of loving-kindness and compassion over time.This research was published March 26 in the PLoS One.

Journal reference:1.                      Antoine Lutz, Julie Brefczynski-Lewis, Tom Johnstone, Richard J. Davidson. Regulation of the Neural Circuitry of Emotion by Compassion Meditation: Effects of Meditative Expertise. PLoS ONE, 2008; 3 (3): e1897 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0001897 Adapted from materials provided by University of Wisconsin-Madison.  

University of Wisconsin-Madison (2008, March 27). Compassion Meditation Changes The Brain. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 5,

 

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 Other Posts of Interest:

Nashville Neuromuscular Center Blog - News you can use on Posture, Pain relief, Massage

http://posturefitness.blogspot.com/ - including The Gardeners Body- How to garden without getting sore or injured 

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Massage does much more than just relax your muscles

There was a great article in the NY Times  by RONI CARYN RABIN Published: September 20, 2010 reporting a study done by researchers at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles on massage. The upshot was that they did blood draws before, during, and after massage and discovered that there was a significant decrease in levels of the stress hormone cortisol in blood and saliva, and in arginine vasopressin, a hormone that can lead to increases in cortisol. They also had increases in the number of lymphocytes, white blood cells that are part of the immune system.

 The subjects experienced greater increases in oxytocin, a hormone associated with contentment,  and decreases in adrenal corticotropin hormone, which stimulates the adrenal glands to release cortisol.

 To read the entire article: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/21/health/research/21regimens.html

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Effects of the sitting position on the body posture
of children aged 11 to 13 years.
 Institute of Physiotherapy, University of Rzeszów, Rzeszów, Poland.
BACKGROUND:
Nowadays, children spend increasingly more time in a seated position,
both at school during class and at home in front of a computer or television.
OBJECTIVE:
The aim of this study was to compare selected parameters
describing body posture and scoliosis among children in sitting and standing positions.
METHODS:
It was an observational, cross-sectional study involving
 91 primary school children aged 11-13 years.
The children's backs were photographed in standing and sitting positions.
 The values of selected parameters were calculated using photogrammetric
examination based on the Moire projection phenomenon.
RESULTS:
The results show significant statistical differences for the parameters
 defining the anteroposterior curves of the spine. The sitting position
resulted in a decreased angle of inclination of the thoracolumbar spine,
 reduced depths of thoracic kyphosis and lumbar lordosis, and pelvic asymmetry.
CONCLUSIONS:
Maintaining a sitting position for a long time results in advanced
asymmetries of the trunk and scoliosis, and causes a decrease in lumbar lordosis
 and kyphosis of a child's entire spine.
 Therefore, we advocate the introduction of posture education programs for schoolchildren.
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A Head's Up on Posture: Don't Be a Slouch!

Edward L. Maurer, D.C., D.A.C.B.R..

National University of Health Sciences

Susan Spinasanta 

Senior Medical Editor,SpineUniverse          

   

An Early Message
When I was a child, my grandmother was constantly after me saying, "Sit up straight! Don't slump in the chair! Walk tall!" At just about every family gathering, I could count on Grandma giving me a lecture about posture. The message was the same even as I got older. In my teenage years the reminders became a source of embarrassment and sometimes I would actually try to hide to escape her persistent pestering!

Well, now I'm an adult with children of my own. Often, while observing my youngest, the faint stirrings of Grandma's voice resound in my head. I'm actually surprised to hear my own voice echoing her very words to this child!

How Poor Posture Happens
Poor posture is easy, whereas adapting habits of good posture often requires conscious effort. Most people do not think about their posture until someone brings it to their attention. The benefits of good posture far outweigh the ease of slouchy poor posture.

You could say that poor posture habits have followed trends in society. Children carry huge overloaded backpacks, adults lug briefcases to work, and thousands of people spend hours hunched over a computer whether for work or play.

Poor posture is not only habitual, but is also seen in people with low self-esteem, degenerative problems affecting the spine, pain causing muscle guarding, and obesity.

Change takes willpower! However … the rewards of good posture are well worth the effort. You will feel great, and your physical appearance will look tall and confident!

What Does Good Posture Look Like?
The body is straight, but not robotic! The appearance is relaxed as the ears, shoulders, hips, knees and ankles align in one straight line. If you hung an imaginary plumb line from the earlobe, the line would hang straight through the middle of the anklebone.

 

Good posture means there is musculoskeletal balance. This balance helps to protect the joints in the spine from excessive stress. It also guards against injury and possible deformity. Good posture is a great 'tool' to possess to help prevent pain.

Starting Your Day

  • Stand up and stretch your arms above your head!
  • Wrap your arms around your body and turn as far as you can to the left, then to the right."
  • Exercise regularly to keep the abdominal muscles strong to help support the spine.
  • Avoid wearing high-heeled shoes. Choose shoes that offer good foot support and comfort. Some styles can affect the body's center of gravity. Flat shoes are better.
  • Look at yourself in the mirror.  Think about your posture and how to maintain it throughout the day's activities. Practice makes perfect!

Purses – Backpacks – Briefcases
Carry only the items that are required for each particular day.

Avoid a heavy purse (tote, bag) worn over one shoulder. This can place too much weight on one side of the body and can cause neck, shoulder, and back pain. If you must use a bag or briefcase with a single strap, make sure the strap is padded and wide. 

People of all ages use a backpack today— preschoolers, students, office employees, teachers, backpackers, even grandparents! Many people pack the backpack to its absolute capacity! Some children carry almost as much weight in their backpack as they weigh! A loaded backpack should not exceed 15% of the body's weight and never more than 25 pounds! Consider the following backpack tips:

  • Choose a backpack made of a lightweight material.
  • Make sure the shoulder straps are adjustable, wide and padded. A backpack with a waist/hip strap is preferable. Wear the pack with both shoulder straps and hip strap.
  • Pack the heavier items close to the back. Backpacks with many compartments will help you equalize and distribute the load. Pointy objects should be packed away from the wearer's spine.
  • Parents can talk to their child's teacher and arrange for a separate set of books to be kept at home eliminating the need to haul books back and forth.

Working at a Desk – Posture Friendly Tips

  • Choose office furniture that is ergonomically designed and that fits your body.
  • Sit with your back against the back of the chair with knees at hip level. Consider using a footrest. A small pillow or rolled towel placed at the lower back can offer needed support.
  • The workstation or desk should be at elbow height. Adjust chair height to meet this need.
  • Sit with your shoulders straight and parallel to the hips.
  • Don't slouch or lean forward to view work or the computer monitor. Either move closer to the work or move the work closer to you. Tilt the monitor so the center of the screen is at eye level for easy viewing
  • Don't cradle the phone between your head and shoulder! It is much better to use the speakerphone or hold the phone in your hand.
  • Get up, walk tall and stretch often!

Going to Sleep
A firm mattress will help keep your spine aligned! However, a few other tips to maintain great posture during sleep include:

  • Don't sleep on your stomach. Sleep on your side or back.
  • When lying on your back, place a pillow under your knees. This will ease low back tension.
  • When lying on your side, place a pillow between slightly bent knees. This will help keep the spine straight.
  • Although oversize cushy pillows are inviting, they do not benefit your spine! Instead, use a pillow that allows your head to align with the rest of your body

Of course there are hundreds of other suggestions to help establish a lifestyle supporting good posture.

We thank  Dr. Maurer and  Ms. Spinasanta for these great tips and suggest you talk with your Doctor, Chiropractor or Neuromuscular Therapist to evaluate your individual body position and learn more ways to improve upon that.


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