Summary: Meditation lowers stress in our body and mind, which in turn improves our immunity and our health in general. It also leads to more positive lifestyle choices. Scientific research confirms this.
Although the ‘creative stress’ present in finishing a special job or project can be exhilarating, the long-term chronic stress we often encounter in the West can be a killer! There is no doubt about this. Stress lowers the body’s self defence mechanisms and weakens our immune system.
When we are stressed our blood pressure and heart rate can increase, our digestive system may become disturbed, and stress hormones adversely impact our immune system. All this can lead to disease! Then there are the ‘coping mechanisms’ we may adopt to cope with the stress – such as smoking and drinking alcohol which further lower immunity. The more we can minimise stress the better for our health.
Major stresses in life are due to disappointments, rejections and doubts. Ask anyone who has got divorced, faced financial insecurity because of losing their job, or who have suffered the death of a close family member.
How to get rid of stress? Simple: just learn to meditate. Fifty years ago this advice would have seemed odd, but now it is main-stream. A lot of research was performed in the 70’s and 80’s which indicated beyond doubt that meditation lowered the physiological indicators of stress in the human body. Researchers measured stress indicators such as galvanic skin response, blood pressure, levels of adrenaline, etc. all of which showed improvement with continued practice of meditation. So the effect was real and not just psychological. In meditation we clearly get the ‘rest and fulfillment response’ rather than the ‘fight and flight response’ we get when we are stressed. As the stress indicators go down, our natural immunity goes up.
Much of this research was published in prestigious, peer reviewed journals. An enlightened Indian teacher, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi was mainly responsible for getting meditation widely accepted in the West.
Meditation lowers stress in our body and mind, which in turn improves our immunity and our health in general. It also leads to more positive lifestyle choices.
Which type of meditation to do? Most Westerners find the effortless techniques of Vedic mantra based meditation (e.g. Transcendental Meditation [Description on Wikipedia], Sahaj Samadhi meditation [YouTube Introduction], Shakti meditation [taught by the yogini Ananda Vdovic] – all easy to learn and easy to do. As a great enlightened yogi once said: ‘if we can think, we can meditate!’
A mantra is a meaningless sound or Sanskrit word that we think effortlessly – just like we think any other thought. In this Vedic system personal mantras are given to individual students by fully trained teachers. In India the restless mind is often described as the ‘monkey mind’ – always running here and there. How to make a monkey stay still? Just give it a banana. Think of the mantra as a ‘banana for the mind’ – something sweet, nourishing and appealing! In fact, the more you think it on a quiet level the more appealing it becomes. Mantra based meditation techniques take us directly to a settled state of ‘restful alertness’ where we experience a deep and profound peace.
These techniques take just 20 minutes twice a day and the ‘return on investment’, in terms of increased health and overall ‘feel good factor’, can be enormous. The only downside to these techniques is that they are quite subtle and require a trained meditation teacher, plus one-to-one personal tuition. But they are extremely effective! Once learned they can be practiced anywhere at any time. Vedic meditation clearly leads to more positive lifestyle choices in the direction of personal evolution – further enhancing our health.
For more information on these techniques see Vedic Meditation FAQs
What about guided meditations? If we can’t learn Vedic mantra based meditation, then guided meditations are worth exploring. They will not be as effective, but they will bring benefits.
This may come as a surprise, but the best guided meditations definitely do not involve any form of ‘creative visualisations’ (e.g. the ‘imagine you are on a beautiful beach’ type of thing). Neither do they involve listening to the sound of ‘forest streams’, or ‘new age’ music!
Many people enjoy the guided meditations produced by enlightened Masters such as Sri Sri Ravi Shankar (not the sitar player). These are available on YouTube. There are dozens of different ones to choose from and they take around twenty minutes each. Simply try some and see which you prefer. The trick seems to be to sit comfortably and easily and just listen to the instructions, but not to concentrate on them. Take it all easily and lightly and don’t try to meditate! The process involves no effort. Many people have reported they particularly enjoy the ‘Sound to Silence’ meditation by Sri Sri and feel very settled and relaxed towards the end.
Other Key Ayurvedic Strategies to Build a Strong Immune System
- Ayurvedic herbs to boost immunity
- Increasing Ojas to improve immunity
- Strengthening our digestive fire to help prevent disease
- Ayurvedic lifestyle to strengthen our immune system
- Ayurvedic diet to increase our resistance to disease
- Detoxification to strengthen our immune system
- Improving immunity through Yoga and Pranayama
or, return to Boosting Immunity with Ayurveda – Overview article