Yoga International describes the real meaning of meditation as follows:
“Meditation is a precise technique for resting the mind and attaining a state of consciousness that is totally different from the normal waking state. It is the means for fathoming all the levels of ourselves and finally experiencing the center of consciousness within. Meditation is not a part of any religion; it is a science, which means that the process of meditation follows a particular order, has definite principles, and produces results that can be verified.
In meditation, the mind is clear, relaxed, and inwardly focused. When you meditate, you are fully awake and alert, but your mind is not focused on the external world or on the events taking place around you. Meditation requires an inner state that is still and one-pointed so that the mind becomes silent. When the mind is silent and no longer distracts you, meditation deepens.”
There are many different ways to bring oneself into a “meditative” state. There are walking meditations. There are meditations sitting cross-legged with erect spine and focusing on the inhale and exhale. There are movement meditations such as Qigong or Tai Chi, which incorporate a sequence of body posture and movement and breathing. And there are mantra meditations, where a certain mantra is the focal point of the meditation. In each variation, the common theme is a clear and relaxed mind which focuses inward and away from the external world – and in so doing, being fully present in the NOW and detached from thoughts of the past or anticipation. The stillness that results from a regular meditation practice has countless health and lifestyle benefits. So, the question then becomes whether meditation can help with weight loss?
Any method of meditation can help with weight loss.
First, meditation brings about a calmness and clarity in the mind which has been linked in studies to decreased emotional eating, increased awareness of their bodily sensations, and reduced food cravings. Oftentimes dietary choices are made from our unruly primitive brain, which is the “toddler” of our brain structure. The primitive brain wants immediate gratification and directs us to indulge every food urge that arises as quickly and unhealthily as possible. A stillness of the mind results from a regular meditation practice, and the effects can be to quiet the primitive brain in favor of our more rational prefrontal cortex, who is the “elder wise man” of our brain. The prefrontal cortex is the part of the brain that remembers the “big picture” and your long-term goal of living with a healthy weight and body. Meditation can bring about the calmness and clarity that allows your prefrontal cortex to remain in charge of food choices and allows an urge for unhealthy options to pass unsatisfied in favor of the long-term goal. Sitting quietly in a meditative state also gives a person the space to process their thoughts, challenge their limiting beliefs about what is possible for their health, and raise their standards of what they want for their mind and body.
Meditation can also reduce excessive amounts of cortisol produced in the body from chronic stress. Chronic stress is associated with a greater concentration of fats in the abdomen, which is also linked not only weight gain but also higher mortality. One study revealed that meditation literally reduces the density of brain tissue associated with anxiety and worrying, and by effectively reducing stress, can help with weight loss.
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