How can meditation help to change structures in the brain? #1

 How can meditation help to change structures in the brain? #1

This article consist of 6 parts. This is part 1. Written by Sophie Nusselder

In the classes I teach; I see my students growing: physically they are getting stronger and more energized and some of them tell me yoga makes them emotionally more balanced, more connected and in peace with themselves. The personal experiences of countless individuals have told us that yogic discipline and meditation have profound benefits. While science remains skeptical of “spiritual” beliefs, neuroscience has confirmed that yoga and meditation can heal, strengthen and transform both: the body and brain.

Neutralize bad habits

Our greatest enemies are your bad habits. Each of your habits creates a specific “groove,” or pathway, in the brain. These patterns make you behave in a certain way, often against your wish. Your life follows those grooves that you yourself have created in the brain. In that sense you are not a free person; you are more or less a victim of the habits you have formed. Depending on how set those patterns are, to that degree you are a puppet. You can neutralize the dictates of those bad habits. How? By creating brain patterns of opposite good habits. You can completely erase the grooves of bad habits by meditation. However, I think you can’t cultivate good habits without good company and good environment. And you can’t free yourself from bad habits without good company and meditation.

Kriya yoga

Kriya Yoga is regarded as a very powerful meditative science and spiritual path. A Swami named Paramahansa Yogananda first introduced Kriya Yoga to the western world in 1920. He explained that Kriya Yoga could be used to slowly re-condition pathways in the brain and effectively create new thought, behavior, and emotional patterns. This was before the world had a word such as “neuroscience”, yet we now understand this process as “neuroplasticity”, the brains ability to adapt and create new pathways. Yogananda taught his students that this change, (neuroplasticity) could be self-directed through will. Neuropsychiatry is starting to confirm this as well.

More healthy and happy through meditation

There is growing evidence to show that meditation can make people healthier and happier. It may even increase lifespan, alter brain structure and change personality.

In 2010, a group of Harvard neuroscientists reported that brain structures can change significantly after only 8 weeks of meditation. Through the use of MRI scans, they showed that a case study group increased gray matter concentration within the left hippocampus, the posterior cingulate cortex, the temporo-parietal junction, and the cerebellum. These are all rain regions known to be involved in learning, memory, emotion regulation, sense of self, and perspective. These studies confirm what the Gurus have been telling us all along. We can learn to use our will-power and awareness to re-create ourselves and become happier, healthier, and more peaceful.

In the summer of 2015; Merel Martens, founder of Parimukti Yoga and meditation Teacher Training India, gave a reading about how meditation can help to change structures in the brain. In part 2 of this article is a brief review supplemented with some personal research.

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