The benefits of dedicating just five minutes a day to simply sitting and watching your breath are profound - not only for your mind, but for your body too. One of the significant impacts of meditation is its ability to reduce inflammation.
Inflammation can manifest in many different ways, from skin issues, chronic disease, an unhealthy gut, cognitive dysfunction, and chronic pain. Our mind-body connection is so strong that the second our body feels off, our mind begins to suffer as well. The pain in the body infiltrates the mind with negative thoughts.
Chronic stress leads to an over activation of the immune system, which leads to an influx of pro inflammatory factors. The silver lining here is that we can reduce inflammation by addressing the mind. By controlling the mind and removing negative and stressful thoughts, the body itself becomes less stressed and in turn, inflammation goes down.
Meditation is one way to do this. By consciously watching your breath and allowing your thoughts to come and go, you are lowering your cortisol, also known as the “stress hormone”. Too much cortisol causes your immune system to remain in fight-or-flight for extended periods of time, leading to chronic inflammation.
Mindful meditation techniques like breathwork, visualization, mantra repetition, and moving meditations have been shown to train the mind to react more positively to negative situations and hardships. By putting your mind in a state of relaxation, you are simply accepting what is. When we become present, we learn that all we have control of is the present moment. You can’t change the past or predict the future, but you can control how you react to situations when they arise, in the present moment. Simply knowing you have this power provides a sense of peace. The result? Far less stress for your mind and your body. If your mind is calm in a stressful situation, your body will follow.
In short, meditation helps to reduce inflammation by harnessing the mind-body connection. That is why as a yoga teacher, I highly recommend not only meditating every morning for at least five minutes, but to also include some form of meditation when you feel stress arise. When it does, just focus on your breath or try bringing your awareness to your heart beat. By spending a few minutes in a meditative state, your cortisol levels will instantly goes down.
Dr. David Creswell, a professor of psychology said, "We show that mindfulness meditation impacts measurable brain circuits…[T]his new work sheds light into what mindfulness training is doing to the brain to produce these inflammatory health benefits.” By simply being mindful of the present moment, our brain waves change, and so do their connection to the body. A less stressed brain is a less stressed and inflamed body.