Training the Trainers
PART 2DR SHANTIKUMAR NAIR ON MEDITATION
Making a notable achievement in the history of Amrita University, Dr Shantikumar Nair, its Dean of Research, received the prestigious National Research Award from the Ministry of Science and Technology in New Delhi, this year (February 28, 2011). This award, given to just one scientist every year, was bestowed upon Amrita’s Dr Nair for his spectacular contributions to the emerging field of nanosciences and nanotechnology. Dr Nair is also the director of the Amrita Centre for Nanosciences, which recently began a successful foray into nanotechnology applications for solar photovoltaic cells.
Dr Shantikumar Nair, made a PowerPoint presentation on "Meditation and Scientific Research".
Meditation is as good as medicine
“Meditation is as good as medicine”, Dr Nair began, quoting from the current Western medical research. “Meditation has become more of a medical and health practice, rather than a religious or spiritual practice… Meditation has entered the mainstream of science.” US health care industry is recommending meditation to more than 10 million Americans annually.
Subjective experience vs objective research
Since meditation happens in the subjective realm of experience, its byproducts, like peace, joy, stillness etc. cannot be measured objectively [in a laboratory]. So in research, objective parameters such as biochemical and physiological modifications— which can be measured and quantified and which are directly linked to the state of mind]— are used for studying the subjective experiences of meditation.
Sleep and meditation
There are many similarities and differences between sleep and meditation. We may think: if sleep and meditation can both give peace, then why meditation? He delved into the three components of meditation like internalized attention, concentrated attention (on one object) and awareness or mindfulness. Though in both deep sleep and meditation EEG patterns slow down and theta waves become dominant, meditation and sleep researchers discovered it is only in meditation that the intensity of theta waves is higher; so in meditation there is an increased level of awareness and cognition along with peace.
Higher cognitive flexibility
Why is it that cognitive flexibility, has been found to be significantly higher among meditators? [ie ability to grasp faster, to grasp more and to respond to multiple inputs]. Research explains that meditation leads to an increase in blood flow to the cortex of the brain.
Cardiac Respiratory Phase Synchronization (CRPS)
During meditation the cardiac and respiratory cycles synchronize which helps preserve body energy. The number of heartbeats to the number of respiratory cycles, n:m, was found to increase with deeper meditation.
Profound state of peace and silence
Research literature also reveal the heart rate and breathing rate fall significantly, leading to a profound state of peace and silence. IN 2008, researchers found out why: there was a tremendous increase in the efficiency of gaseous exchange in the lungs, reducing the need for the lungs to breathe and the heart to pump.
Decreases blood pressure in the hypertensives
Blood pressure in the hypertensives decrease, when due to meditation the flexibility of the blood vessels increase, resulting in better dilatation.
Precipitous fall in the stress-scale
Documented studies also reveal that there is a precipitous fall in the stress-scale, leading to a reduction also in fatigue and anxiety in long time practice. ‘Dead periods’ in attention decrease, and attention span increases.
Decrease in depression
There is a 43% decrease in depression, reduction in substance-dependence and eating disorders, studies revealed.
Chronic pains disappear
It has been frequently documented that chronic pains disappear. Dr Nair quoted a personal experience: his chronic back pain disappearing after a few weeks of IAM technique, to his pleasant surprise.
Benefits observed in auto-immune diseases
Strengthening of the auto-immune system, because of the resultant serum IgA level increase, has been documented. Hence the benefits, observed in auto-immune diseases like psoriasis, and arthritis, where medication is of little value.
A therapy for breast cancer and prostate cancer
Meditation is currently prescribed as a therapy for breast cancer and prostate cancer. It has been well known and documented that meditation boosts up Melatonin levels. Melatonin is a hormone that suppresses the proliferation of cancer cells. Addresses significantly the stress factor in cancer patients.
Because of documented facts, meditation is not only used to improve the wellness of the healthy people, but it is also used as a therapeutic tool, for the sick.
Long term practice vs sustainable benefits
In conclusion, Dr Nair noted that research literature show tremendous benefits for those who are healthy as well as for those who are suffering, and that benefits are best sustainable when the practice is continued over a period of time.
Thus ended a powerful presentation by Dr Nair, delivered with his inimitable humility.
Compiled by: Janardana Krishna[to be continued]