good for the mind
good for the body
by Guillermo Paz-y-Mino C Ph D
School of Biological Sciences
University of Nebraska. Lincoln
and relaxation benefit our mental and physical health.
When adversity at affects our lives, gaining a positive attitude is
perhaps the first step that should be taken to overcome stress in our minds and
pain in our bodies.
meditation is a method of self-development that can help us achieve this goal (Ki
universal spirit, life energy). While this method is a fundamental component of
Aikido it is not restricted to those who practice Aikido.
This system of mind and body unification emphasizes calmness by means of
appropriate posture, breathing, and --of course—mental attitude.
Ki meditation an individual actively and consciously elicits the relaxation/
meditation state by focusing his or her mind on the center of equilibrium of the
body called the "One Point” (seika-no-itten)
which is located in the lower abdomen. Ki meditation can be practiced in
different ways, but most people sit in the seiza position
(kneeling with the back straight or cross— legged. (Sitting erect in a chair
also works!) Eyes should be closed and a conscious sensation of expansion and
contraction of the body (using the One Point as a central reference for this
sensation) should match the natural breathing rhythm. Studies suggest that meditation elicits w what in scientific
terms is known as the relaxation response. a state of mind—body interaction
characterized by a reduced movement of the skeletal musculature, as well as
decreased blood pressure and respiratory rate.
elements are necessary to elicit the relaxation response:
1.a “mental device” or constant stimulus (sound
word phrase. or thought) repeated mentally or out loud (e.g..focusing the mind
on the One Point).
2. an attitude of calmness. which includes
disregarding distracting thoughts
3. a decreased muscle tone (physical relaxation).
4. a quiet environment. (The last point seems to be
essential for beginners.)
evidence supporting the benefits of meditation and relaxation on well being is
based on correlational data. Studies
on this subject document improvement in the overall health of patients cuts who
suffer from a variety of disorders For example, after a few weeks of daily
2O—minute meditation sessions, patients show a significant i reduction in
anxiety and stress during pregnancy or prior to surgery. labor, or dental care.
Anger seems to become milder with moderated practices of meditation (a
few times a week). General pain, cold—related pain, and migraine headaches
(including PMS migraine) can be minimized with meditation and breathing
exercises. Some patients are able to control hypertension thanks to a
combination of meditation and minimum medication. Even phobias, tobacco
addiction, asthma attacks, and insomnia can almost disappear with adequate
the numerous technical reports published on meditation, the physiological
processes involved in the meditative state are still not well understood.
Apparently during meditation the trophotropic zone of the anterior hypothalamus
is activated by means of electrical stimuli on originating in the
parasympathetic nervous system. This phenomenon is responsible for the complex
reactions that cause muscle relaxation, reduction in blood pressure, and
provides its optimum immediate benefits in sports training and physical
activity. Athletes practice
meditation and concentration to improve performance and minimize fatigue.
Perception, judgment, and intuition seem to be enhanced by the meditative
state which influences the outcome of physical actions in a positive way. Not
only’ Aikido, but also other martial arts and disciplines such as weight
lifting, parachute jumping, swimming figure skating deep diving, marathon
running, wrestling, and cross—country hiking also include meditation in their
is fascinating to observe in all these cases is how the psychological
environment in which a person lives and interacts with others influences many
aspects of the human mind and body. Consequently, a positive mind-set combined
with daily meditation, exercise, and balanced diet seem to be the essential
ingredients for long lives and, therefore, long lasting calmness and happiness.