I do practise everyday my daily routine meditation for around 20 to 30 mins. I do it every day as a part of my yoga routine. Being a medical professional, I always had the inquisitiveness to know behind the science for meditating.
Many types of research and studies have been going around behind the science and physiological changes that happen during meditation. Since there are too many studies and too much research floating around in various media, it is very confusing sometimes. By now, all of us know that meditation benefits us to be more focus, reduced stress, mindful, calmer and compassionate.
But I would like to highlight more on the actual physical changes that can happen to the brain on regularly meditating based on scientific studies. Meditation by any religious, traditional and yoga form mainly follow two methods of focusing.
Single focus method: In this method, you have to focus on a particular thing, maybe your breathing, or the area between your eyebrows (the pineal gland) or maybe the physical sensation around your body. When you wander, you bring your focus back to the particular thing that you are focusing on.
Open focus method: In this method, when you close your eyes, you don’t focus on a particular thing. You keep your focus open on the dark, wide-open space around you. Whatever thoughts, come your way, you are aware of them and let them go without focusing on them.
What happens to your brain when you do meditation daily for 20mins to an hour for 8 to 10 weeks? Physical changes have been reported in the limbic brain based on various researches.
Amygdala: This is a part of the limbic brain which is responsible for most of your emotional stimuli mainly fight or flight response. This area is responsible for stress, fear, anger, violence, pain and so on. Meditation causes to shrink the amygdala, making it smaller than it’s the usual size. Therefore, due to these physical changes, your response to these emotions of stress, fear, anger is reduced considerably and you become calmer.
Pons: This is a part of the brain stem which is mainly responsible for processing all sensory inputs, and vital activities like sleep, respiration, swallowing, facial expression. Meditation has helped to strengthen the pons, thereby improving all its vital functions.
Posterior cingulate: This part of the brain is responsible for “understanding self” and controlling the wandering thoughts. When you process any kind of information, this part of the brain is responsible for the relevance of self and the degree of subjectivity. Meditation helps to strengthen this part of the brain which in turn helps you to take a more wider approach to issues, and be more considerate towards self. It helps you to be non-judgemental and not take things personally. Precuneus is also part of the limbic cortex which helps in self-relevance. It is responsible for happiness state. Meditation helps strengthen this area too.
Left Hippocampus: This part of the brain is for long term memory and cognition. Meditation helps to increase the volume, the grey matter in this area. So your memory and cognitive abilities start improving.
Temporo Parietal Junction: This part of the brain is responsible to help you understand perspective to any issues. It is this part of the brain which is responsible to understand the other person’s view, be more empathetic and compassionate. Meditation helps to strengthen this area in the brain.