By K.W.B., author of 'Awareness - The Center of Being'
Meditation and DHEA
The hormone DHEA is needed for a wide range of biological functions and a lower level of DHEA has been associated with a decreased ability to concentrate. In one study, scientists compared the DHEA levels of meditators between the age of forty and fifty years with the DHEA levels of a control group of non-meditators. It was found that the meditating men had a 23% higher level of DHEA as the non-meditators and in woman the difference was even much more pronounced.
Meditation, Stress and Memory
Much of our memory may be impaired through our stress response. In response to stress, adrenaline and cortisol may be released into our blood stream. Cortisol, when it is not properly processed, uses up glucose leading to a deficit of a fuel that is constantly required by our brain. Cortisol also interferes with the balance of neurotransmitters and causes a higher production of free radicals which directly damage brain cells.
Studies by the University of Montreal and McGill have proven the direct damage to our cognitive functions by cortisol. Meditation can be a very effective method for reducing stress, thereby also improving memory.
Biofeedback Training, Yoga and Brain Function
Pioneer brain-wave researchers Elmer Green, Ph.D. and Alyce Green, M.A. have scientifically observed and documented numerous successful experiments on biofeedback training and brain-wave self-regulation. During one of their sessions, they measured Swami Rama's control over his own temperature, blood flow, brain waves and heart beat, which at one time he stopped for a certain period of time. (The ability to stop the heart beat for a considerable time span is not an unheard of ability among accomplished Hatha and Raja yogis.)
Elmer Green & Alyce Green of the Menninger Foundation have published their discoveries in their book "Beyond Biofeedback," Knoll Publishing Company, Inc.
Other researchers, like James Funderburk, Ph. D., observed a significant drop in blood pressure as the result of Yoga. He also found an increase in red blood cells, a significant change in the hematocrit values, and increases in hemoglobin and lymphocyte counts.
His findings are published in "Science Studies Yoga," Himalayan Publishers.
Transcendental Meditation (TM) and Brain Function
There are now more than 600 scientific studies of the various benefits of Transcendental Meditation
which were independently conducted at 250 universities and institutions in 30 countries. These studies, published in over 100 scientific magazines, report of improvements such as: decreases in stress hormones like cortisol, decreases in muscle tension, decreases of elevated blood pressure, increases in memory and concentration, stabilization of the autonomic nervous system, reduction of cardiovascular risk factors, increased self-confidence, and stabilization of chronic alcoholics. Some studies also show (where tested) decreases in prison violence and health problems and even ecological changes associated with the TM program.
For more on the Transcendental Meditation research studies, please see:
· Research on the Transcendental Meditation technique, Maharishi University of Management
· Summary of Scientific Research on Maharishi's Transcendental Meditation..., by Dr. Roger Chalmers