How does meditation help the ageing process?
How does meditation help the ageing process?
I get asked a lot of questions about my skin, and how I maintain the glow in my skin. Of course, I eat well, by this I mean the foods that cause an imbalance in my gut and blood structure are kept away. When it comes to health, I always believe one should just wear one hat, by this I mean, the one hat that I wear at all times is to just 'quit' these foods completely. This in itself is a big plus as far as I am concerned in keeping my skin healthy and helping beat the ageing process.
Having said that, another tool that has helped me tremendously has been my meditation practice, which I have kept on for the last 26 years, for one hour a day daily. Everyday stress, be it environmental or emotional stress raises your cortisol levels which will impact your skin and the ageing process. High cortisol levels can lead to dry, thinning of the skin and accelerate premature ageing. We are continuously in flight and fight mode, in this situation our heart rate speeds up, and our breathing gets heavier and faster. The digestion slows down so that the body can use this energy for different actions. Glucose is released as well as fat in the bloodstream to help us cope with stressful situation. The body's inflammatory response is activated.
A few key markers are used to determine the ageing process, one is shortening telomeres. These are DNA and protein complexes located at the end of your chromosomes (think of shoelaces and the caps at the end of your shoelace). In general, intact telomeres shorten with age and are a sign of ageing as well as the onset of many diseases. Stress also shortens our telomeres as does living an unhealthy lifestyle.
We know that meditation reduces the stress response of the body. It has been termed as mind-body complementary medicine. It produces a deep state of relaxation and produces a calm mind. This, in turn, benefits the emotional well-being of a person and impacts overall health. Research points to the fact that those who do engage in meditation regularly begin to experience changes in their response to stress that then makes them face stressful situations very differently in their life. Meditation should be an integral part of your anti-ageing regimen.
Here is how meditation can help you with the health of your skin and beat the ageing process:
- Meditation increases the length of telomerase activity and longer telomere length. This happens due to the reduction of stress while meditating. Just 15 minutes of meditation daily helps with telomerase production.
- Over an 18-year, analysis of the mind of a Buddhist monk by the Centre of Healthy Minds at the University of Wisconsin – Madison found, that daily intensive meditation slowed the monk's brain ageing by as much as eight years when compared to a control group. So, meditation does help the brain also beat its ageing process.
- Since meditation decreases stress levels, and stress reduces the collagen and elastin of the skin; meditation does benefit skin health as well. Meditation reduces age-accelerating biochemicals and increases collagen.
- Meditation aids the uptake of more oxygen in the body, it brings in energy (prana or chi) and this repairs skin tissue and cells, which add to the skin glow.
- Meditation can improve the quality of your skin’s barrier, making it smooth and plump and reducing rosacea and acne.
- Research points to the fact that meditation significantly reduces the body's inflammatory response and reduces inflammation markers. This plays a large role in anti-ageing.
- Meditation can cause a positive activation of multiple genes of the immune system.
- Chronic stress throws off the gut microbiome and meditation help's a healthy microbiota produces short chain fatty acids that exert anti-inflammatory and anti-tumour effects.
Let’s Meditate (Excerpt from Vipassana: The Timeless Secret To Meditate and be Calm by Shonali Sabherwal)
I would like to take you through the first part of Vipassana meditation. It’s called Anapana, which means observation of natural, normal respiration as it comes in and as it goes out. It is the first step in the practice of Vipassana meditation. I will take you through it so you have some practice with it before you decide to go for a ten-day course.
Ten Steps for Anapana Meditation
- Find a comfortable position to sit in. You may use a cushion to sit on the floor, a chair or a stool. Your back must be upright. You are allowed to use a backrest if you feel you need to.
- Close your eyes.
- Bring your attention above the upper lip, below the nostrils and start observing the breath.
- The incoming and outgoing breath, as is.
- Try to observe it going in and out of the nostrils.
- If you find your breath touching anywhere in this area, then observe it.
- You may get many thoughts and the mind may not be able to focus, but keep bringing it back to this area.
- The old pattern of the mind is to jump from one thought to the other. Just keep bringing it back to this area. Do not chant or visualize anything.
- Don’t judge it and don’t force it as the breath may be short or long, going through each nostril. Our job is to just be aware that there is an incoming and outgoing breath.
- Observe your breath: slowly you will find your mind will be able to concentrate.
- Observe the breath for ten minutes and then try and increase it every day by another ten minutes.