"Do these body mind exercises actually increase longevity in humans?"
Some skeptics may criticize them, but people who practice various types of mind exercises all experience a wide range of health benefits. Not only do these people learn how to be positive, how to handle stress and how to break bad habits while at the same time developing good habits, but they can also learn how to control biological functions that can naturally lower blood pressure, reverse heart disease and improve or even cure just about any other kind of disease. All of this truly does result in changes in life expectancy.
Scientific research is increasingly beginning to focus on the effects meditation has on health and human longevity potential. One three year study that took place at an elderly care facility found that 80 year olds who learned how to meditate were happier, better adjusted to their environment and lived longer. If people at the end of their life had such amazing results, can you imagine what effect this might have on your long term health and lifespan development if you began practicing it now?
Essentially I have chosen to use the term "mind exercises" because this confuses many people as the term meditation is actually very specific to a certain type of practice. There are many types of mind body exercises, yet they all have profound benefits that result in teaching you how to handle stress in every day life through relaxing areas of your body you weren't even aware were holding tension. The following are some articles on mental exercises (that may involve minimal physical movement) and explanations about frames of mind that will have benefits for your health and longevity:
~Brain exercises for improving memory
~Positive self affirmations
~Diaphragmatic breathing exercises
~Setting goals in life
~Benefits of a positive attitude
~Importance of proper posture and ergonomics
~Having a sense of purpose
~Benefits of prolonging orgasm and tantric sex
~Challenging yourself for a lifetime
Along with teaching you how to handle stress, mind exercises will begin to change any underlying belief and personality structures that are limiting your true potential.
"What do my beliefs have to do with my health and longevity?" you might ask. Well, if you've ever heard people say things like "your thoughts create your reality" and you were confused or you thought they were just being "flaky-airy-fairy", they probably just did a poor job of explaining how this actually works (or they just didn't know!). The following quote perfectly illustrates how beliefs and thoughts about certain things actually do make an impact on your life and reality.
"Your Beliefs become your thoughts.
Your thoughts become your words.
Your words become your actions.
Your actions become your habits.
Your habits become your values.
Your values become your destiny."
Let's imagine a scenario for a moment. If someone grows up with the belief that they're a victim in life (often due to some sort of event or series of events that first "installed" this belief) they will have what is known as a "poor me" type of attitude. Thoughts then begin to play over in their conscious or unconscious-mind causing them to use words like "everyone's out to get me, can you give me some sympathy?". People with this type of belief are always trying to have others feel sorry for them and comfort them. The problem with this is that these people repeat the same actions that drew the problem to them in the first place! (Like not paying their taxes to get their financial life in order.)
"Why does my vehicle always get the parking ticket?" Can you hear the annoying whine in that voice? If you choose to repeat the same actions over and over again you will soon be forming habits that will drag you down in life. The human mind likes to make up reasons to avoid facing up to reality to change bad habits and that's when values form. This victim might hold the value that the parking enforcement (and probably all forms of government backed enforcement agencies) are actually a bunch of rich greedy *insert various expletives*. This will lead to a destiny of them always being emotionally triggered whenever they get a parking ticket. This may even prevent them from learning to be more cautious about parking next time since they truly believe that they are a victim in life.
By developing conscious awareness in everyday life through body mind exercises, this "victim" could learn how to be positive in any situation. Learning how to handle stress is less taxing to the adrenals (the gland responsible for producing life extension hormones) which is something we all want to strive for in this already over-stimulated society. Mind exercises, like those found in the Tibetan meditation traditions (or other traditions) have been found to literally "re-wire" the brain so that you actually change your perspective of the world around you.
What does a lifetime of constant low level stress do to the body?
Fast paced societies around the world are actually the places that need mind exercises the most. Yet many ancient practices that have meditation techniques built into them actually sprung up in remote regions of the world that were sparsely populated. To truly understand the immense value of practicing mind exercises that teach you how to handle stress you need to have a basic understanding of the nervous system.
There are two types of nervous system responses to our external environment. The first one is the sympathetic N.S. (nervous system) response, which is known as fight or flight, and then there is the parasympathetic N.S. response, also known as rest and digest. As the names suggest, fight or flight gets activated when you feel "threatened" (aka rushed, in a hurry, forced to work in cramped conditions with poor environmental "synergy" etc) and rest and digest is activated when you relax and "take it easy" (that being said, it is still possible to do things quickly while staying relaxed).
We developed these two sides of our nervous system through evolution. Back in the day when humans were hairy apes, if they were sitting around eating berries or some other type of food, their body would be focused on digestion and staying relaxed so that as much blood and energy as possible would go into assimilating the food and distributing the nutrients to the tissues that needed repair. If there was suddenly an attack from a saber-tooth tiger, the hairy ape's body would have to react with lightning speed to get away and save its life (or to stand its ground and fight). The fight or flight response is instantly triggered and the blood rushes to the muscles of the body including the heart and lungs to help it preserve its life. Because of this, digestion and other functions that are unnecessary for the present moment stop almost entirely. If the ape survives, it can return to rest and digest once out of harms way.
It is important to also recognize that you're never going to go from fight or flight back down to rest and digest like flipping a switch (where as it is easy to trigger fight or flight like a light switch in an instant). When you have to deal with stressful situations and you enter the fight or flight N.S. response, to get back down to rest and digest you will gradually shift back down to it as your heart rate, blood pressure and breathing rate slow and lower back down. So it might make more sense to think of this as a sliding scale, where on one end you have the extreme "I'm at the wrong end of a gun barrel" type of fight or flight response, and at the other end you have the "I'm having the most incredibly relaxing deep-tissue Swedish massage" type of rest and digest response. As you can imagine, there would be lots of in between possibilities for those two scenarios! Being late for work isn't going to cause as massive of an adrenaline rush as being chased by a carnivorous animal, but it's still more stressful than watching a movie that has someone late for work in it!
Most people walk around with chronic tension in their body due to constant low level stress along with frequent high stress bursts throughout their day.
Mind exercises help undo a lot of the conditioning you have grown up with in this culture. Society has ingrained these various patterns and ways of holding stress in your body deep into your subconscious mind (some people more than others). This constant low level stress accompanied by frequent high stress bursts (think of the morning commute to work for instance) increases cortisol release into the blood stream (hormone released under the fight or flight N.S. response). Cortisol is the signal to your body to begin breaking down tissues (catabolism) such as muscle and organ tissue, to survive whatever onslaught is occurring. (Vegan) Body-builders are especially knowledgeable about how to keep this hormone at bay since it breaks down all their hard earned muscle.
Cortisol also breaks down human growth hormone (which is the most important hormone for extending longevity in humans) in the body. Every longevity society that has ever been studied, live very relaxed lives. However, being relaxed does not mean that you have to be un-productive. These blue zones around the world are also home to some very hard working people. In fact almost every longevity society has no concept of retirement! Many centenarians are known to continue doing all sorts of work in their lives even if it's just keeping a vegetable garden and housecleaning. However, the key to their work is that they do it in a relaxed manner free from any neurotic need to impress or please someone else or themselves. They also know how to be positive and happy in everything that they do.
Certain body mind exercises that are learned, such as diaphragmatic breathing, are eventually carried over into every day life as ingrained stress relief techniques. By first practicing these mind exercises at home you re-teach your body, mind and/or emotions how to handle stress simply by never accumulating it in the first place. For example, when you are able to do deep diaphragmatic breathing in any situation, it is impossible for you to go into the fight or flight response. You will notice that anytime you are frustrated, angry or experiencing any other emotion of stress, you are actually breathing with just your upper chest. Furthermore, you can train your mind to be nonreactive to certain situations as well.
Mind exercises are good for teaching you how to handle stress from unbalanced mental, emotional and spiritual stimulus.
But if a stressor is from a physical source, such as toxic pesticides on food or bad posture, then we need to use physical means to correct it. In the case of bad posture, there may be a component of the problem which is emotional or mental in origin, in which case mind exercises will help with that, but you will still have to make the conscious effort to physically correct the posture! If a stressor is a unfamiliar toxin in the body (substances you have never encountered in your genetic history of evolution and have thus not developed a means of dealing with), you would need to ingest some sort of herb, super-food (such as chlorella), or raw food to help your body eliminate the offending substance. Mind exercises could be used to help relax the body enough that it helps eliminate the toxin, but whole food supplements will almost always need to be involved to do the actual "clean up work".
If it were the case that you could just sit around and meditate all the time and live a long life, then I would advocate doing so. But mind exercises are but a part of a complete maximum human longevity lifestyle. It's definitely a major component that many people overlook in their quest for health, but on the other end of the scale, there are those who claim that it's all that you need. This just simply is not true and you won't find any super-centenarians who known how to be positive all the time and "create their reality" yet still eat junk food and sit on the couch all day.
Perhaps the greatest part about body mind exercises is that they are free! Although you can make a great investment in a meditation teacher, books or other supplies, these practices don't even have to cost money. This web site (as well as many others on the net) offers many easy and free mind exercises that can start you on your path, or can add on to your current practice. All that is required of you is to start doing it!
Click to return from "Mind Exercises" to the homepage.