A very modern problem
Have you ever been on holiday and found it hard to relax? Do you feel restless in the evenings? Can’t help playing with your smartphone or flicking channels on the TV?
If the answer is yes, then it’s likely your nervous system has programmed itself to operate at an adrenalised and over-stimulated pace. In our hectic modern world, it can be tough to find the off switch.
Every single day, I feel more balanced, relaxed and clear in my thinking.
Rich, Photographer, London
Why does this happen?
When it comes to maintaining balance and recovering from any episodes of stress we may experience, we rely on a vital bit of kit called the parasympathetic nervous system. It is fundamental to keeping us calm. One of its many useful functions is to stimulate something called the vagus nerve, which calms the heart down after it has been overworked.
However, repeated stress causes our parasympathetic nervous system to be inhibited. As a result, the vagus nerve doesn’t activate to calm our heart back to its natural rate. Consequently, the body finds itself in a constant state of emergency alertness and we’re never quite able to calm ourselves to a comfortable level of equilibrium.
I'm far more relaxed than I used to be and stay calm in situations that normally would have triggered a not-all-that-calm reaction.
Anika, Marketing Executive, Munich
How does Vedic relaxation help?
When we meditate, we break through all the layers of inner resistance that hold us back from being able to truly relax. Our mind, body and nervous system gently move in the direction of settling down.
The mantras used in Vedic meditation have such a soothing effect that our nervous system restores to its most natural equilibrium. The vagus nerve engages fully, our heart rate calms down, and all systems can now settle into a state of complete relaxation.
Within seconds of saying the mantra, our mind starts to move towards complete coherence and every muscle in the body melts into a state of comfort we ordinarily only achieve with a massage or a hot bath.
Rather than feeling fidgety, we are extremely happy and contented to sit quietly while the bliss chemistry triggered by meditation washes over our system.
After 20 minutes’ meditation, we feel fully recharged and completely ready to face the demands of our day or to embrace the evening or weekend, without the tensions of life overshadowing our experience.
We can engage fully in everything that we do, gliding through our day with ease.
It's the easiest thing I ever did. I've been doing it twice a day since I was 18. I love to do it after the show. I find it very relaxing.
Howard Stern, Radio DJ
What's the proof?
The frontal lobes of meditators demonstrate increased alpha waves, which are associated with relaxation.
Vedic meditation has been shown to promote physiological and biochemical effects that are the direct opposite of stress, including decreased plasma cortisol, deep muscle relaxation, reduced physical excitation and increased wakefulness. These effects are found to be twice as strong as those demonstrated in ordinary rest.
A meta-analysis of 146 studies examined the effects of various relaxation techniques, including Vedic meditation, on anxiety. The effect size for Vedic meditation was 2½ times that of other forms of meditation.
A recent study demonstrated that Vedic meditation not only reduces stress via activation of the fight or flight response, it also increases the activity of the parasympathetic nervous system, which leads to us feeling more relaxed when we meditate.
Tests using Galvanic Skin Resistance (GSR) to measure how relaxed someone is have shown that, during Vedic meditation, the GSR levels increase by between 250% and 500%. This is more than double what we experience during sleep.