Active Meditation (as Compared to Relaxation) Changes the Brain

Researchers at the University of Oregon reviewed previous research and found that integrative body-mind training (IBMT), a form of active meditation that includes body posture adjustment, breathing practice, guided imagery, and mindfulness training accompanied by a music background improved the region of the brain that regulates behavior in 11 hours of training in just four weeks. “This dynamic pattern of white matter change involving the anterior cingulate cortex, a part of the brain network related to self-regulation, could provide a means for intervention to improve or prevent mental disorders.” Participants were coached in following the meditation instructions on a CD for twenty minutes a day. According to the study’s authors, the coaches are necessary in order to learn the technique. “They provide a relaxed atmosphere and give proper feedback for effective practice.”

Study author Michael Posner from the University of Oregon said, “We did confirm the exact locations of the white-matter changes that we had found previously. And now we show that both myelination and axon density are improving.” As compared to controls, who practiced a relaxation, students undergoing IBMT also reported improvements in mood, experiencing reduced levels of anger, depression, anxiety and fatigue. They also had lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol, the researchers said.

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For active meditations that are appropriate for mood disorders, where there is too much rumination to begin with mindfulness, click here.

About the Author

Amy Weintraub

Amy Weintraub E-RYT 500, MFA, YACEP, C-IAYT, founded the LifeForce Yoga® Healing Institute, which trains yoga and health professionals internationally, and is the author of Yoga for Depression and Yoga Skills for Therapists. The LifeForce Yoga protocol is used by health care providers worldwide. She is involved in ongoing research on the effects of yoga on mood.

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