Prenatal and Postpartum Health: The Benefits of Meditation
By Stacy Seebart
“Meditation training begins with the first yoga class, the moment the teacher says, ‘Close your eyes and go inside’. This simple invitation to go inward is an opportunity to begin to notice our experience.” – Don Stapleton, Ph.D.
Asanas (yoga postures) open up the body so we can breath more effectively. We focus on our breathing to connect deeper with in and explore our internal universe. We meditate so that we can clear our minds. Clearing and calming the mind will bring the body, mind, and spirit towards balance.
Science and Meditation
Scientific studies can show us charts, percentages, and statistics showing us evidence that meditation is beneficial for our whole physiological system. Meditation is especially beneficial to our nervous and endocrine systems. We know that the endocrine system is responsible for producing hormones. During pregnancy and during the postnatal period the production and influx of hormones is at the greatest than in any other time of life.
Stress and anxiety (like what might occur during the major life change of becoming a mother) produces hormones called cortisol and adrenaline. These stress hormones can weaken the immune system. Stress can also spike blood pressure levels- which could contribute to a condition some women have during pregnancy called preeclampsia. Meditation can significantly reduce blood pressure levels, boost immunity and create balanced hormones. One of the first important health effects of meditation to be discovered by modern medicine was that it lowers blood pressure. Today there is strong evidence that meditation helps lower blood pressure and heart rate. The findings have been replicated in many studies. (Murphy and Donovan, The Physical and Psychological Effects of Meditation, IONS, 1999. calmbirth.org)
Meditation produces the ‘feel good’ hormones called endorphins (pain reducing) and melatonin (relaxing). Wouldn’t you like to experience your life with reduced pain and feeling a bit more relaxed?
Scientific medical facts aside- there has long been the practice used by yogis on using imagery during meditation. These ideas are not new. Visualizing a safe, healthy body, visualizing a safe and supportive home. Manifesting, projecting, breathing in and breathing out positivity.
“What you think you will become.” – Buddha.
“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.” -Gandhi.
We All Want to Feel Good
The “feel good’ hormones start moving through your system, your heart rate decreases, anxiety melts away and you start to feel connected. Not only do you feel more connected to your body on the inside but a deeper connection to all that is around you. We know that pregnancy and the postpartum period can be an isolating time for many new mothers. Meditation allows you to find a connection that is beyond just your physical form. You get a sense of well being that is greater than yourself. Some call it faith, support from their higher self, connection to the cosmos or to ancestors. Whatever that connection is that you find-you start to realize that you are not alone. Your body begins to believe your positive thoughts—how strong, capable and supported you are.
Balanced hormones, physiological changes, decreased blood pressure, connection, and relaxation! The practice of meditation covers it all. Science will guarantee that you will have less stress and anxiety (more endorphins and melatonin, less adrenaline and cortisol) if you have a regular meditation practice.
Often we focus so much on the physical and not so much on the mental aspects of ourselves. To create wholeness and a more balanced life in all areas- start your meditation practice today.
To get started, here are some tips to inspire more relaxation during meditation:
- Find a style that fits your personality—seated with the eyes closed, sitting outside in nature, or gazing at a burning candle flame.
- Find a quiet environment—turn your cell phone ringer off, put out a ‘do not disturb’ sign, and go someplace where you cannot be bothered.
- Find a comfortable position—this will come with time. In the beginning your body might reveal aches and pains until you get used to sitting for longer periods of time. This is where the yoga (asana) practice helps out so much.
- Have a passive attitude—you do not have to accomplish anything; there is no place to ‘get to’ while meditating.
- Be fluid—when your thoughts start to wander and come into your awareness, notice them like floating clouds in the sky; let them float away and keep returning back to your breath.
Happy Meditating! Remind yourself before and after you meditate of the many positive health benefits. This will help meditation become a part of your daily life. ~Namaste~