Yoga practitioners are well aware of the benefits this activity produces, be they mental or physical. However, now their beliefs are also backed up by scientific research. A new study shows clearly how yoga and meditation have an important impact on pain perception. These findings were recorded by PhD student Tim Gard from Maastricht University in the Netherlands. He started his research from the idea that mindfulness can attenuate pain. From there on he started studying the mechanisms involved in the process.
Tim Gard carried out an experiment in order to collect the data he needed. He applied unpleasant electric stimuli to volunteers forming two groups: one groups of seventeen people sitting in a meditative state and a control group of seventeen people with similar healthy lifestyles. All test subjects were in an fMRI scanner when the stimuli were applied.
The results that came back were surprising. The tests revealed that the mindfulness practitioners were able to reduce pain “perception by 22 percent and anticipatory anxiety by 29 percent” while in a meditative state. The researcher was thus able to locate the exact areas of the brain were activity was decreased and the ones were activity was increased, which in turn caused the reduced pain perception.
The images from the fMRI also showed that veteran yoga practitioners had better organized and sturdier brain networks. The brain scans also calculated the fluid intelligence. This is the ability to reason in new situation. The research has shown that the yoga practitioners had a smaller decrease in fluid intelligence than the members of the control group.
“It’s fascinating to see how yoga and meditation can positively influence our brains and our psyches, and thus can lead to increased well-being,” said Gard, whose PhD dissertation titled “The neural and psychological mechanisms of yoga and mindfulness meditation” was defended in March.
Do you think these studies could lead to finding cures against chronic pain?