Meditation, along with yoga, has become a widespread relaxing activity in busy cities overflowing with crowds of people, tons of information, and rumble of cars. Many people, however, fail to immerse themselves into meditation as their brains start producing annoying thoughts while they’re strenuously trying to focus on their breathing. What might come as a pleasant surprise is, sitting still like a Buddhist monk is not mandatory. At least, not in moving meditation – an umbrella term for a rich variety of meditative techniques grounded on repetitive, mindful movements.
What is meditation?
Meditation is a popular technique for resting the mind and immersing in a specific state of consciousness which is completely different from your normal state. Essentially, it is a mental exercise that involves relaxation, focus, and awareness. In principle, it is an analog to physical training, but for your mind.
While you meditate, your mind is clear, relaxed, and inwardly focused. This is not hypnosis, you are fully aware of what’s going on around you, but your focus is directed inwardly. Meditation produces an inner state that is still and one-pointed so that the mind eventually becomes silent. When it is silent and cannot distract you anymore, meditation deepens. Oftentimes, meditation is performed in a still position, but it is not always so.
Benefits of meditation
Meditation has a huge number of scientifically proven benefits.
Reducing stress and anxiety
For most people, stress and anxiety are daily life problems. There is a strong pressure on you to exceed in your tasks, both at work and at home.
Stress has a whole bunch of negative health effects, which are not only mental but purely physical. Stress can physically damage your heart muscle by increasing your heart rate and constricting blood vessels (12), negatively affect your libido (14), trigger weight gain, and worsen mental health.
Research published in JAMA Internal Medicine in January 2014, found meditation helpful for relieving anxiety, pain, and depression (6). Another eight-week study showed that following the meditation style called “mindfulness meditation” reduced the inflammatory response caused by stress (1). Furthermore, meditation may also improve symptoms of stress-related conditions, which include irritable bowel syndrome, post-traumatic stress disorder, and fibromyalgia (4, 16).
While having roots in religious practices, meditation has visibly proven positive effects on stress, thus being incredibly helpful regarding its main purpose.
If you’ve dipped your toes in meditation before but couldn’t sit through a session because of all the thoughts buzzing in your head, impulses snatching away control or all the overwhelming feelings that start bubbling up the minute you sink into the silence, it’s only because you didn’t have the right guidance. Start using BetterMe: Meditation & Sleep app and watch your life transform!
A 2003 study (3) was conducted specifically to test the effects of meditation on immunity. Several biotech workers participated in weekly meditation training throughout eight weeks. It was then concluded that they had significantly higher levels of antibodies compared to the control group who didn’t meditate, as well as increased levels of antibodies than when they started the study.
Moreover, mindfulness meditation increases the electrical activity in the left part of the brain, which is the main commander of your immune system. The findings of the 2016 comprehensive review of 20 studies exploring the effects of meditation on immunity suggest possible effects of mindfulness meditation on specific markers of inflammation, cell-mediated immunity, and biological aging (8).
Promoting quality and deep sleep
Good sleep is a way for the body to replenish its energy stores and get prepared for the next day full of new tasks and challenges. While you’re sleeping, your brain collects all essential information inside and gets rid of excess information you’ve received during the day. Everyone wants to remain active and in their best productive state when the concentration levels are at a peak. Yet bad sleep leaves people feeling irritated and lethargic all day, drastically reducing attention span and ability to concentrate on things.
In a 2015 study (7), 49 middle-aged and older people, who had sleeping problems, were divided into two groups. One of the groups was introduced to a mindfulness meditation program and the other one took sleep education classes. The group involved in the mindfulness program had less insomnia, fatigue, and depression. Hence, meditation is a proven way to make your sleep deep and relaxed, recharging you for the busy day.
Making you live longer
Everyone wants to live a happy and healthy life naturally. And the human advancements made in medicine and technology have certainly increased the chances of human survival. But the point is, relying on new medicines and surgeries is not the best way to ensure your daily healthy life. Not to be misunderstood: there is nothing wrong with modern healthcare, and it is incredibly effective in treating many diseases, but the changes in lifestyle can prevent the appearance of illnesses in the first place. It is the lifestyle that is crucial for your health, and even spending a ton of money on healthcare won’t replace your training and dieting.
Sometimes popping pills is unavoidable, but trying to make your life less stressful by yourself is much more reasonable in many cases.
One study (13) cited the increase in telomere length in the immune cells of people after they took part in an intensive meditation programme. The scientists have previously found the connection between the length of the telomeres (part of your DNA) and the cellular aging and physiological stress. That is, the longer is the length of the telomeres, the better your longevity. So, meditation can actually make you live longer.
A wonder for pain relief
Meditation is known to calm you down, relieve stress, and strengthen your mental abilities. Somewhat surprisingly, it can also aid in physical pain relief: those horrible episodes when you experience sudden searing pain in any part of your body which makes you crumple to the ground. It has long been proved that practicing meditation can long-lastingly reduce the effects of immediate pain by nearly half.
A recent study (9) found that a 20-minute session of mindfulness meditation daily by the participants over four days reduced the pain intensity by 27%, and emotional pain by 44%. Meditation produced a greater reduction in pain even more than morphine or other pain-relieving drugs, which typically reduce pain ratings by about 25%.
What is a moving meditation?
Moving meditation is a meditative state, a shift of consciousness while doing simple movements. It involves moving slowly, firmly, and rhythmically, with correct postures and with deep continuous breaths. The physical movements help you focus your thoughts on the movements themselves, allowing you to flow in the river of your unguided thoughts while keeping your mind clear and focused.
It also helps you in bringing greater awareness and inner peace within yourself. There are many types of moving meditation you might try to find, and select which one fits your personality the most.
Types of moving meditation
Walking meditation, also known as “Kinhin” in Zen traditions, is a simple and widespread practice for elaborating calmness, connectedness, and awareness. The art of walking meditation is learning awareness while walking, cultivating mindfulness, and an alerting presence at the moment. This form of meditation is more than a simple stroll in the park. It is usually done much slower than normal walks and involves either coordination with the breathing, or specific focusing practices. It looks more like meditation than walking. Practitioners move slowly, continuously, and deliberately while staying aware of the mind and body. They emphasize good posture, taking deep breaths, and feeling the motions of the body while walking. The walking should be continuous, so it is best to pick a space you can roam around safely. For instance, you might walk through a huge field, the nearest park, or even your backyard.
In walking meditation, there’s a bit more interaction with the outside world than in seated one. Your eyes are open, and your body is moving. Many beginners find walking meditation easier than seated one, as concentrating on your movements and body is less demanding when you’re moving.
Running a never-ending rat race, shoving trauma further and further away, falling into self-harming thought patterns, living life that’s eclipsed by constant anxiety and fear – this is what an average person goes through every day. Nor addressing it will only pull you deeper into a downward spiral. BetterMe: Meditation & Sleep app will help you gain a new perspective on life and help you regain that long-lost internal balance!
Like yoga, qigong has a long-standing history. Coming from China over 4,000 years ago, this is a traditional ancient practice that has been incorporated into Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, and other eastern philosophies. Relating to martial arts and Chinese medicine, qigong combines slow graceful movement, mental concentration, and breathwork to center the mind and body, and enhance your mental and physical health.
It regulates the chi energy in your body, offering a distinctive way to investigate meditation while moving. The rhythmic, slow and fluid movements, practice in deep breathing, and focus on balancing the energy are low-impact, so almost anyone can practice regardless of physical circumstances. Qigong is connected to the lowering of blood pressure, improving biomarkers of heart health, boosting bone health, significantly reducing Body Mass Index, and enhancing strength, balance, and flexibility (2). Qigong as a practice can be used for mental, physical, or spiritual purposes.
This ancient wellness practice, meaning “Grand Ultimate” in Chinese, is all about aligning energy in the body as well as the mind. In traditional Chinese medicine, illness, or pain happens when the life force, chi, is disrupted. Tai chi is supposed to realign the body’s chi through the performance of a series of movements in a slow, focused manner, which are accompanied by deep breathing. It is a non-competitive, self-paced system of gentle physical exercising, and stretching, which looks like slow-motion dancing from outside. Each posture smoothly flows into the next, ensuring that your body is in constant motion.
Tai chi reduces stress and anxiety (15), improves mood (11), promotes weight loss, improves cognition, and alleviates fibromyalgia symptoms (5). There are various styles of tai chi, some emphasize relaxation and health maintenance, while others focus on martial arts aspects of tai chi.
Learning moving meditation
Every type of moving meditation has its own rules, yet there exist general principles that apply to all moving meditation types as well as yoga.
You can be mindful of the motion of your muscles, and your contact with external surfaces such as objects or the floor. It is possible that you notice the movement of energy within the body and the interchange of that energy with the external world. You may pay attention to your body’s natural responses to various stimuli like the rhythm of the music, the spatial position of individual body parts, the sensations throughout the body (feeling of warmth, cold, pressure, pain, pleasure), your breathing in sync with your movements or independent of them, or the state of stillness (10).
Be aware of all parts of your body
During the moving meditation sessions, you can direct attention to the body parts you don’t usually notice. For instance, while performing an exercise, you can shift attention to your toes, elbows, or the top of your head. While focusing on some body part, you can notice and appraise its state.
Slowness allows you to perceive more of the individual motions within a larger motion. For example, if you quickly raise an arm straight up, you’ll probably notice only the single upward movement, but if you do it slowly, you might perceive many separate events within the body. If you move at a slower pace, you can notice the contractions of various muscles, the adjustments in the joints as they adapt to the changing positions, and the constant physical balancing. You can feel the heat generated in the muscles, as well as a gentle stretching of tissue to allow arm’s movement.
Have a sense of lightness
When your body makes its movements, at its own pace, you experience lightness, effortlessness, gentleness, and softness. Allow the energy in your body to uphold you and propel you easily, coming in terms with gravity.
To sum up, moving meditation is a whole spectrum of ancient practices with an avalanche of health benefits. Moving meditation is not straining for your muscles, and can be practiced by almost everybody. While each technique has its own rules, the general principles include body awareness, as well as slow and rhythmic movements. Regularly practicing moving meditation can immensely improve your health markers, as well as the overall quality of life.
Press play to sink into deep meditation and bring yourself one step closer to being fully aware, fully awake, and fully alive.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- A comparison of mindfulness-based stress reduction and an active control in modulation of neurogenic inflammation (2013, sciencedirect.com)
- A Comprehensive Review of Health Benefits of Qigong and Tai Chi (2011, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Alterations in Brain and Immune Function Produced by Mindfulness Meditation (2003, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- A Review on How Meditation Could Be Used to Comfort the Terminally Ill (2015, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Effect of tai chi versus aerobic exercise for fibromyalgia: comparative effectiveness randomized controlled trial (2018, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Meditation Programs for Psychological Stress and Well-Being: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis (2014, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Mindfulness Meditation and Improvement in Sleep Quality and Daytime Impairment Among Older Adults With Sleep Disturbances (2015, jamanetwork.com)
- Mindfulness meditation and the immune system: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials (2016, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Mindfulness Meditation-Based Pain Relief Employs Different Neural Mechanisms Than Placebo and Sham Mindfulness Meditation-Induced Analgesia (2015, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Movement Meditation (n.d., trans4mind.com)
- Qigong and Tai-Chi for Mood Regulation (2017, researchgate.net)
- Stress and Heart Disease (n.d., stress.org)
- Telomere lengthening after three weeks of an intensive insight meditation retreat (2015, sciencedirect.com)
- The impact of anxiety on sexual arousal in women (2015, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- The Effects of Twelve Weeks of Tai Chi Practice on Anxiety in Stressed But Healthy People Compared to Exercise and Wait‐List Groups–A Randomized Controlled Trial (2017, onlinelibrary.wiley.com)
- The Theoretical and Empirical Basis for Meditation as an Intervention for PTSD (2012, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)