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How Meditation Reshapes our Brain

Sara Lazar | 8:35


Good morning. 

So when I was in graduate school, I was a runner, and a friend and I decided that we're going to run the Boston Marathon. And so we started training and we overtrained and I developed knee and back problems. So when to see a physical therapist, and they told me that I had to stop running, and instead, I should just stretch. 

As I was leaving the therapists office, the physical therapists office, I saw an ad for a vigorous yoga class, that promise not only to promote flexibility, but also to promote strength, and cardio respiratory fitness. So I thought, Oh, well, this is a great way that I can stretch, but also remain in shape. And maybe I could even still run the Boston Marathon. So I went to the yoga class. And I really enjoyed it, except for when the teacher would make all sorts of claims, you know, all sorts of medical claims, but also all sorts of claims about oh, yes, it will help you. You increase your compassion and open your heart. And it's just like, my eyes would roll. And I think, yeah, I'm here for, you know, stretch. 

But what was interesting was that after a couple of weeks, I started noticing some of these changes, I started noticing that I was calmer, and I was better able to handle difficult situations. And that indeed, I was feeling more compassionate and open hearted towards other people. And I was better able to see things from other people's point of view. 

And, you know, I was like, Huh, you know, how could this be? How could this be? And I thought, well, maybe, you know, it's just a placebo response, right? She told me, he's gonna feel this. So maybe that's, that's why I was feeling it. So I decided to do a literature search to see if there's any research on this. And lo and behold, there was quite a bit showing, both yoga and meditation are extremely effective for decreasing stress. They're also very good for reducing symptoms associated with numerous diseases, including depression, anxiety, pain, and insomnia. 

They also, there's a couple of very good studies demonstrating it can actually improve your ability to pay attention. And most interestingly, I thought, virtually every study has shown that people are just happier, they report a they're more satisfied of their life, and they have a higher quality of life. And so this was interesting to me. And so I decided to switch and start doing the sort of research. And so as a neuroscientist, you know, how could this be happening? What's you know, how can you something as silly as a yoga posture or sitting in watching your breath? How could that lead to all these sorts of different types of changes.

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