Abstract Details

Physiological and Subjective Correlates of Three Types of Body-focused Meditation: A Pilot Study  Dianne Trussell (Byron Bay, NSW Australia)   C22

The aim of this study was to establish a model for a postgraduate project on comparative physiology and psychology of different types of meditation and their health implications. Many forms of meditation focus on the mind with the assumption that the brain is responsible for states of consciousness and their physical and psychological effects. The rest of the body is viewed as a recipient of the mental process rather than an active determinant. As a result, mind-based forms of meditation now predominate. However what if human consciousness, mind and intelligence are determined as much by the rest of the body as by the brain? A brain and body are composed of cells, and all cells communicate at multiple levels. What if by focusing only on the brain in studying states of consciousness such as meditation, we are missing an important part of the picture, namely the body's contribution? This study compares 3 specific variants of meditation in which the body has a more active role, using different aspects of the body-mind relationship: Breath focused meditation (BFM) All focus is on the breath whilst sitting comfortably. The mind's role is to pay attention to the movements of breathing at the nose. Body focused yoga (BFY) All focus is on being consciously present in the whole body whilst passively sitting or lying down. The mind steps aside to allow the body to determine its own movements. Walking in conscious presence (WCP) All focus is on being consciously present in the whole body such that the mind and body cooperate as one in the movement of walking. Equal numbers of male and female subjects aged 18 years or over were profiled by age, occupation, health status, weight, diet, sleep, medication, drugs and addictions, frequency of meditation or yoga practice, and frequency of walking for exercise. Subjects filled in the Beliefs About Consciousness and Reality Questionnaire (BACARQ) of Baruss and Moore before the experimental conditions to ascertain their attitudes about material and spiritual life. This attitude may impact whether or not subjects believe meditation has any value. Subjects filled in the Psychological Wellbeing Scale of Carol Ryff before meditation sessions. Immediately after sessions the subjects also described their experiences of participating in the study. Physiological measurements were made on an iphone using the Welltory app. It measures heart rate, heart rate variability and heart beat interval. It calculates the balance of parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous activity which provides information about stress handling. Welltory was used to establish personal baselines in various normal life situations before meditation sessions began. It was repeated immediately before and after the meditation sessions and will be repeated at a later date to test for durability of effects if there are any. Data was tested for correlations between type of meditation, physiological measures and psychological well-being scores. As expected, subjects improved psychologically after meditation. Some physiological factors improved with meditation, others were variable and difficult to interpret superficially. The physiological complexity revealed by Welltory measurements requires more in-depth study.