The Scientific Benefits of Meditation: Head to Heart, Body to Mind

From the medical community to the yoga community, the verdict is in! You need to meditate! But what does science have to say about meditation? Learn more.

Denise Everheart
scientific benefits of meditation

Topics covered:

Benefits of meditation infographic

General benefits of meditation

Physical benefits of meditation

Mental benefits of meditation

Complex physical and mental benefits of meditation

How to get the benefits

How to Meditate

General benefits of meditation

Here are just a handful of meditation benefits that both medical experts and yoga practitioners have reported: 

  1. Reduced stress level 

  2. Less anxiety 

  3. Improved emotional health

  4. Enhanced self-awareness 

  5. More gratefulness

  6. Better focus 

  7. Improved sleep

  8. Helps control pain 

  9. Decreased blood pressure

  10. Increases productivity

For more about why to meditate, watch this video by Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, founder of the Art of Living Foundation and the topmost meditation expert.

Let’s take a deeper look at the benefits of meditation that have to do more with the physical aspect, starting with the brain.

Physical benefits of meditation

When meditating, the body undergoes a structural change, which demonstrates the profound impact of simply sitting down to meditate with eyes closed. In fact, MRI images show a complete change in the brain’s different compartments, which results in a relaxation response in the rest of the body. When meditating, beta waves, which indicate a state where information is being processed, decrease and are replaced by alpha waves, which are associated with total brain coherence. The frontal and parietal lobes, which deal with reasoning, planning, and processing sensory information, slow down. And without an abundance of incoming stimuli, the nervous system can rest, resulting in relaxation and improved functioning in the entire body.

In two studies from Harvard University, researchers found that long-term meditators have increased amounts of gray matter in the insula and sensory regions and the auditory and sensory cortex. But what does all this science mean for real-life physical benefits?

1. Stress. The Mayo Clinic says meditation is a simple, fast way to reduce stress. Many experts believe that you cannot find a better, natural way with no side effects, to manage stress than through a meditation practice. 

That is unless you incorporate breathwork such as SKY Breath Meditation. Research shows that the stress hormone serum cortisol has a 78% reduction. Another popular meditation technique, without the benefit of incorporating breathwork, Transcendental Meditation, reports a 30% reduction in cortisol. Arguably, most meditation techniques should reduce stress hormones to some degree.

2. Anxiety. Mindfulness meditation has grown in popularity in recent years and may be beneficial for reducing anxiety. Recently, Yale published a study comparing breathing meditation to mindfulness for managing stress and anxiety. Read here to see the results.

3. Sleep. When it comes to any health-related concern, doctors will always ask if you are getting enough sleep, and what is the quality of your sleep. According to, insomnia is a common sleep problem for adults. They also state, “Not only can meditation improve your sleep quality, but it may also reduce blood pressure and ease pain, anxiety, and depression.”

4. Pain. A Wake Forest University study found that even with inducing pain while subjects meditated, “there was approximately a 40 percent reduction in pain intensity ratings during meditation when compared with non-meditation”. Chronic pain can be emotionally draining, but with meditation training, pain can lessen while the tolerance for pain can also increase.

5. Blood pressure. According to the Centers for Disease Control, CDC, “high blood pressure was the primary or contributing cause of death in 2017.” Another benefit of both mindfulness meditation and mantra meditation techniques is a natural lowering of high blood pressure, but may require daily meditation to continue benefits.

6. Heart health. Just as blood pressure is a major contributor to death, heart disease is the cause of death in over a half-million lives every year in the U.S., that’s 1 in 4 deaths. In addition to poor diets, stress affects heart health significantly. Sahaj Samadhi Meditation, an effortless mantra meditation practice, gives deep rest to the whole physiology. It does not require controlling the mind like concentration meditations, nor does it require vigilant observation of thoughts and emotions like mindfulness meditation. Thus, it is easier and quicker to learn than mindfulness or concentration, which requires a good deal of mental effort and takes a longer time to master.

7. Immunity. Dr. Richard Davidson at the University of Wisconsin-Madison studied whether meditation could impact the brain and immune function. The study took place over an eight week period and observed meditators and non-meditators responses to an initial injection of flu. The group who were eight taught meditation for the eight weeks showed an increase in their level of antibodies—responsible for reacting to and preventing illness.

And when it comes to SKY Breath Meditation there is an added benefit of increased Natural Killer Cell and lymphocyte count. Watch this quick video for a visual depiction!

Mental benefits of meditation

mental benefits
Just as there are multiple physical benefits to meditation
, there are many amazing mental health benefits of regular meditation practice. Let’s continue looking at some of the benefits related to the mind and well-being. 

8. Emotional health. A strong sense of well-being, contentment, and happiness all come about when there is an increase in serotonin production. In particular, with SKY Breath Meditation, researchers found increased levels of gratitudeself-esteem, optimism, joviality (e.g., joy, happiness, energy), serenity, life satisfaction, and quality of life in participants as early as day one of learning SKY.

9. Self-awareness and intuition. Just as meditation has a practical side, it can also have a spiritual side. From the beginning of time, yogis and yoginis have practiced meditating with the aim of higher states of consciousness. Scientists, in general, agree that humans only use about 30% of their capacity. Meditation is one way of expanding that capacity. In addition to self-awareness and intuition, many also use meditation for manifesting their goals and desires.

10. Attention span. According to researchers at Harvard University, “Our minds are lost in thought 47 percent of the time...dwelling in the past or worrying about the future”. Meditation, along with breathwork, is a powerful combination to bring the mind into the present moment, naturally resulting in increased attention span, mental clarity, and focus.

11. Depression. Professor Ronnie Newman Ed.M., C.A.S.,​ a Harvard-trained, award-winning researcher, finds SKY Breath Meditation from the very first session, there is a 68 to 80% remission rate for both depression and anxiety. In fact, research has shown SKY provided substantial relief from symptoms of depression in three weeks. And at three months individuals remained asymptomatic and stable.

12. Memory. The Art of Living breathing exercises, including SKY, were featured in a recent documentary on brain health called “The Truth About Memory Loss: Reducing, Repairing, and Reversing the Signs of Alzheimer’s and Dementia”.The film reveals some breakthrough science on a health epidemic expected to affect 40% of all baby boomers (40M Americans), including how Art of Living breathing exercises may boost brain health and reduce five of the six major risk factors for Alzheimer’s and dementia.

13. Personality development. Nearly everyone is interested in bettering themselves and improving their personality. SKY Breath Meditation is the perfect tool for increasing adaptability, becoming a better problem solver, improving communication skills and interpersonal relationships, and even empowering natural leadership skills.

All this and peace of mind, too! It’s clear that meditation can make your life better! Meditation, in many forms, has a vast wealth of benefits!

Complex physical and mental benefits of meditation


Sometimes, the dividing line between physical benefits and mental benefits is a blurry one. Especially when an affliction affects both the body and mind significantly, you will find meditation aiding both aspects.

14. Addictive behaviors. When it comes to withdrawal symptoms, meditation is especially helpful in reducing the symptoms related to stopping the addictive behavior. It’s easier to quit something unhealthy when the negative effects can be greatly reduced. 

15. PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). Iraq and Afghanistan veterans who practiced SKY had significant reductions in PTSD symptoms after just one week of SKY practice. Results persisted for one year with no follow-up sessions, demonstrating a long-term benefit.

16. Weight loss. Lowering stress is just one way that meditation can help with weight loss. Click here to learn more.

Here are some spiritual benefits of meditation.

How to get the benefits

meditation benefits

While there is no doubt that you will feel the benefits of meditation after just one session, in order to experience an integration of the benefits of meditation into daily life, regular practice is necessary. The busier we get, the more important meditation becomes. Try doing a morning meditation before the day’s chaos starts. It only takes a small part of your day, and once you make it a daily routine, meditation will become the best part of your day and set you up to enjoy the rest of the day! 

Think of meditation as a form of hygiene - the mental equivalent of brushing your teeth, if you will. Imagine if you never brushed your teeth - you would look like a toothless caveman! When you were young, you had to be trained to create the habit of brushing your teeth. However, now that brushing is routine, the thought of not doing it is disgusting! The same goes for meditation - once you get into the habit and experience all of the mental clarity, emotional stability, stress reduction, physical relaxation, inner peace, etc., that a meditation practice offers, not practicing meditation seems unimaginable!

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