Smarty (Yoga) Pants — Why It Matters
It’s not just tree huggers andultra-yogis who meditate. In 2007, about 9% of American adults tried getting into their Zen zones at least once in the past year. Most people say they meditate to manage stress, but meditative practiceaffects the brain in many other ways.
While people have been meditating for thousands of years, it wasn’t until the 1970s that scientists started focusing on its brainy benefits. Numerous studiessuggest that regular meditation (about six hours a week) may actually change brain structure. Scientists have found meditation is associated with a thicker cerebral cortex and more gray matter —i.e., the parts of the brain linked to memory, attention span, decisionmaking and learning. But a year of silent meditation isn’t always necessary. One study found people who meditated at least once aweek for four years showed increased cortical gyrification, the folding of the cerebral cortex that helps people process information.
It’s still unclear how meditation actually changes the brain,but some scientists say devoting complete attention to one specific object or thought actually alters our neural networks. And just remember, these studies don’t imply meditating will cause anychanges in our brains, just that these cognitive abilities are associated with meditation.
Other research skips the brain scans and suggests some practical benefits of meditation. Om-ing is connected tobetter concentration and multitasking skills — things some of us might wish for when losing focus on the job. Researchers think meditation helps people deal with interruptions and work on multiple...