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Meditation/Relaxation Teachers

Meditation and Relaxation – Same thing?

By Winsome Coutts

Is there any difference between meditation and relaxation? This is one of the most frequently asked questions when people start to consider adopting meditation as a practice into their lives.

Deep relaxation is one of the benefits of meditation

The simple answer is that deep relaxation is one of the benefits of meditation, but meditation is not one of the side benefits of relaxation. You can be relaxed but not meditating.

Relaxation is a much broader term that includes physical as well as emotional processes. People choose many different ways to relax including watching TV, reading, soaking in a bath, playing golf or going for a jog.

Not all of these forms of relaxation trigger a deep relaxation response. While you are relaxing through one of these other forms of relaxation you are still present in your body, conscious of your surroundings and your brain is still "ticking over". You are relaxed, but not deeply relaxed.

So what happens to your body when you are deeply relaxed?

Dr Herbert Benson in 1975 categorised the physiological responses he termed the relaxation response.

When someone is deeply relaxed there is a:
•Decrease in heart rate
•Decrease in muscular skeletal tension
•Decrease in blood pressure
•Decrease in breathing rate
•Decrease in metabolic rate
•Decrease in oxygen consumption
•Increase in skin resistance
•Increase in alpha brain wave activity
Deep relaxation states can be a precursor to sleep – and often a person who is just relaxing will drift into and out of dream states.

People wanting to relax will generally recline or lie down, whereas people wanting to meditate will generally sit or stand.

Meditation is different to relaxation

When you are meditating, you maintain awareness and consciousness while experiencing the deep relaxation response talked about by Dr Benson.

There are many different forms of meditation, dating back thousands of years. The similarities between all forms of meditation are the bringing under control the mental mind chatter.

One of the key differences between meditation and relaxation is the intent of relaxation compared to meditation.

Meditation and spiritual connection

With meditation you are generally looking for spiritual connection, connection with a higher state of awareness and reduction in mind chatter. With relaxation you are just looking for release of stress and an unwinding of your body. With meditation you are looking for personal growth and awareness, with relaxation you are looking for personal ease.

Generally meditation brings the focus to the present moment rather than the future or past. It allows in the stillness of the present moment, for connection to higher awareness and the discovery of solutions that were previously unconscious. Meditation allows for "aha" moments and moments of great clarity and in some practices a state of bliss or nirvana.

People who meditate report reduced anxiety, greater personal clarity, higher overall satisfaction with their life and greater happiness. The same response is not reported from people who relax.

So, meditation and relaxation although related are not the same. If you are looking for health and psychological benefits then pursuing meditation will give you greater results than simply relaxation alone.

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Winsome Coutts is the passion behind the new self help authority site, www.4lifeselfhelp.com. She is a lifelong student of personal development, meditation and goal setting. In the pursuit of her own dreams, she has created www.4lifeselfhelp.com as a tool to help others find success and happiness along with resources to live an abundant life.

Visit www.4lifeselfhelp.com today to take advantage of their resource library, free articles, resource tools and guidance.

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