Doctors, alternative health specialists and fitness trainers from all over Omaha are encouraging their clients and patients to add meditation to their everyday regimen. Not as a cure-all, but as part of a daily program that encourages and promotes a healthy, stress-free lifestyle.
Meditation has become more popular in the past decade. Once thought of as the practice of monks and wealthy California socialites, meditation has morphed into the routine for everyone from soccer moms to CEOs.
"Meditation can be as simple as positive thinking, and we know how detrimental negative thoughts can be to the health and healing process. People who are more relaxed have a lower heart rate," said Dr. Roger Brumback. a professor of pathology and psychiatry at Creighton University School of Medicine and editor in chief of the Journal of Evidence-Based Complementary & Alternative Medicine.
A recent study authored by a neuroscientist at MIT and Harvard indicated that subjects who were trained and instructed to meditate during an eight-week period were better equipped to control certain brainwaves than the group that was instructed not to meditate.
The brainwaves, known as alpha waves, are linked to the ability to concentrate and focus neural capacities toward or away from pain and distraction.
"Biofeedback is a measurement system of how the body reacts to stimuli, and with the implementation of meditation there is specific and measurable feedback," Brumback said.
Local yoga and meditation clinics couldn't agree more. At Yogamed, near 119th and Pacific Streets, owner Lisa Kanne employs meditation specialist Jonathan Woodside once a week so clients can come in and practice meditation techniques.
Woodside holds a session every Thursday from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. He begins each class by attempting to quiet the mind, which is the hardest and most important part of meditation. Quieting the mind is particularly helpful for those with high anxiety, because it allows them to take their mind off the negative," Kanne said.
Meditation practitioners use many types of techniques. Each one targets the needs of the individual, which is essential effectiveness of the practice, Brumback said.
"Mediation practices should be tailored to the individual on spiritual and cultural levels. Incorporating meditation is part of a positive therapeutic regimen that provides hope to the practitioner, which is important in any healing process. There is no one-stop shop or quick fix for everyone," Brumback said.
The Lotus House of Yoga, in Suite 250 at 14450 Eagle Run Drive, uses a more traditional meditation program rooted in combining the practice with yoga techniques.
"At the Lotus House of Yoga we use meditation, but in unison. We strive to marry the physical practice into movement. We encourage the mind-body connection. It's called pranayama, which means breath or energy restraint, and works to calm the mind and let go," said owner Mary Clare Sweet.
She said that during guided teacher meditation, clients are encouraged to visualize and observe the yoga 'Self' to better understand the way breathing and the thought process play into calming the self.
In downtown Omaha, the Omaha Healing Arts Center at 12th and Howard Streets (known as the OM Center) is a venue to learn and practice meditation.
Owner and center director Sandy Aquila offers patrons the opportunity to learn and practice meditation through instruction by several meditation practitioners.
Beyond the classes and seminars held by regular teachers, the OM center offers several specialty events in the 1,500-square-foot venue. This month the OM Center is hosting the Garden Shartse Monks, the Tibetan Monks and Lama Dr. David Bole.
"At the OM Center we use an array of themes and accomplished teachers and practitioners to provide many different holistic alternatives for the community," Aquila said.
All Omaha-area center owners and teachers follow the same two-fold ideal. First, that meditation is an important part of living a healthy lifestyle. And second, that meditation is a practice. It is not something you do or have done. It is something you constantly practice to learn and grow as a self-aware individual.
Seamus Monaghan is a freelance writer based in Omaha. He is a regular contributor to LiveWell the Magazine.