Ki Meditation: good for the mind, good for the body
By Guillermo Paz-y-Miño C. PhD
School of Biological Sciences
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Article published in Aikido Today Magazine 2003, 17(6):
Meditation and relaxation benefit our mental and physical
health. When adversity affects our lives, a positive attitude
is perhaps the first step that should be taken to overcome
stress in our minds and pain in our bodies.
Ki meditation is a method of self-development that can
help us achieve this goal (Ki = the universal spirit; life
energy). While this method is a fundamental component of
Ki-Aikido, it is not restricted to those who practice Aikido.
This system of mind and body unification emphasizes calmness
by means of appropriate posture, breathing, and –of
course- mental attitude.
During Ki meditation, an individual actively and consciously
elicits the relaxation/meditation state by focusing his
or her mind on the center of equilibrium of the body, called
the “One Point” (seika-no-itten), which is located
in the lower abdomen. Ki meditation can be practiced in
different ways, but most people sit in the seiza position
(kneeling with the back straight) or cross-legged. (Sitting
erect in a chair also works!). Eyes should be closed and
a conscious sensation of expansion and contraction of the
body (using the One Point as a central reference for this
sensation) should match the natural breathing rhythm.
Studies suggest that meditation elicits what in scientific
terms is known as the relaxation response, a state of mind-body
interaction characterized by a reduced movement of the skeletal
musculature, as well as decreased blood pressure and respiratory
rate. Four elements are necessary to elicit the relaxation
- a “mental device”, or constant stimulus
(sound, word, phrase, or thought) repeated mentally or
out loud (i.e. focusing the mind on the One Point).
- an attitude of calmness, which includes disregarding
- a decreased muscle tone (physical relaxation).
- a quiet environment. (The last point seems to be essential
Scientific evidence supporting the benefits of meditation
and relaxation on well being is based on correlational data.
Studies on this subject document improvement in the overall
health of patients who suffer a variety of disorders. For
example, after a few weeks of daily 20-minute meditation
sessions, patients show a significant reduction in anxiety
and stress during pregnancy or previous to surgery, labor,
or dental care. Anger seems to become milder with moderated
practices of meditation (a few times a week). General pain,
cold-related pain, and migraine headaches (including PMS
migraine) can be minimized with meditation and breathing
exercises. Some patients are able to control hypertension
thanks to a combination of meditation and minimum medication.
Even phobias, tobacco addiction, asthma attacks, and insomnia
can almost disappear with adequate meditation routines.
Despite the numerous technical reports published on meditation,
the physiological processes involved in the meditative state
are still not well understood. Apparently, during meditation
the trophotropic zone of the anterior hypothalamus is activated
by means of electrical stimuli originating in the parasympathetic
nervous system. This phenomenon is responsible for the complex
reactions that cause muscle relaxation, reduction in blood
pressure and thoraxic ventilation.
Meditation provides its optimum immediate benefits in sports
training and physical activity. Athletes practice meditation
and concentration to improve performance and minimize fatigue.
Perception, judgment, and intuition seem to be enhanced
by the meditative state, which influences the outcome of
physical actions in a positive way. Not only Aikido, but
other martial arts and disciplines, such as weight lifting,
parachute jumping, swimming, figure skating, deep diving,
marathon running, wrestling, and cross-country hiking also
include meditation in their training.
What is fascinating to observe in all these cases is how
the psychological environment in which a person lives and
interacts with others influences many aspects of the human
mind and body. Consequently, a positive mind-set combined
with daily meditation, exercise, and balanced diet seem
to be the essential ingredients for long-lasting lives and,
therefore, long lasting calmness and happiness.