What is Vipassana Meditation?
Vipassana meditation is a type of meditation that focuses on seeing things by turning inward to the mind, body, or both. It comes from Theravada, Buddhism’s oldest school of thought.
The main focus of Vipassana meditation is to remove distractions that prevent people from seeing reality.
Vipassana meditation has many health benefits including reducing depression and anxiety. It is different from pranayama or visualization as they focus on a task and image. Vipassana meditation simply observes the inner self instead of consciously controlling experience. Its goals are as follows:
- Quiet the mind
- Focus on the present
- Accept thoughts, sensations, and emotions
- Worry less about future
- Reduce regrets
- Responding to situations based on reality instead of worries and preconceived notion
Benefits of Vipassana Meditation
Vipassana meditation has not been researched widely. However, there is research on its benefit for health and wellness.
Vipassana meditation like any other meditation can be helpful in reducing stress.
A study was done on participants who took part in the Vipassana meditation course. After 6 months a follow-up was done and it was found that the participants reported lower stress levels than those who did not take the course.(1) The participants experienced mindfulness, self-kindness, and well-being.
Similar results were found in the participants of the 10-day Vipassana retreat.
Along with decreasing stress, Vipassana meditation also reduces anxiety. In a study 14 participants completed mindfulness meditation along with Vipassana. The participants after meditation showed lower levels of anxiety and depression.(3)
Mindfulness programs including Vipassana meditation can be helpful in altering the parts of the brain involved in anxiety.(4)
Improves Mental Wellness
As it improves stress and anxiety, it can be helpful in improving mental well-being.
A study found that 36 individuals experience a significant increase in well-being after completing a 10-days Vipassana retreat.(5) They also found an improvement in heart function.
In another study, 520 individuals who practiced Vipassana reported higher levels of self-acceptance, competence, positive relationships, and engagement and growth.(6)
Promotes Brain Plasticity
Brain plasticity is the ability of the brain to restructure itself upon recognizing the need for change. It means creating new pathways to improve mental functioning and well-being.
Practicing Vipassana meditation can be helpful in increasing brain plasticity.(7)
Helps in Treating Addiction
Vipassana meditation can be beneficial for those with substance abuse. It can be an alternative to other conventional treatments.(8)
It can be helpful in improving self-control over habits, decision making, and response inhibition all of which are important in reducing drug use. It can also be helpful in reducing stress factors like substance abuse.
How To Do Vipassana Meditation?
It is recommended to do Vipassana meditation in the morning. Keep 10-15 minutes in hand to practice it. Choose an area that is secluded and has little or no distractions. Sit on the ground with legs crossed in a comfortable position. To start with engage your core, straighten the back, and relax the body. Close your eyes and breathe normally and focus on your natural breath and what you are feeling. Inhale exhale and be mindful by observing your thoughts, feelings, and sensations without reacting or judging. If you get distracted, observe the distraction and return your breath. Do this for 5-10 minutes in the beginning and when you get used to it, you can extend it to 15 minutes.
Risks Associated with Vipassana Meditation
Vipassana is a low-risk activity that is unlikely to cause any physical harm to a person. But, if a person uses it instead of medical care it can have adverse health effects.
A study involving 342 people found that 87 of them reported negative effects from meditation, which included manic symptoms, consciousness, dizziness, and worsened anxiety.(9) These effects ranged in severity but were temporary.
Vipassana meditation can help a person gain more control over his thoughts, minimize distraction, help in focusing inwards, and cultivate a more spiritual life. It can be practiced at home or with the help of additional support.