(NaturalNews) When ancient Chinese healing techniques work, Western doctors often assume the benefits must be due to the placebo effect. But researchers at the University of Oregon (UO) have repeatedly documented that a mind-body practice called integrative body-mind training (IBMT), derived from traditional Chinese medicine, has profound beneficial effects on human health. And amazingly, the ancient healing produces measurable physical and mental changes in just five days of practice.
In the l990s, IBMT was first adapted from ancient healing practices in China. Today, thousands of Chinese use IBMT. IBMT avoids struggling with controlling thoughts and relies instead on a state of restful alertness. A calm but focused mind is believed to be achieved through specific IBMT postures, relaxation, a harmonizing of body and mind and balanced breathing. How you do it: an experienced IBMT coach/instructor provides initial directions, breath adjustment guidance and mental imagery techniques while calming music is played in the background.
Research on the technique began at UO in l997 led by visiting UO professor Yi-Yuan Tang and UO psychologist Michael Posner. "Life is full of stress, and people need to learn methods to handle stress and improve their performance," Dr. Tang said in a media release. "There is physical training but we wanted to see about mental training. This method appears to have benefit for the modern society where the pace is fast."
The researchers published a study in the Proceeding of the National Academy of Science (PNAS) in the late l990s documenting that doing IBMT prior to a mental math test resulted in low levels of the stress hormone cortisol among Chinese students. Moreover, the experimental group showed lower levels of anxiety, depression, anger and fatigue than students using a standard relaxation technique. The investigators also showed that measurable changes in stress reduction and attention occurred after just five days of practicing IBMT.
Dr. Tang and his research team, including UO's Dr. Posner, wanted to find out how the technique worked so fast and what specifically it might be doing to the brain. Now their new research, just published online ahead of regular publication in PNAS, specifically documents the brain and physiological changes caused by IBMT. The scientists studied and analyzed data from several technologies in two experiments involving 86 undergraduate students at Dalian University of Technology in China, where Dr. Tang is a professor.
For each experiment, the researchers studied participants who had never practiced relaxation techniques or meditation before. Each group received IBMT or general relaxation instruction for 20 minutes each day for five days. Although both groups of research subjects experienced benefits from the training, those in the IBMT group showed dramatic changes that were documented by brain imaging and physiological testing.
Specifically, single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) revealed that IBMT subjects had increased blood flow in the right anterior cingulate cortex, part of the brain linked to self regulation of thought and emotion. Physiological tests also revealed IBMT subjects had lower heart rates and skin conductance responses, increased belly breathing amplitude and decreased chest respiration rates than the relaxation group. These results, the scientists noted in their paper, "reflected less effort exerted by participants and more relaxation of body and calm state of mind."
Another remarkable physical finding: IBMT subjects had more high-frequency heart-rate variability than their relaxation counterparts. In a statement to the media, the researchers explained this indicated "successful inhibition of sympathetic tone and activation of parasympathetic tone [in the autonomic nervous system]." Sympathetic tone is more active when stressed.
"We were able to show that the training improved the connection between a central nervous system structure, the anterior cingulate, and the parasympathetic part of the autonomic nervous system to help put a person into a more bodily state," Dr. Posner said in a statement to the media.
Sherry Baker is a widely published writer whose work has appeared in Newsweek, Health, the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, Yoga Journal, Optometry, Atlanta, Arthritis Today, Natural Healing Newsletter, OMNI, UCLA's "Healthy Years" newsletter, Mount Sinai School of Medicine's "Focus on Health Aging" newsletter, the Cleveland Clinic's "Men's Health Advisor" newsletter and many others.