For the experiment, the researchers recruited volunteers from meditation and dance centers around the San Francisco Bay Area and via Craigslist. The study sample consisted of 21 dancers with at least two years of training in modern dance or ballet and 21 seasoned meditators with at least two years of Vipassana practice. A third "control group" was made up of 21 moderately active adults with no training in dance, meditation, Pilates or professional sports.
Participants, who ranged in age from 18 to 40, were wired with electrodes to measure their bodily responses while they watched emotionally charged scenes from movies and used a rating dial to indicate how they were feeling.
Although all participants reported similar emotional reactions to the film clips, meditators showed stronger correlations between the emotions they reported feeling and the speed of their heartbeats. Surprisingly, the differences between dancers and the control group were minimal.
Researchers theorize that dancers learn to shift focus between time, music, space, and muscles and achieve heightened awareness of their muscle tone, body alignment and posture.
"These are all very helpful for becoming a better dancer, but they do not tighten the links between mind and body in emotion," Levenson said.
By contrast, meditators practice attending to "visceral" body sensations, which makes them more attuned to internal organs such as the heart. "These types of visceral sensations are a primary focus of Vipassana meditation, which is typically done sitting still and paying attention to internal sensations," Sze said.
|Contact: Yasmin Anwar|
University of California - Berkeley