Physician learned the benefits of relaxation

By Laurie Bailey /

Eighteen years ago, Anjana Vijayvargiya, a self-described driven physician, couldn’t control her own headaches or her neck, back and shoulder pain.

Then she listened to her mother.

“She suggested meditation, since medication wasn’t working,” Dr. Vijayvargiya said.

It helped, and she’s been devoted to meditation ever since. Dr. Vijayvargiya, a pathologist at UPMC St. Margaret, recently shared her expertise during a recent class at Oakmont Carnegie Library.

Practiced for thousands of years, meditation was once recognized as a means for understanding the spiritual and mystical sides of life. Today it’s frequently used to reduce stress and create a tranquil mind.

“I was a workaholic with a type A personality. I used to be quite arrogant,” she admitted about the time before she started meditating.

Living and working in India, she was skeptical at first. But once she finally tried it, she said she felt completely relaxed.

“When I finished, it felt as though I had slept, but I wasn’t sleeping. I was extremely peaceful — a peace like I’ve never felt before,” she said.

Now living in Indiana Township with her husband, Ajay Kumar, and their 16-year-old daughter, Amogha, she said her headaches are less frequent. And more noticeable to her family and associates, her attitude toward those around her has changed dramatically.

“I actually see the best in everyone. I appreciate almost everyone. Earlier, I used to demand respect out of fear. Now, I am respectful of others,” she said, adding that it took her about six years to notice the changes in her personality, but others noticed it long before.

According to the Mayo Clinic, there is an increasing amount of scientific research supporting the health benefits of meditation and that some researchers believe it’s too early yet to draw conclusions about the possible benefits of meditation.

Speaking from her own experience, Dr. Vijayvargiya has witnessed examples of improved health conditions when patients included meditation in their regimen of care, especially for those with high blood pressure and coronary artery disease. It can also ease the anxiety and other effects associated with chemotherapy, she added.

“Meditation can do wonders … but the person has to regularly meditate at least once every day for five to 10 minutes,” she said.

It can also help with drug, alcohol and tobacco addiction, she explained.

“A person becomes addicted for a variety of reasons. This meditation slowly (or swiftly) works on the root cause of the addiction and the meditators do not feel the urge to take the harmful substances. I do know people who gave up their addictions without going to rehab or counseling. They are sober for the past 20-35 years,” she said.

Although she said there are possibly hundreds of types of meditation, Dr. Vijayvargiya is a proponent of the Sahaja method of meditation. Sahaja means “born with you,” “simple,” and “spontaneous,” she said. The method was founded in 1970 by Indian spiritual leader Nirmala Devi.

“Meditation is a cleansing process, just like brushing our teeth and taking a shower. The latter two cleanse our physical body and the meditation cleanses our subtle system,” she said.

The subtle system is a network of energy centers within the body, she said.

Dr. Vijayvargiya said her teenage daughter now regularly meditates.

“She actually can see how much it is helping her. It makes it easier for her to handle a lot at once,” she said.

The doctor even taught a class in meditation at Fox Chapel Area High School and was amazed at how it helped even the more fidgety students relax.

“Even the students totally uninterested in the beginning of the lecture were convinced it worked,” she said.

She teaches regularly through Fox Chapel’s adult education program and at the Boyd Community Center in Fox Chapel.

The biggest challenge, she said, is that people are doubtful based on their own stigma about meditation from what they see on television.

But once they try it?

She said: “People love it, it’s really relaxing. They also realize they will calm their hearts and the chattering in their brain.”

Laurie Bailey, freelance writer: suburbanliving@post-gazette.com.

First Published 2012-04-12 08:59:36

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