Anyone who’s ever done a lot of meditation might think at first, God, does this hurt! It’s true: when you first get into sitting, especially if you’re sitting in a cross-legged position, it can really do a number on your knees. Sure, you should sit with the pain, observing it and noticing it — and (most likely) you’ll eventually see it dissipate.
But could it be that meditation actively combats pain? It would appear so. A new University of Montreal study released yesterday in a special issue of the American Psychological Association journal, Emotion, says that Zen meditation “helps lower sensitivity to pain” by thickening the the anterior cingulate, a part of your brain that regulates pain and your mental reactions to it. Overall, Zen meditators monitored in a related study experienced an 18% reduction in sensitivity to pain.