Meditation as a Treatment for Erectile Dysfunction

Most men with erectile dysfunction seek treatment with a prescription medication such as Viagra, Cialis, or Levitra. However, these medications can have side effects and cannot be taken by men who take nitroglycerin or other heart medications that decrease blood pressure. For these men, as well as for men opposed to medications in general, there are a variety of natural or holistic alternatives.

One non-drug treatment for erectile dysfunction that is attracting some attention is meditation. It has been known for many years that meditation can affect the functioning of the central nervous system. Studies have shown that meditation can control the heart rate, slow the respiratory rate, lower blood pressure, and decrease oxygen consumption. So is it rational to believe that meditation can be used as a treatment for erectile dysfunction?

What is Meditation?

Meditation

Before we attempt to answer the question about meditation as a treatment for erectile dysfunction, let’s look at what meditation really is and how it works. Meditation is a technique of training the mind to focus on the present. It produces a deep state of relaxation and a tranquil mind. It is a way of reducing stress and achieving a sense of inner peace that can benefit both emotional well-being and overall physical health. The goal of meditation is to eliminate the stream of jumbled thoughts that may be crowding your mind so that you can focus on the sensations that your body is experiencing. The benefits can include a new perspective on stressful situations, a reduction in negative emotions, and an increased self-awareness. In addition, research suggests that meditation can benefit depression, high blood pressure, pain, and sleep problems.

Meditational techniques have been practiced in Eastern cultures for over 2000 years, dating back to the ancient Taoists in China. Meditation was originally used to deepen the understanding of the sacred and mystical forces of life. It was associated with a path, a development, and a dharma that evolved over the course of one’s practice. However, these days meditation is not used primarily as a religious practice, but as a technique for relaxation and stress reduction. It is a human experience, a natural state of being that every individual can achieve.

What are the most common techniques?

Although there are a wide variety of meditative techniques, beginners usually start with a simple breathing meditation. Find a quiet area that is free of distractions. Try to block out worries and distracting thoughts. Assume a comfortable body position. Take long slow breaths. Count to five slowly as you inhale, then count to five slowly as you exhale. Focus on breathing into the abdomen, filling the abdomen with air and then letting it deflate like a balloon. Breathe in through your nose and breathe out through your mouth. With every exhalation, relaxation should increase.

According to Taoist theory, breathing in and out helps balance yin and yang. Breathing in is considered yin, while breathing out is yang. The yin phase (inhalation) accumulates and concentrates air inwards, allowing circulation of new energy. The yang phase (exhalation) releases and expands energy out of the body. Rhythmic abdominal breathing unites the two. It helps you find your center.

Visualized breathing is another method of meditation. Visualized breathing involves combining the deep breathing technique with imagination. You should close your eyes and try to imagine relaxation entering your body and tension leaving your body.  You might want to imagine that your limbs become looser (like spaghetti) with each exhale. You might also imagine that your hands and feet are getting warmer.

Progressive muscle relaxation is a two-step process in which you systematically tense and relax different muscle groups in the body. Most practitioners start at the feet and work their way up to the face. Each muscle should be squeezed as tightly as possible for 10 seconds, then slowly relaxed. As you relax the muscle, you should focus on the tension slowly flowing away. You should also focus on the way the muscle feels as it becomes limp and loose.

Mental imagery relaxation, or guided imagery, is a more advanced form of therapy in which someone – usually a psychotherapist – leads you through a series of visualizations. It is designed to create harmony within the mind and body and to induce positive emotions that allow the body to deal with psychological or physical issues. Your guide will ask you to picture a calm, peaceful image in your mind – for example, a tropical beach or a favorite childhood spot. You should picture it as vividly as you can, imagining sights, sounds, smells, textures, and tastes. You should enjoy the feeling of relaxation that develops as you slowly explore your peaceful place. During this relaxation, your guide will help you develop positive affirmations such as “I am healthy, vital, and strong” or “There is nothing in the world I cannot handle”.

For each of these techniques, you should schedule a set time to practice each day. You should avoid practicing when you are sleepy or after you have eaten a heavy meal. You should also avoid using drugs, tobacco, or alcohol. In some cases, it may be possible to meditate while doing other things, such as commuting to work on a bus or train, waiting for a doctor’s appointment, or mowing the lawn.

Does Meditation Work for Erectile Dysfunction?

When erectile dysfunction is caused by high stress levels or anticipatory anxiety – that is, being nervous or fearing rejection from a partner – it makes sense that meditation can be effective. Meditation can help to reprogram the mind so that the anxiety, guilt, or fear associated with sexual performance is replaced with positive patterns of thinking and feeling.

Most practitioners agree that meditation is not as successful when erectile dysfunction is caused by a physical issue such as diabetes, pulmonary disease, heart disease, and other disorders that restrict the flow of blood to the penis. However, strong believers argue that meditation helps to make all your body processes perform well, and as a result the blood circulation all over the body is regulated. In this way the blood flow to the penis is improved, which improves the ability to maintain an erection.

Unfortunately, there are very few scientific studies on meditation as a treatment for erectile dysfunction, only anecdotal reports. Gérard V. Sunnen, a physician from Bellevue Hospital and New York University, studied 9 men with impotence. Each man was instructed to do deep rhythmic breathing for approximately 3 minutes. After the respiratory rate, heart rate, and muscle tone had dropped to a resting minimum, the men were asked to shift their focus to their penis and to imagine experiencing pleasing sensations of radiating warmth. They were told to refrain from tensing any pelvic muscles during the process.   After preliminary exercises in the clinic, each patient was asked to repeat the exercises twice per day at home for 15-minute periods. After two weeks, 7 of the 9 men reported the experience of genital warmth with the return of normal erections. They also reported increased feelings of inner peace in their daily lives. Two of the patients were not able to achieve genital warmth and became discouraged with the technique. They complained that they had distracting thoughts and were not able to focus their attention. Although this study lends hope to men suffering from erectile dysfunction, the author admitted that further study is needed.

Are There Risks Associated with Meditation?

There are basically no serious dangers associated with the practice of meditation. It is possible that meditation could bring up a trauma or unresolved issue from the past which would require additional therapy. Other rare adverse reactions include headache, tingling in the spine, and mood swings.

Probably the greatest issues with meditation are skepticism, inability to focus appropriately, and non-compliance. In order for meditation to be successful, individuals must believe in the possibility of mind control and must be sufficiently motivated. Meditation is often a life-long process that takes a long time to develop. According to Sunnen, men must be willing to set aside two 15-minute periods daily for meditative practice and have some ability to ease away from stray thoughts.

It is also important to remember that alternative medicine is a largely unregulated and unaccountable industry. There are many meditation coaches who have absolutely no licenses or certifications (and some say that credentials in alternative medicine aren’t terribly valuable anyway). In addition, most insurance companies will not cover the cost of individual therapy.

One other interesting risk of meditation is “the avoidance risk”. This risk was recently reported by David Brendel, a correspondent for Harvard Business Review. He claims that some people use meditation and other mindfulness strategies as a way to avoid critical thinking tasks. Instead of rationally thinking through an ethical dilemma or personal challenge, they prefer to disconnect from their life and retreat into a meditative mindset. The issue is that some problems require more critical thinking, not less. Sometimes stress is an indicator that we need to evaluate our circumstances through greater self-reflective thought.

Conclusion

Although there are many websites proclaiming amazing results, there is fairly limited research on the effectiveness of meditation as a treatment for erectile dysfunction. Because it is basically safe, men who are interested in non-medicinal treatments are certainly free to try it. Keep in mind, however, that meditation can be a lifelong process and is probably not covered by insurance. Also keep in mind that erectile dysfunction may be a sign of an underlying medical condition, so a complete physical examination by your doctor or healthcare provider is very important.

References:

1) Erectile Dysfunction: Learning to Relax

Source: WebMD

2) Relaxation Techniques for Stress Relief

Source: HelpGuide.org

3) Meditation: A Simple, Fast Way to Reduce Stress

Source: MayoClinic.org

4) Meditative Treatment for Erectile Dysfunction

Source: Ozonics International

5) There Are Risks to Mindfulness at Work

Source: Harvard Business Review