Transcendental meditation, which is the most widely form of meditation, has been associated with a lot of health benefits. It used to be dismissed by the medical world as a form of alternative medicine without any scientific merit. It has its roots in India, invented by named Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. It became popular in the 60s among the “flower people” and became very popular when rock group Beatles openly practiced it. However, it was only recently that the practice of transcendental meditation has become medically accepted as a form of relaxation technique. Studies have shown that any form of meditation can reduce stress, improve mental focus, boost creativity, and even lower blood pressure.
How does transcendental meditation work? According to the Maharishi University of Management
It is a simple, natural, effortless procedure practiced 20 minutes twice each day while sitting comfortably with the eyes closed. It’s not a religion, philosophy, or lifestyle. More than six million people worldwide have learned the TM technique — people of all ages, cultures, and religions.
It usually involves the use of a mantra or repeated sound and needs to be learned from a certified teacher.
Preventive medicine specialist Robert Schneider of the Maharishi University of Management in Fairfield, Iowa, collaborated with endocrinologist Theodore Kotchen of the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee to conduct the first study to evaluate the effect of transcendental mediation on the risk of myocardial infarction (heart attack). The 201 study participants were all high risk group for heart disease – African Americans with narrowed coronary arteries.
The participants were assigned to 2 groups. One group was instructed on practicing transcendental meditation for 15 to 20 minutes a day. The other group did not do medication. Both groups received standard treatment of prescription drugs for high blood pressure and atherosclerosis, and participated in an educational course in cardiovascular health. The patients were followed up for 5 to 9 years. The study results showed that the meditation group experienced 47% fewer cardiac events such as heart attacks, strokes, and deaths compared with the non-meditation control group. This risk reduction is much higher compared to reductions by currently prescribed cardiovascular therapies, namely:
- Anti-cholesterol statin drugs – 30% to 40% reduction.
- Antihypertension drugs – 25% to 30% reduction.
The mechanism behind the it is not fully understood but the researchers believe it has something to with
- Lowering blood pressure
- Reducing stress hormones
- Dampening the sympathetic nervous system, which triggers the body’s stress response
“We’ve shown that the brain has a direct positive influence on clinical outcomes”, according to the authors.
The study shows that transcendental meditation can be important technique in preventive medicine that can be incorporated in lifestyle change therapies.