You may have heard the term Transcendental Meditation before. If not yet, maybe as you get into the practice of meditation. Meditation itself has been around for thousands of years. However, in todays world of evidence based research, it seems to be getting more notoriety. In part, due to research of it’s potential benefits.
Gone are the days where meditation was solely used by individuals seeking spiritual needs. In fact, it is estimated that over 14% of US adults have tried meditation in 2017. Furthermore, that 200-500 million people meditate, with the largest percentage of those being Buddhist and Hindu. It has also growing rapidly in popularity among children from 2012 to 2017 (0.6% – 5.4%).
There are several different types of meditation. For example:
- mindfulness meditation,
- movement, and
- mantra meditation.
Today we focus on Transcendental Meditation. So, what is so special about this form of meditation?
Transcendental Meditation (or TM) remains one of the more popular forms of meditation, in modern times. Millions of people practice Transcendental meditation daily, and it seems this number is only growing each year. Individuals use “tools” such as transcendental meditation, as elements of their own self-care.
What exactly does this modernized meditation practice entail? What are the benefits and techniques involved in this particular meditation form? We’ll discuss the answers to these questions throughout this post.
What Is Transcendental Meditation?
Transcendental Meditation helps practitioners clear their mind and enter a state of balance, heightened awareness, and relaxation. This form of meditation was first introduced in America by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. It has flourished since its inception in the 1960s within the Western culture. Maharishi Mahesh was also hugely influential at encouraging scientific research on meditation and making it more mainstream.
Mahesh specifically, built his practice around the beliefs and techniques of the ancient Vedic tradition. However, his modifications made his meditation more accessible to the general western public.
TM is a form of meditation, (unlike mindfulness meditation that focuses on clearing the mind and refocusing attention as it wanders), TM instead focuses on a single mantra (sound, word, phrases etc.). Mantras can be assigned to practitioners or chosen by the practitioner based on many facets of there personalities. They can also be different from person to person.
How Is Transcendental Meditation Practiced?
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Transcendental Meditation is usually done in a seated position (chair or ground). The chest is upright, in as comfortable position as possible, for the practitioner. The sessions generally last 15-20 minutes a few times a day, based on some research done on the practice.
Generally, at this time, breath comes into play. Focused breathing is key in almost all meditation practices. As one becomes consumed within there breath; with their eyes closed (or opening several times and closing again), they then start to repeat a mantra to themselves. Again, the mantra can come in several forms, from a word, sound (most- often), or even phrase.
Mantras are a fundamental technique of ancient Vedic meditation and other forms of meditation practiced globally. In this particular practice, they are used as a focal point for clarity, balance, concentration, calm and mindfulness.
As beforementioned, Transcendental Meditation is usually done in twenty-minute sessions. Practitioners are encouraged to meditate twice daily. Once in the morning. Then, once in the afternoon is said to be most beneficial for your health.
At the end of the session, open your eyes, begin to move more peripheral body parts, (like your fingers and toes), continue to breath and sit comfortably for a few moments.
What Are The Benefits of Transcendental Meditation?
Transcendental Meditation has been studied by researchers around the world, in more recent times. Prestigious institutions such as Harvard and Yale have even funded research on Transcendental Meditation.
Investigations surrounding this practice vary considerably, like many mind-body practiced research.
I. Heart Health/Arthrosclerosis/Blood Pressure:
A major potential benefit of this practice comes in the form of heart health. Although research seems to be limited on the broad issue of heart health and specific benefits, TM.org, states, “groundbreaking research” has shown that with regular practiced Transcendental Meditation techniques, there is evidence showing that wall thickness of the carotid artery may be reduced, which is a major warning sign of hardening of the arteries.
The TM website also goes on to discuss that the American Heart Association concluded that based on research, TM is the only form of meditation shown to reduce blood pressure. Another 5-year long randomized control study showed that TM significantly reduced risk for mortality, myocardial infarction and stroke, in coronary heart disease patients.
Stress Reduction/ Anxiety:
Some of these effects have to do with the stress-reducing benefits of meditation in general. When stress is lowered, our body starts to heal and become more healthy.
Meditation affects much more than just the body physically. It works to focus and heal our minds. A meta analysis on more then 600 TM research papers, revealed that Transcendental Meditation was more effective then “treatment as usual and most alternative treatments on patients with high anxiety levels”.
Quite unique research was also done in 2020, involving participants who underwent 3 months of Transcendental Meditation. Specifically, including 2 times a day, for 20 minutes. Both pre and post questioner’s where completed, as well as pre and post functional MRI’s of the brain. The “preliminary findings indicated that beneficial effects of TM may be mediated by functional brain changes“. In laments terms, the reduced anxiety levels were associated with specific changes in the brain, which all have to do with modulation of emotions.
Another study on TM, looked at the practice and it’s effects on high school students. Specifically, a group of 9th graders who participated in the practice, (“Quiet-Time“), experienced great decreases in anxiety. The study lasted several months, and required the students to meditate 2x/day for 15-minutes.
Another study looked into the effects of TM on ADHD and other anxiety-related disorders. PTSD and ADHD were looked at specifically.
Subjects were instructed in TM. The symptoms of their disorders were measured after practicing this meditation form. In conclusion, it was found that the effects of PTSD, ADHD, and other anxiety disorders were significantly reduced through Transcendental Meditation.
In some cases, these results were seen within three months of starting Transcendental Meditation.
Others studies have shown the feasibility of providing TM training to active duty soldiers with PTSD. A study on TM and PTSD on Vietnam War Veterans found that it was an acceptable and effective treatment for these individuals. TM has the ability to eliminate deep-rooted stress, and has been found to be highly effective to improve brain coherence, which is a measure of brain function.
How Can You Start Practicing Transcendental Meditation?
Some people recommend getting a certified teacher to instruct you in Transcendental Meditation. This can definitely be a good starting point. However, there are also many free online resources you can use to guide yourself through this type of meditation, successfully.
Try searching for instructional videos and guided TM lessons. In addition, if you are interested in the history of Transcendental Meditation or the philosophy of this practice you can find plenty of information on the the TM website. Looking into the roots of any meditation practice can deepen your understanding of what you’re doing and why you’re doing it.
Related Article: What is Guided Meditation?
What Steps Should You Take Before Transcendental Meditation?
On the more physical side of things, when you do decide to sit down and meditate, we recommend finding a quiet and peaceful place for meditation. TM requires twenty sustained minutes of motionless sitting and concentration. You want to be distraction-free.
Scheduling in your twice-daily meditation will make it easier to stick to your practice. You’ll want to make sure that you are creating time to get your morning and evening TM meditation in.
More than this though, you’ll want to rid yourself of technological distractions. Turn off your phone and other devices. Meditation is a time to get in touch with yourself in the present moment. Focus on what is going on with your body and your mind.
In addition, if you do decide to teach yourself TM, do some researchers on mantras. If you go the professional route and get a teacher you may be issued a mantra. Mantras are personal and filled with meaning, so take some time to find the right one.
Finally, as you begin your journey with Transcendental Meditation, try and keep your expectations in line with your practice. TM can create change in your life, but you have to dedicate yourself to this routine and stick with it daily.
Please feel free to share your experience with Transcendental Meditation and help our community live more stress-free and focused lives!