A reduction of autonomic arousal leads to diversion of blood flow to the viscera and away from the skeletal muscle of the body. Accordingly this leads to increased blood flow to the surface of glabrous skin and thereby an increase in palmar skin temperature. Sahaja Yoga meditation practitioners appear to perform exactly the same overt task as conventional meditators since, like conventional meditators, they appear to sit quietly. If however the physiological changes that occur are different then it would suggest that despite overt similarities, the biological events are quite different. This would suggest that Sahaja Yoga meditation (and hence presumably the mental silence experience) is physiologically atypical. The mental silence experience may be associated with a unique spectrum of physiological activity.

A detailed summary of the physiology of skin temperature can be found at Dr Ramesh Manocha’s website.

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The mechanism of action provoked by meditation is thought primarily to involve its ability to reduce stress. There are two main theories about how this happens. First, that it reduces somatic-arousal thereby reducing the reactivity of the individual to environmental stressors and, second, that it alters the individual’s cognitive appraisal of and perceived self-efficacy with regard to stressors. By eliminating background mental noise, the meditator probably increases internal and external awareness and therefore somehow achieves more veridical perception, reduced negative affect and improved vitality and coping capacity.

Ramesh Manocha

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The failure of the proponents of meditation in the West to produce conclusive data on its specific efficacy in the health sphere (see Ospina’s definitive treatment of this issue), has been due to understandings having been largely confined to Westernised versions of the practice. Such understandings have meant that the original ideas about meditation as developed in South Asia and particularly on the Indian sub-continent, have been substituted by more culturally accessible but less effective Western concepts.

Thus our research programme proposes that any solution to the current scientific impasse needs to involve a re-examination of the cultural contexts in which meditation is practiced. Of particular importance in this regard are South Asian cultural themes embodied in ideas such as yoga, moksha, and sahaja. It is argued that Western conceptualisations and definitions of meditation need to be reshaped to more accurately reflect the original meaning of the practice, particularly the experience of mental silence.


Dr Ramesh Manocha

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