The mechanisms by which sahaja yoga meditation (SYM), or in fact any meditation technique, exerts its claimed effects are unclear. One very popular view, which has become more or less the default explanation of meditation effects is in terms of the physiological changes that characterise the Relaxation Response — that is, reductions in heart rate, blood pressure and respiratory rate and increases in skin temperature, skin resistance and alpha wave activity in the brain. All of these are brought about by reducing activity of the sympathetic component of the autonomic nervous system (ANS) and increasing activity of the parasympathetic components of the ANS. Psychophysiological studies in India certainly appear to confirm that SYM does reduce many parameters of sympathetic activation.

“More recently scholars have proposed that since Mindfulness and similar styles of meditation necessarily allow participants to become “more aware of thoughts and feelings and to change their relationship to them”, therefore somehow “that greater awareness will provide more veridical perception, reduced negative affect and improve vitality and coping”. Then it seems logical that by completely eliminating background mental noise, the meditator would necessarily increase internal and external awareness, possibly to a greater degree than in Mindfulness. Perhaps SYM acts via both the autonomic and cognitive pathways. Aftanas’ brain studies of SYM meditators also suggest that the effect of SYM on the central nervous system may also offer some explanation.

Dr Ramesh Manocha.