An extensive search of the scientific literature identified 3,500 peer-reviewed publications that featured “meditation” as a key word. Yet, of these, only 135 (approximately 4%) fulfilled the very basic requirements of experimental evaluation, i.e. they were prospective trials using control groups and random allocation. Importantly, even within this subset of more rigorous studies, there is no convincing evidence that meditation has a specific effect. In fact within this set of randomised controlled trials (RCTs), there appeared to be an inverse relationship between methodological rigour and likelihood of an outcome that is favourable to meditation.
Dr Ramesh Manocha
For my systematic analysis of meditation studies, because of the relatively small number of studies available for analysis, the many different meditation techniques were grouped into 5 thematically related categories. These were:
- Relaxation Response and studies describing the intervention as based on it.
- The MBSR and studies describing the intervention as based on it.
- TM and studies describing the intervention as based on it.
- Multimodal interventions of which meditation is one part, such as yoga, lifestyle strategies etc.
- Miscellaneous, where only a few studies had been conducted on a particular technique and/or when a technique did not easily fall into one of the previous categories.
Dr Ramesh Manocha
Summarising the basic features of Sahaja Yoga meditation, it is:
1. Relatively simple to learn and practice.
2. Appears to have a specific, positive effect on health.
3. Can be made available on a low-cost/zero-cost model.
4. Can be taught via mass media vehicles such as radio, television, Internet.
5. Evidence to date suggests a low side effect profile.
These features make mental silence orientated techniques such as SYM ideally suited as strategies to promote and preserve health as well as prevent disease and mental disorders.
For discussion on the future directions of research for Sahaja Yoga meditation, check Dr Ramesh Manocha’s blog.
It seems logical that experienced meditators would be more likely to be able to generate the experiential and physiological changes associated with meditation at a magnitude sufficient for detection; however selecting them from the wider population necessarily precludes the use of randomisation. This weakens the likelihood that the intervention and comparison groups are truly homogenous. In order to compensate for this comparison participants can be selected to match key parameters. In the case of meditation research, these parameters should include an interest in and motivation to practice meditation.