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:

  1. Relaxation Response and studies describing the intervention as based on it.
  2. The MBSR and studies describing the intervention as based on it.
  3. TM and studies describing the intervention as based on it.
  4. Multimodal interventions of which meditation is one part, such as yoga, lifestyle strategies etc.
  5. 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

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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.

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The following is a summary of a study by Dusek et al. published in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine in 2008.

Summary: compares the relaxation response method of meditation against educational classes on a sample with hypertension gathered from the community. The sole outcome measure was physiological blood pressure. The study had a sample size of 122 participants who underwent 8 sessions of treatment over 8 weeks. A t-test change score was used to analyse the results.

Results: The study found no significant difference between the treatment and the control.

Strengths: large sample size; double-blind; solid treatment duration; intent-to-treat used.

Weaknesses: single outcome; unclear results; only a moderately credible comparator.

Dusek, J.A., Hibberd, P.L., Buczynski, B., Chang, B.H., Dusek, K.C. Johnston, J.M. Wohlhueter, A.L., Benson, H. and Zusman, R.M. (2008). Stress Management versus Lifestyle Modification on Systolic Hypertension and Medication Elimination: A Randomized Trial.
The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine Vol 14(2), 129–138.

Summary: compares the relaxation response method of meditation against educational classes on a sample with hypertension gathered from the community. The sole outcome measure was physiological blood pressure. The study had a sample size of 122 participants who underwent 8 sessions of treatment over 8 weeks. A t-test change score was used to analyse the results.

Results: The study found no significant difference between the treatment and the control.

Strengths: large sample size; double-blind; solid treatment duration; intent-to-treat used.

Weaknesses: single outcome; unclear results; only a moderately credible comparator.

Dusek, J.A., Hibberd, P.L., Buczynski, B., Chang, B.H., Dusek, K.C. Johnston, J.M. Wohlhueter, A.L., Benson, H., Zusman, R.M. (2008). Stress Management versus Lifestyle Modification on Systolic Hypertension and Medication Elimination: A Randomized Trial. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine Vol 14(2), 129–138.

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