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Summary of Scientific Research on Maharishi's Transcendental Meditation and Transcendental Meditation-Sidhi Program

 by Dr. Roger Chalmers

 Roger Chalmers

Introduction

The Transcendental Meditation technique, as taught by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, is a simple technique practiced for 15-20 minutes twice daily, sitting comfortably with eyes closed. It can be learned easily by anyone regardless of age, educational background, or culture. The technique is effortless and requires no belief, nor any change in lifestyle or diet.  Over five million people have learned the Transcendental Meditation (TM) technique around the world over the past 50 years. Instruction involves a standard seven-step course taught by qualified teachers who have undergone an extensive and systematic training program, ensuring quality and consistency in instruction worldwide (also see www.TM.org).

Scientific research on the Transcendental Meditation technique comprises more than 600 studies conducted at over 250 independent universities and research institutions in 30 countries [see References 1-378].  These studies have demonstrated a wide range of benefits for mind, body, behavior, and society (see Table 1), and have appeared in many leading, peer-reviewed journals (see Table 2). 

Contents

Tables 1: Overview of Research Findings on the Transcendental Meditation Program

Tables 2: Scientific and Medical Journals That Have Published Original Research or Reviews on the Transcendental Meditation Program

Decreased Need for Medical Care:
Reduced Hospital Admissions and Outpatient Consultations

Reduced Health Care Costs


Reduction of Major Risk Factors for Disease

Reduction of High Blood Pressure and Decreased Mortality


An Effective Non-Pharmacological Approach to High Blood Pressure

Improved Health in Cardiac Patients


Reduced Cholesterol

More Effective Weight Reduction in Obese Subjects


Contents (Continued)

Healthier Ageing and Increased Longevity

TABLE 3: Effects of the Transcendental Meditation Program
Opposite to Detrimental Effects of the Ageing Process

Physiological Changes during TM: a Unique State of Restful Alertness

Benefits for Common Health Problems

Improved Mental Health and Well-Being

Reduced Smoking, Alcohol Consumption, and Drug Abuse

Research on Transcendental Meditation in comparison
to other types of meditation and relaxation

Comprehensive Benefits for Education

Increased Brain Integration in College Students

Consciousness-Based Education in Practice

Improved Occupational Health and Job Performance

Effective Rehabilitation of Offenders

Improved Quality of Life for Society as a Whole

TABLE 1

Overview of Research Findings on the
Transcendental Meditation Program

  • Reduced need for medical care and decreased health care costs­ [4-8]
  • Reduction of major risk factors for cardiovascular disease (high blood pressure, raised cholesterol, smoking, and insulin resistance) and improved cardiovascular health [9-38, 40-57, 61, 301, 303, 305]
  • Healthier ageing and increased longevity [11, 16-18, 58-65, 4, 8]
  • Improvements in common chronic disorders, including hypertension, angina, heart failure, type 2 diabetes, asthma, post-traumatic stress disorder, insomnia, ADHD [9-18, 23-38, 40-47, 155-191, 274]
  • A unique state of deep rest during Transcendental Meditation [67-122]
  • Increased orderliness and integration of brain functioning [106-143, 67-70, 72, 74-75, 86]
  • Reduced physical and mental stress [20-21, 26-27, 34-35, 38, 45, 71, 73, 91-94, 96, 124, 132, 134, 144-147, 149-151, 156-157, 162, 167, 180, 192, 196, 204, 228-229, 273-274, 301, 303-305, 330-331, 334-335, 348]
  • Growth of positive psychological health and enhanced cognitive development [193-227, 11, 57, 133, 135-136, 143, 265, 267, 276, 304]
  • Reduced anxiety, depression, hostility, and other forms of psychological distress [192, 41, 57, 156-157, 162, 167, 203-204, 208, 228-231, 233-234, 254-255, 257, 265, 273-274, 276-277, 281, 301, 303-305, 330-331, 334-335, 338-339, 345]
  • Increased intelligence and creativity; improved memory, learning ability, and academic performance [254-256, 258-278]
  • Improved perception, mind-body coordination, and athletic performance [254, 262-264, 282-300, 64, 134, 138-139, 141]
  • Increased job satisfaction and performance; improved occupational health [52, 157, 272, 301-321]
  • Improved relationships, including in marriage, families, at work, and in schools [156, 301-303, 322-326]
  • Decreased smoking, alcohol consumption and drug abuse [51-54, 156, 234-253, 301, 303]
  • Effective rehabilitation of offenders [327-348]
  • Improved quality of life for society as a whole: reduced crime, violence, and accidents; increased economic prosperity; more effective leadership [349-378]
  • Reduced civil and international conflict; decreased deaths and injuries from war and terrorism; increased progress towards peace [368-378] 

 References

 Return to Table of Contents

TABLE 2

Scientific and Medical Journals that Have Published
Original Research or Reviews on the Transcendental Meditation Progam

Medicine
Physiology and Neuroscience
Psychology, Psychiatry, and Rehabilitation

Education and Management
Sociology

Medicine

Acta Medica Okayama
A
lternative Therapies
Alternative Therapies in Clinical Practice
American Journal of Cardiology
American Journal of Health Promotion
American Journal of Hypertension
American Journal of Managed Care
Archives of Internal Medicine
Australian Family Physician                                    
Behavioral Medicine
British Journal of Nursing
Canadian Medical Association Journal
Circulation
Complementary Medicine International
Current Hypertension Reviews
Dentistry and Medicine
Est-Medicine
Ethnicity and Disease
Harefuah, Journal of the Israel Medical Association
Health and Quality of Life Outcomes
Health Promotion
Homeostasis
Hypertension
Japanese Journal of Industrial Health
Japanese Journal of Public Health
Journal of Aging and Health
Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine
Journal of Behavioral Medicine
Journal of Human Stress
Journal of Offender Rehabilitation

Journal of Psychosomatic Research
Journal of the American Association of Nephrology
Journal of the American Society of Psychosomatic
Journal of the Association of Physicians of India
Journal of the National Medical Association
Lancet
Medical Hypotheses
New Zealand Family Physician
New Zealand Medical Journal
Nurses and Technicians
Psychosomatic Medicine
Respiration
Socialstyrelsen (Swedish National Health Board publication)
Stroke
Ugeskrift for Lœger

Physiology and Neuroscience

American Journal of Physiology
Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences
Biofeedback
Biofeedback and Self-Regulation
Biological Psychology
Biulleten Eksperimental Biologii Meditsiny
Cognitive Processes
Consciousness and Cognition
Dreaming
Electroencephalography and Clinical Neurophysiology   
Elektromyographie EEG-EMG
Experientia
Experimental Neurology
Hormones and Behavior
Human Physiology (Fiziologiya Cheloveka)
International Journal of Neuroscience
International Journal of Psychophysiology
Journal of Applied Physiology
Journal of Neural Transmission
L'Encephale
NeuroReport
Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews
Physiology and Behavior
Proceedings of the San Diego Biomedical Symposium
Progress in Brain Research
Psychoneuroendocrinology
Psychopathometrie 
Psychophysiology
Revista Internacional De Ciencias Del Deporte (International Journal of Sports Science)   
Revue d'Electroencéphalographie et de Neurophysiologie Clinique
Science
Scientific American
Signal Processing
Sleep
Zeitschrift für Elektroenzephalographie und Elektromyographie EEG-EMG

Psychology, Psychiatry, and Rehabilitation

Alcoholism Treatment Quarterly
American Journal of Psychiatry
American Psychologist
British Journal of Psychology
Bulletin of the Society of Psychologists in Addictive Behaviors
Criminal Justice and Behavior
Gedrag: Tijdschrift voor Psychologie (Behavior: Journal of Psychology)
Hospital and Community Psychiatry
International Journal of Comparative and Applied Criminal Justice
International Journal of the Addictions
Journal of Adult Development
Journal of Clinical Psychology
Journal of Counseling Psychology
Journal of Criminal Justice
Journal of Humanistic Psychology
Journal of Indian Psychology
Journal of Personality and Individual Differences
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology
Journal of Personality Assessment
Journal of Psychology
Journal of Social Behavior and Personality
Lakartidningen
Memory and Cognition
Perceptual and Motor Skills
Psychologia
Psychological Reports
Psychotherapie-Psychosomatik Medizinische Psychologie
Western Psychologist
Zeitschrift für Klinische Psychologie

Education and Management

Academy of Management Journal
Anxiety, Stress and Coping
British Journal of Educational Psychology
Career Development International
College Student Journal
Current Issues in Education [On-line]
Education
Educational Technology
Human Resource Management
Intelligence
Journal of Adult Development
Journal of Business and Psychology
Journal of Creative Behavior
Journal of Instructional Psychology
Journal of Managerial Psychology
Journal of Moral Education
Journal of Organizational Change Management
Journal of Transnational Management Development
Leadership and Organization Development Journal
Management Decision
The Learning Organization: an International Journal
The TQM Magazine

Sociology

Journal of Conflict Resolution
Journal of Crime and Justice
Journal of Mind and Behavior
Journal of Scientific Exploration
Proceedings of the American Statistical Association
Proceedings of the Midwest Management Society
Psychology Crime and Law
Social Indicators Research
Social Science Perspectives Journal

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Decreased Need for Medical Care:
Reduced Hospital Admissions and Outpatient Consultations

A study of data from major US health insurer Blue Cross/Blue Shield examined medical care utilization over five consecutive years among 2,000 subscribers practicing the Transcendental Meditation technique, as compared to norms and control groups matched by age, gender, occupation, and health insurance terms (drawn from a total sample of 600,000).  Both hospital admission and outpatient consultation rates were over 50% lower for subjects practicing TM than norms or controls.  In the over-40 age group, the reduction was over 70%.  In contrast to controls, the TM group showed relatively little rise in health care needs with advancing age [4].

Rates of hospital admission for medical and surgical conditions were 60-70% lower in the Transcendental Meditation group, with reductions in all 17 disease categories studied.  For example, admissions were 87% less for heart and blood vessel disorders, 55% less for tumors, 73% less for respiratory disorders, 87% less for neurological problems, and 30% less for infections [4].

These findings are supported by a subsequent eleven-year study of Blue Cross/Blue Shield data for individuals practicing the TM technique in conjunction with a comprehensive natural Vedic health program. Again, marked reductions in medical care utilization were found compared with normative data and matched control groups.  Overall medical expenditure was 59% lower than norms, with 80 percent fewer hospital admissions and 55% fewer out-patient visits to the doctor.  TM subjects over 45 years spent 88% fewer days in hospital than controls. Hospital admission rates were 92% lower for immune, endocrine, and metabolic disorders; 92% lower for cardiovascular disease; 92% lower for mental health and substance abuse; and 94% lower for musculoskeletal disorders [5].

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 Reduced Health Care Costs

Reduced need for medical treatment as a result of Transcendental Meditation practice is also indicated by a 14-year controlled retrospective study of medical expenses for 2836 people enrolled in the Quebec provincial health insurance scheme.  Monthly data on payments to doctors were adjusted to account for age, inflation, and other influences using normative data provided by the Quebec government.  Before beginning the Transcendental Meditation program, payments did not differ significantly between TM and control groups.  After learning the technique, the TM group showed a progressive decline in payments to doctors compared to controls: the average annual difference was 13%, leading to a cumulative reduction of 55% after six years [6-7].  These results are supported by a further study showing a 57% reduction in medical expenditure in subjects practicing TM in conjunction with a comprehensive natural health program (Maharishi’s Vedic Approach to Health) [5].

A separate analysis examined changes in medical costs over 14 years in 320 Quebec citizens over 65 years, an age group for whom medical care needs and costs generally rise sharply.  Once again, before learning TM, yearly changes in payments to doctors did not differ significantly between TM subjects and controls matched for age, sex, and initial medical expenses.  After starting the technique, however, changes in payments were significantly reduced in the TM group compared to controls, with a five-year cumulative reduction of 64.2% [8].  This result is consistent with research indicating that TM counters deleterious effects of ageing and promotes longevity (see below) [11, 16-18, 58-65].

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Reduction of Major Risk Factors for Disease

Transcendental Meditation practice simultaneously ameliorates many important risk factors for disease, including reductions in: major risk factors for coronary heart disease and stroke (high blood pressure, raised cholesterol, smoking, and insulin resistance); alcohol consumption and drug abuse; obesity; physical and mental stress; and adverse psychological traits such as anxiety, depression, and hostility.  TM also enhances protective factors including improved occupational health and job satisfaction; more harmonious relationships; and positive psychological health and well-being [see Table 1 for references]. 

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Reduction of High Blood Pressure and Decreased Mortality

In recent years, a multi-center medical research team in America has attracted grants totaling over $24 million, principally from the US National Institutes of Health, for research on the Transcendental Meditation program and prevention of cardiovascular disease in older African-Americans (a high-risk group for vascular disease).  These and other randomized controlled trials have shown:

•    TM produces reductions in systolic and diastolic blood pressure comparable to those commonly found with anti-hypertensive medication, but without adverse side-effects [9-12, 16-18, 23-28, 42].
•    TM was more effective in reducing mild hypertension than either progressive muscular relaxation, a pseudo-meditation procedure (which attempted to imitate the TM technique), or a ‘usual care’ program of advice on weight loss, salt restriction, exercise, and alcohol intake [9-12, 23].
•    TM was effective in lowering systolic and diastolic blood pressure for men and women in both high- and low-risk groups on six measures of hypertension risk: psychosocial stress, obesity, alcohol use, physical inactivity, dietary sodium-potassium ratio, and a composite measure of these factors [10].
•    Follow-up studies confirm sustained blood pressure reductions with TM [12].
•    Cost-effectiveness of TM for reducing high blood pressure compared favorably with drugs [13].
•    TM reduced carotid artery atherosclerosis compared to control groups who either practiced progressive muscular relaxation or received health education [14].
•    Pooled data from two randomized studies on older people with elevated blood pressure showed that TM was associated with a 23% reduction in all-cause mortality and a 30% decrease in cardiovascular deaths [16-18].
•    In pre-hypertensive adolescents, TM improved blood pressure at rest, and during both acute laboratory stress and normal daily activity [19-21].
TM was also found to reduce cardiovascular risk factors and levels of the stress hormone cortisol in a controlled study of post-menopausal women [22]. 

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An Effective Non-Pharmacological Approach to High Blood Pressure

A systematic review and meta-analysis of 107 published studies on stress reduction and high blood pressure found that TM practice significantly reduced both systolic and diastolic blood pressure, while other methods of meditation and relaxation, biofeedback, and stress management did not produce significant effects [23].

A second meta-analysis by an independent team confirmed that the TM program leads to clinically important reductions in blood pressure; this conclusion was robust when only the highest quality research was analyzed.   The authors conclude that sustained blood pressure changes of the magnitude produced by TM would be associated with substantially decreased risk of heart attack and stroke, the leading cause of mortality worldwide [24].  These findings are supported by other reviews on TM and cardiovascular health [25-38].

Non-pharmacological methods have long been recognized as crucial to therapy for hypertension, especially in patients under 60 years.  For example, the US Joint National Committee on the Detection, Evaluation, and Treatment of High Blood Pressure recommended that non-pharmacological, behavioral approaches 'should be used both as definitive intervention and as an adjunct to pharmacologic therapy and should be considered for all anti-hypertensive therapy' [39].  A review of research on behavioral therapy for hypertension concluded that the Transcendental Meditation program could provide an optimal non-pharmacological treatment and preventive program for high blood pressure [40], because the technique:

  • § produces rapid, clinically significant blood pressure reductions;
  • § is distinctly more effective than other meditation and relaxation procedures;
  • § is continued by a high proportion of subjects (in contrast to lower continuation rates for relaxation techniques and the frequent problem of poor compliance with anti-hypertensive drugs);
  • § has documented acceptability and effectiveness in a wide range of populations;
  • § is effective in reducing high blood pressure when used as sole treatment or in concert with medication;
  • § reduces high blood pressure in 'real-life' environments outside the clinic;
  • § is free from harmful side-effects or adverse reactions;
  • § also reduces other cardiovascular risk factors and improves health in a general way.

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Improved Health in Cardiac Patients

Randomized controlled trials have also investigated effects of the TM techique in subjects with established heart disease.  In patients with chronic heart failure, TM practice improved functional capacity and quality of life, and reduced hospitalizations and depression [41].  In patients with stable coronary heart disease (CHD), the TM program decreased both blood pressure and insulin resistance – key components of the ‘metabolic syndrome’ associated with many major disorders of modern society, including CHD, type 2 diabetes, and hypertension. TM practice also increased stability of the cardiac autonomic nervous system [42].

Another controlled study found that the Transcendental Meditation program improved exercise tolerance in patients with angina pectoris (cardiac pain on exercise).  All patients in this study had proven coronary artery disease, mostly of moderate or severe degree, and positive exercise-stress tests.  Over an eight-month period, subjects who practiced the TM technique showed significant improvements in exercise tolerance and maximum workload achieved during a standard exercise test.  In addition, there was a significant delay in the onset of electrocardiographic evidence of myocardial ischemia (shortage of oxygen in the heart muscle) [43].

British research has shown positive effects of the Transcendental Meditation program on exercise ECG testing and quality of life in patients with cardiac syndrome X (anginal chest pain, positive response to exercise stress testing, and normal coronary angiogram).  Despite a generally good prognosis, this distressing and disabling condition often necessitates expensive and invasive investigations, and recurrent hospital admissions; drug treatment is frequently unsatisfactory [44].

A recent study found significant improvements in measures of the heart's ventricular structure and function in African American adolescents at risk for essential hypertension.

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Reduced Cholesterol

Research from Israel found that TM practice reduced both raised serum cholesterol and blood pressure, independent of changes in diet, medication, or weight [46-47].  Another controlled study found that the TM program reduced cholesterol levels in business managers [303]. 

Cholesterol and other fats are harmful to the arteries chiefly when oxidized by highly reactive chemicals known as free radicals [191].  Products of fat oxidation include lipid peroxides, which may play an important role in arterial disease.  A study of elderly people who practised the Transcendental Meditation technique found lower blood levels of lipid peroxides compared to non-meditating peers, indicating reduced free radical activity and decreased risk of cardiovascular injury [48].  This finding is supported by recent research showing reduced free radical activity (measured by ultra-weak photon emissions) in individuals who practised TM compared to both non-meditating controls and subjects practising other forms of meditation [49-50].

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More Effective Weight Reduction in Obese Subjects

Obesity is a major and rapidly growing problem in modern society, with multiple health risks including increased cardiovascular disease, diabetes, musculoskeletal problems, and cancer.  Current approaches to management have consistently proved inadequate for many people.  A randomized controlled trial conducted in Germany examined weight changes and psychological health in two groups of markedly overweight subjects who were given the same calorie-controlled diet.  Over a four-month period, subjects assigned to learn the Transcendental Meditation technique lost more than twice as much weight as non-meditating controls (7.5 kg versus 3.1 kg).  Evaluation of mental health showed reduction of anxiety and depression, increased emotional stability, and other positive effects in the TM group [57]. 

A recent study of adolescents with high-normal blood pressure found that over an eight-month period the TM group gained significantly less weight and body mass index (BMI) than the health-education control (CTL) group.

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