The practice of meditation originated in the ancient Vedic times of India and is described in the ancient Vedic texts. According to Vedic science, the true purpose of meditation is to connect oneself to one’s deep inner Self. Techniques which achieve that goal serve the true purpose of meditation.1
Meditation can be explained as a mental exercise. It involves relaxation, focus and awareness.
According to our Vedic Science, the human being consists of three aspects –
- Physical body
- Inner faculty consisting of Mind, Intellect, Ego and ‘Chitta’ which is the store house memories and impressions of life.
- Deep inner self which in non-changing pure consciousness
Types of Meditations
Though there are many types of meditation practices, some of the well-known practices in the West are “Mindful Meditation”, “Transcendental Meditation” and “Kundalini Meditation”.2
Let us look at each of them in detail.
- Mindful Meditation
The practice of mindfulness involves the purposeful focusing of one’s attention in the present moment with a nonjudgmental attitude. This definition of mindfulness was formulated by Kabat-zinn in 2003.
In recent times ‘Mindfulness Meditation (MM) has been popular due to the various clinical studies and researches showcasing the therapeutic benefits of Mindful Meditation. What exactly is mindful meditation?
It is the act of turning away your attention away from daily chatter of your mind and focusing on your own emotions, thoughts and sensations. It involves awareness about mind and body, mental imagery, breathing practice and relaxation techniques.
The original standardized program on Mindful Meditation is Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program, developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn, PhD (who was a student of Buddhist monk and scholar Thich Nhat Hanh).
Clinical Studies on the Benefits of Mindful Meditation –
- Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction appears to be an effective tool to reduce anxiety in patients with Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Patients who learned Mindfulness Meditation had less stress reactivity, and were more resilient, to a laboratory stress task.3
- A recent paper in the Archives of General Psychiatry confirms that mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) “offers protection against relapse/recurrence on a par with that of maintenance antidepressant pharmacotherapy.4
- Changes in brain function during meditation have been documented using electrophysiology, single photon emission computed tomography, PET and functional magnetic resonance imaging. Results differ somewhat, possibly owing to the use of different forms of meditation, but in general show increased signals in brain regions related to affect regulation and attentional control, with increased release of dopamine. Long-term brain changes are of greater interest to MBCT as a preventive strategy.5
- Transcendental Meditation
TM is a simple technique for reducing mental stress and is practiced twice daily for approximately 20 minutes. The technique was first introduced in the West by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi more than 50 years ago. Performed while sitting in a comfortable position, the mental technique allows the mind to experience finer levels of the thinking process and to achieve a state of deep relaxation. Research on the TM technique has shown significant reductions in psychological distress including decreased anxiety, depressive symptoms, and emotional distress as well as improvement in psychological well-being in individuals with chronic illnesses. 6
Clinical studies on the benefits of TM
- The regular practice of Transcendental Meditation may have the potential to reduce systolic and diastolic blood pressure by ∼7 and 3.2 mm Hg, respectively. These are clinically meaningful changes.7
- TM may be an effective tool for decreasing trauma symptoms. 8
- An exploratory study tested the feasibility of using the Transcendental Meditation technique to reduce stress and anxiety as a means of reducing symptoms of ADHD. Students ages 11-14 were taught the technique and practiced it twice daily in school. Common ADHD inventories and performance measures of executive function were administered at baseline and three months later. Results showed statistically significant reductions in stress, anxiety, and improvements in ADHD symptoms and executive function.9
- Kundalini Meditation
Kundalini energy is present at the base of the spine. This power lies coiled like a snake in the triangular sacrum at the lower end of the spine. The purpose of Kundalini Meditation is to awaken the Kundalini energy. Awakening this energy leads to profound consciousness and supreme bliss.
How Kundalini Meditation procedure is approached?
First step in doing Kundalini Meditation is preparing your mind. If you are new to Meditation, give yourself time. Initially sitting without flow of thought process for even 2 minutes will be difficult. But practice gradually. You can attain concentration and make your mind ready for the flow of energy by practice.
Sit in a comfortable posture. Make sure your spine is straight. You can always choose your comfortable Yoga postures like Sukhasana, Vajrasana, Padmasana, Bhadrasana etc. If you know the basic Yoga postures, you might be knowing all the above said postures makes you sit in a erect and comfortable position. Close your eyes after sitting in a comfortable posture.
Feel the Breath. Inhale and exhale deeply. You must gradually increase your breathing time and eventually feel your breath and its movement inside your body instead of just hearing it.
Do mild exercise in sitting posture. You can gently move neck back and forth. Stretch your arms and legs while sitting.
Lastly chant your favorite Mantra. A right mantra can always impact your meditation. If you are not familiar with any mantras start with ‘OM’ which is a universal chanting.
Read more about Benefits of Mantra here – How Mantras can affect you positively?
Now let us look at the benefits of Meditation?
- Reduces stress and enhances self-awareness
- Reduces age related memory loss
- Help fight addictions
- Helps focusing on the present
- Improves concentration and memory
- Controls and anxiety and promotes emotional health.
- Sharma H. (2015). Meditation: Process and effects. Ayu, 36(3), 233–237. doi:10.4103/0974-8520.182756
- Krishnakumar D, Hamblin MR, Lakshmanan S. Anc Sci. 2015 Apr;2(1):13-19. Meditation and Yoga can Modulate Brain Mechanisms that affect Behavior and Anxiety-A Modern Scientific Perspective.
- Hoge, E. A., Bui, E., Marques, L., Metcalf, C. A., Morris, L. K., Robinaugh, D. J., … Simon, N. M. (2013). Randomized controlled trial of mindfulness meditation for generalized anxiety disorder: effects on anxiety and stress reactivity. The Journal of clinical psychiatry, 74(8), 786–792. doi:10.4088/JCP.12m08083
- Segal ZV, Bieling P, Young T, et al. Antidepressant monotherapy vs sequential pharmacotherapy and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy, or placebo, for relapse prophylaxis in recurrent depression. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2010;67:1256–64.
- Young S. N. (2011). Biologic effects of mindfulness meditation: growing insights into neurobiologic aspects of the prevention of depression. Journal of psychiatry & neuroscience : JPN, 36(2), 75–77. doi:10.1503/jpn.110010
- Elder, C., Nidich, S., Moriarty, F., & Nidich, R. (2014). Effect of transcendental meditation on employee stress, depression, and burnout: a randomized controlled study. The Permanente journal, 18(1), 19–23. doi:10.7812/TPP/13-102
- Eisenberg DM, Delbanco TL, Berkey CS, Kaptchuk TJ, Kupelnick B, Kuhl J, Chalmers TC: Cognitive behavioral techniques for hypertension: are they effective? Ann Intern Med 1993;118:964–972.
- Transcendental Meditation and Reduced Trauma Symptoms in Female Inmates: A Randomized Controlled Study – Nidich, Seng, Compton, O’connor, Salerno, Nidich Perm J. 2017;21:16-008. doi: 10.7812/TPP/16-008. Epub 2017 Jan 17
- Grosswald, S., Stixrud, W., Travis, F., & Bateh, M. (1). Use of the Transcendental Meditation Technique to Reduce Symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) by Reducing Stress and Anxiety: An Exploratory Study. Current Issues in Education, 10.
Article by – Dr. Arya Krishna, BAMS
Image Courtesy – Dr. Kavita Beri MD