Benefits of Transcendental Meditation

New studies explore the benefits of meditation.

A new report published Monday focuses on the mental and physical changes associated with transcendental meditation (TM). The paper was written by Fred Travis, from Maharishi University of Management’s Center for Brain, Consciousness and Cognition. The report details how different meditations have different effects and was published in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences.

One of the reported effects was transcendental experiences or a sense of self-awareness without being aware of other sensations. Previously, Travis co-authored a report, which outlined automatic self-transcending, open monitoring and focused attention; three different categories of meditation. Open monitoring meditation involves being mindful of one’s inner thoughts or breath and focused attention meditation involves concentrating on a specific emotion or object.

Transcendental meditation allows a person to transcend their activity and access higher states of consciousness, according to Travis. This type of meditation is the only type to accompany descriptions of transcendental experiences and physiological measurements. The study involved 52 subjects practicing transcendental meditation who described transcendental experiences. The subjects experienced “a state where thinking, feeling and individual intention were missing, but Self-awareness remained.”

Travis denoted explicit physiological changes linked to TM including EEG patterns, skin conductance and a shift in breath rate. Meditating on a regular basis allows a person to become more self-aware; more able to handle the challenges of everyday life, according to Travis.

Studies published last week in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine on mindfulness meditation found that it could reduce anxiety and depression, as well as physical pain. In this type of mediation, the subject objectively examines whatever enters his/her mind without focusing on it.

“Anxiety, depression, and stress/distress are different components of negative affect. When we combined each component of negative affect, we saw a small and consistent signal that any domain of negative affect is improved in mindfulness programs when compared with a nonspecific active control,” the study researchers wrote.

People who performed mindfulness meditation had a 10 to 20 percent improvement in depression symptoms and a 5 to 10 percent improvement in anxiety symptoms over people who did not use the meditation technique, the researchers found.

Dr. Allan H. Goroll, from Harvard Medical School, wrote in an accompanying editorial that most of the studies were less than 12 months long so, “longer study duration will be needed to address the question of maximum efficacy. Nonetheless, the small but potentially meaningful reductions in the distress of anxiety and depression associated with limited-term mindfulness programs argue for consideration of their use as a means of moderating the need for psychopharmacologic intervention in these conditions.”

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