Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, who founded TM, was always keen to present it in a modern idiom, and strongly encouraged scientific research. The fact that TM is taught in a standardized way around the world has opened it to scientific investigation, and papers have been published in journals such as The Lancet.
Because Transcendental Meditation is taught in a reliable, standardised way, it is very open to rigorous scientific investigation.
Starting as early as the 1960s, scientific studies have been published on the effects of TM on:
- all aspects of psychological well-being (anxiety, cognitive ability, emotional stability, etc);
- general health as well as specific aspects of physiological function;
- social well-being, including research on the collective effect of Transcendental Meditation.
Below are some highlights of this research;
A study of heart patients found that during a 5.4-year followup those who were randomly assigned to the Transcendental Meditation program decreased by 48% on a composite of heart attacks, strokes and death compared to health-education controls. This was a 9-year, NIH-funded, Randomized-Controlled trial.
Circulation, Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes 5, no. 6 (2012): 750-58
Decreased Blood Pressure. Comprehensive meta-analyses have found that Transcendental Meditation significantly reduces blood pressure.
M. V. Rainforth, Schneider R. H., Nidich S. I., et al. “Stress reduction programs in patients with elevated blood pressure: A systematic review and meta-analysis.” Current Hypertension Reports 9, no. 6 (2007): 520-528.
On the basis of a review of the meta-analyses and high quality studies, the American Heart Association concluded that TM is the only meditation practice that has been shown to lower blood pressure. All other meditation techniques (including Mindfulness) are not recommended in clinical practice to lower blood pressure at this time.” 3 The AHA statement concluded that alternative treatments that include the Transcendental Meditation technique are recommended for consideration in treatment plans for all individuals with blood pressure > 120/80 mm Hg.
This is a major meta-analysis from Stanford University of 146 published studies (the complete literature of published studies on meditation and relaxation techniques at that time). Note that all techniques in this study except for TM are comparable to placebo, which in this study was eyes closed rest. This doesn’t mean they are bad or ineffective—just that they’re no more effective than eyes closed rest. TM was markedly more effective than other techniques at reducing “trait anxiety”—the scientific term for baseline stress. Journal of Clinical Psychology 45, no. 6 (1989): 957–74.
Anxiety is part of the Flight-or-Fight response. The physiological response to threat is to activate the body’s resources to meet the challenge by raising the respiratory rate, heart rate, blood pressure, muscle tension, and to increase sweating (GSR) to cool the body. Problems arise when the fight-or-flight response is activated too frequently or for too long, fatiguing the body and making it susceptible to disease. The Transcendental Meditation technique has just the opposite effects on the physiology as anxiety. It decreases respiratory rate, heart rate, blood pressure, muscle tension, and GSR, providing the body deep rest that restores health and prevents disease. Dillbeck, M. C., & Orme-Johnson, D. W. (1987). Physiological differences between Transcendental Meditation and rest. American Psychologist, 42,
Health insurance data indicates that days spent in the hospital and doctor visits more than doubles with increasing age. However, a study published in Psychosomatic Medicine found that TM practice reduces medical care utilization in all age categories, and has particularly large effects in older persons compared to the norm for their age group. Whereas children (0 to 18) and young adults (10 to 30) practicing the TM technique had 50% less hospitalization and doctor visits than the norm, older TMers (40 +) had 70% less hospitalization and doctor visits than the norm.
D.W. Orme-Johnson. “Medical Care Utilization and the Transcendental Meditation Program.” Psychosomatic Medicine 49 (1987): 493-507.
This study not only found that TM increases fluid intelligence and improves choice reaction time, but it also improves attention. Reduction in variability of reaction time indicates improved attention. The study found that the meditator group had much better attention (less variability) to begin with than the comparison group and improved even more over the two years of the experiment.
Cranson RW, Orme-Johnson DW, Gackenbach J, Dillbeck MC, Jones CH, Alexander CN. Transcendental Meditation and improved performance on intelligence-related measures: a longitudinal study. Personality and Individual Differences. 1991;12:1105-16.