Founded by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi

Transcendental Meditation and Health

Many doctors and health professionals practise Transcendental Meditation themselves and recommend it to their patients.

You can read questions and answers with doctors, on a wide-range of medical conditions throughout these pages. Randomised controlled trials directly comparing Transcendental Meditation with other programmes have found that it is more effective in bringing about sustained long-term relaxation and reduction of stress hormones in daily life, and in promoting a healthy long life.

I have registered my name to obtain a Doctoral Degree, the topic of my research is entitled – The effects of TRANSCENDENTAL MEDITATION on Stress and Blood Pressure among patients with Systemic Hypertension. I got inspired by the teachings of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi ji, and also I got instructed in the TM prgoram. In connection with my Phd work, I had done a trial study under the guidance of an eminent Medical Professor from Mangalore with 30 Hypertensive patients. The instruction on Transcendental Meditation was administered by a teacher provided by the Bangalore TM Centre as per the defined program and the patient’s level of stress and systolic and diastolic Blood pressure were assessed before and after. Majority of patients showed a decrease in level of stress and reduced systolic and diastolic readings. Their pulse rate also showed a significant drop. The patients were satisfied with the teachings and the reinforcement provided. Many patients verbalised feeling of inner peace, happiness and improved family relationships.

– Devi. S, Phd Research Scholar, Nitte University

Re-establish balance and normal health

The latest health trends constantly offer us the newest solution to health. But there is a very simple key to all round well-being: allow the inner intelligence of the body to do what it can re-establish balance and normal good health. Rest allows the body’s natural healing mechanisms to function fully. When we do not get sufficiently deep rest, the body tends to function poorly and stress-related problems occur. It has been estimated that 80% of all doctor visits are for stress-related problems. Transcendental Meditation provides a state of profound rest that naturally dissolves even deeply rooted stress and fatigue, and thus helps to rejuvenate the body and enhance brain functioning.

Beyond relaxing. From better health to personal growth

Transcendental Meditation is relaxing, but it is much more. It is a unique combination of deep relaxation along with expanded awareness. This state of “restful alertness” sets Transcendental Meditation apart from other relaxation techniques and tension relieving activities like exercise or music. After meditation, TM meditators report they feel calm, clear and energetic, much like you feel on your best days. Transcendental Meditation can help create that experience throughout the day, every day. Transcendental Meditation can be useful in managing a wide range of conditions which are commonly stress-related, such as migraine, ulcers, high blood pressure, angina, asthma, anxiety, insomnia and excessive use of alcohol, cigarettes and non-prescribed drugs. With daily practise of Transcendental Meditation, vibrant health develops in the mind, body and emotions, leading to greater enjoyment, happiness and success.

Anxiety

Experts in psychiatry, doctors James Krag and Jim Brooks answer your questions on anxiety and explain how Transcendental Meditation can help.

Q: I'm constantly under pressure at home and on the job, and my friends say I'm stressed. Could the Transcendental Meditation (TM) technique help me?

Dr. Brooks : Twenty percent of Americans have an anxiety disorder. Stress arises when a person has trouble coping with the demands placed on them. When unable to cope, the resultant anxiety leads people to self-medicate in various ways: food, TV, alcohol, cigarettes, drugs, and coffee are common examples. However, these methods are a short-sighted and maladaptive attempt to reduce the stresses in life, because they do not help one function any better; indeed, they worsen an individual’s adaptive efficiency with time. So we get into a vicious cycle of stress, where the less we are able to cope, the more we self-medicate, which worsens our ability to cope, and causes us to again self-medicate.

The Transcendental Meditation technique cuts short this vicious cycle of stress. When practicing the TM technique, a person sits comfortably in a chair for 20 minutes twice a day, closes the eyes, begins the process, and experiences the mind becoming increasingly quiet, calm and relaxed. As the mind settles down it comes to the source of the thinking process, awareness itself. In this state of restful alertness the body is deeply rested and the mind is fully alert. The deep physiological rest dissolves stress. As a result of the mind being calmer, people report that they feel less stress and pressure at home and work.

Q: I'm so anxious, what if I can't sit still enough to meditate?

Dr. Brooks: The experience of restful alertness is pleasant and comfortable, and this allows you to continue to sit quietly for twenty minutes twice a day. When practiced regularly, this program dissolves stress cumulatively, and with time, you experience less and less stress and nervousness. As a natural result of this lessening of stress, the mind settles down when you’re meditating and you don’t feel the need to get up and move around. The direct experience of stillness and peace takes care of those feelings of restlessness.

With continued practice, anxiety plays less and less a role in a person’s life; the individual starts making better decisions about daily activities because he or she is better able to cope with stress. So, with time, a person become incresingly stress free. The nice thing about the TM technique is that even if people are highly axious they are still able to meditate easily and effortlessly. Unlike other meditation techniques which often involve concentration, TM is a simple, natural technique whch does not require any effort.

Q: Won't forcing myself to sit still and meditate just make me more anxious?

Dr. Krag : Research has found that some types of “relaxation techniques” do, in fact, cause a person with an anxiety disorder to become more anxious. However, the experience of thousands of people with anxiety, over many years, has been that they can learn the Transcendental Meditation technique and reduce their anxiety. With proper guidance from the TM instructor, they are able to feel a sense of calm quite unusual and pleasant for them. If you are capable of thinking a thought, you can learn the Transcendental Meditation technique.

Q: I'm so busy, even if I learned Transcendental Meditation, I'm afraid I'd never do it?

Dr. Brooks: All of us take time to recharge our batteries. All of us take the time to sleep, to eat, to shower each day. The Transcendental Meditation technique is a program to prevent stress from slowly accumulating over time—and to prevent stress from interfering with your ability to function and enjoy life. It is a way for the mind and body to get a very deep level of rest and become increasingly impervious to stress. Life becomes a growing experience where you look forward to new experiences, because you are able to easily manage them as a result of adequate rest increased energy and integration of mind and body. The short amount of time that’s required to meditate each day is well worth the investment.

Our Experts on Anxiety

James Krag, M.D., is a Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association, president of the Psychiatric Society of Virginia, and former president of the Virginia Association of Community Psychiatrists for four years. He is currently Medical Director of Liberty Point, a residential treatment program for adolescents with psychiatric problems.

Jim Brooks, M.D, is a physician specializing in Psychiatry. Dr. Brooks graduated from Wayne State University School of Medicine in Detroit, and completed his psychiatric residency program at the University of Colorado Medical Center. He currently serves on the staff of several mental health centers in southeast Iowa, and has a private psychotherapy practice in Fairfield, Iowa. In addition, Dr. Brooks has a special interest in complementary and alternative forms of prevention-based health care. He has been an accomplished Maharishi Ayurveda Health Practitioner for the past 30 years, and practices Classical Five Element Acupuncture. Dr. Brooks is the author of Ayurvedic Secrets to Longevity and Total Health, Prentice Hall, 1996 and has published a research study on the benefits of Transcendental Meditation in the treatment of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (Journal of Counseling and Development, 1985).

ADHD

Doctors Stixrud, Grosswald and Krag answer your questions on Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

Q: It's common knowledge that children are under more stress than before. Is this contributing to ADHD and other problems?

Dr. Stixrud: I make my living by evaluating kids who are struggling with classroom achievement, behavioral problems, depression and neurological disorders. Stress plays a significant role in all of these problems. I see many children with learning disorders and ADHD—Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder—and there’s absolutely no question that stress significantly interferes with a child’s ability to learn and perform in school.

Q: How do children experience the stress response in school?

Dr. Stixrud: The stress response, also called the fight-or-flight response, presumably evolved over millions of years in order to protect us from predators. When that fight-or-flight response is triggered, you aren’t supposed to be able to think clearly. From an evolutionary point of view, if people thought a long time about “What’s the right thing to do?” as a tiger approached, they got eaten, and they didn’t pass on their genes. Nature has protected us from thinking under stress. Consequently, if a kid is under stress, it’s very hard for him to think, to learn, to do school work, to pay attention to the teacher, and to manage his own behavior.

I would say that the main principle that’s been most commonly derived from 20 years of applying brain research to learning is this: a child needs to feel safe in school in order to learn, because you can’t learn when you’re under stress.

Q: Can the Transcendental Meditation technique alleviate this stress?

Dr. Stixrud: I think that TM can play an extremely important role in alleviating learning and attention problems. In some schools the Transcendental Meditation technique already does play a dramatic role in helping children overcome learning, attentional, and behavioral problems.

Q: I have ADHD and I just can't sit still, not even for a few minutes. How could I ever practice the Transcendental Meditation technique?

Dr. Grosswald:That’s a major benefit of the Transcendental Meditation technique. It’s very simple, effortless and easy to do. It actually allows the mind to settle down, and when the mind settles down, the body very naturally follows. You’re able to sit more quietly, easily and comfortably. As a result of practicing the Transcendental Meditation technique, certain aspects of that quiet, settled feeling stay with you after meditation. Over time you begin to feel more calm and settled, and the restlessness begins to subside. That’s why the TM technique is recommended to help adults and children who complain of restlessness. That is the uniqueness of this technique.

Dr. Krag: People with ADHD have attentional variability. In some situations they have trouble focusing and in others they have the ability to hyperfocus. Even with notable ADHD, the Transcendental Meditation technique is not only easy but highly advisable. Although I cannot predict that Transcendental Meditation will eliminate this disorder, I have seen it lessen the symptoms notably.

I had ADHD as a child, and still have trouble focusing on any sort of work. Will practicing the Transcendental Meditation technique help me focus better?

Dr. Grosswald: Yes, based on our research, it will. The Transcendental Meditation technique works for both adults and for children. It’s easy to learn and to do, and it doesn’t require concentration, or focus, or attention. At the same time, it increases the ability to focus outside of meditation, because it enhances brain functioning. When your eyes are closed and you’re meditating, the brain connections related to attention and focus actually increase. Then when your eyes are open and you are in activity, focus and concentration are better.

Many symptoms of ADHD are actually the result of stress; stress shuts down the prefrontal cortex in the brain, making concentration and focus difficult. Reducing stress increases your attention, focus, and concentration—as well as the ability to act calmly and to feel more relaxed and comfortable in stressful situations. In our research with children, we found a 20% improvement in attention in just three months after starting the Transcendental Meditation program. There were also significant improvements in working memory and organization, as well as psychosocial measurements of behavior, anxiety, stress, attention, and focus.

Dr. Krag: Anyone with longstanding problems with ADHD knows that when they are rested and calm they have fewer ADHD symptoms than when they are tired and anxious. Since TM helps create a calm and stable state, it clearly can help reduce the problems of ADHD.

One of the really crushing parts of ADHD is lack of impulse control, where a child is constantly interrupting people, saying things impulsively—and that gets people upset. Can the Transcendental Meditation technique help?

Dr. Grosswald: Yes, based on our research, it will. The Transcendental Meditation technique works for both adults and for children. It’s easy to learn and to do, and it doesn’t require concentration, or focus, or attention. At the same time, it increases the ability to focus outside of meditation, because it enhances brain functioning. When your eyes are closed and you’re meditating, the brain connections related to attention and focus actually increase. Then when your eyes are open and you are in activity, focus and concentration are better.

Many symptoms of ADHD are actually the result of stress; stress shuts down the prefrontal cortex in the brain, making concentration and focus difficult. Reducing stress increases your attention, focus, and concentration—as well as the ability to act calmly and to feel more relaxed and comfortable in stressful situations. In our research with children, we found a 20% improvement in attention in just three months after starting the Transcendental Meditation program. There were also significant improvements in working memory and organization, as well as psychosocial measurements of behavior, anxiety, stress, attention, and focus.

Dr. Krag: Anyone with longstanding problems with ADHD knows that when they are rested and calm they have fewer ADHD symptoms than when they are tired and anxious. Since TM helps create a calm and stable state, it clearly can help reduce the problems of ADHD.

Q: It sounds like you've experienced this firsthand.

Dr. Stixrud: In a pilot study on middle school students with ADHD practicing Transcendental Meditation, we interviewed the students after three months of meditating. We asked, “What do you notice after meditating for a few months?” Virtually all the kids said things like,”I feel much less stressed, and I feel more relaxed.” Most of them said, “I feel more organized. I feel I can do my homework better. My parents don’t need to help me.”

One strikingly impulsive boy said, “Before I started meditating, if I was walking in the hallway and another middle school kid bumped into me, I’d turn around and hit him. Now that I’ve been meditating for three months, if somebody bumps into me, I stop and think, “Should I hit him or not?” To some that may not sound like much, but from my experience in working with impulsive kids and teenagers, this delay in reacting is very hard to achieve. If the Transcendental Meditation technique gives this child a little bit of time between a stimulus and a response—which then allows him to think, to plan, to ask what’s the right thing to do in this situation—that’s a capacity that he didn’t have before he started meditating.

Q: Is there other research indicating that the Transcendental Meditation technique can help with ADHD?

Dr. Stixrud: Most researchers think ADHD is a disorder of multiple executive functions. “Executive functions” refers to the functions of the front part of the brain: the mental control and the mental organizational skills that you need to carry out purposeful behavior. When you have to get something done, for instance, you need to be able to plan, to organize, and to hold relevant information in your memory. You also need to self-monitor, to ask yourself, “How’s it going?”

And there’s good evidence in several hundred studies on Transcendental Meditation that it improves every one of these executive functions. This is probably, at least in part, because the Transcendental Meditation technique increases the coherence of brain functioning, and in part because it reduces stress, which makes all these other things worse.

Q: I think meditation's great, but I want my child to be focused. I don't want him to get too passive.

Dr. Stixrud: Sometimes parents are concerned that if their kids get too chilled out from meditation, they’ll lose their drive. The common experience is actually the opposite.

While it’s true that the Transcendental Meditation technique produces deep relaxation, on the other hand, it’s also activating. It’s that unique combination of activated brain and deeply relaxed physiology that produces so many of the positive benefits of meditation. The common experience of people who meditate is not that they lose their drive, it’s that they find it easier to channel their drive in an effective manner.

They don’t waste energy in worrying and excessive anxiety. They become better at planning and become more goal oriented. If you look at the schools where the kids have practiced TM on a regular basis, you’ll see that the children are ridiculously successful. They’re exceptionally high achieving, in academics, sports, arts, everything. That’s why I think there’s absolutely no merit to the idea that the Transcendental Meditation technique could make children passive or lose their drive or their interest. It’s completely the opposite.

Q: How will I ever be able to meditate when I have young children, including one with ADHD?

Dr. Krag: Obviously, you will need some help to accomplish this. But keep in mind that the Transcendental Meditation program is not done for the sake of meditating itself (although it is a very peaceful and pleasant state—a 20-minute vacation), but rather it is rest for the sake of enhanced daily activity. As a parent of a child with ADHD, you need all the energy and clarity you can muster. Transcendental Meditation will help you develop the calm state of mind that will help your child respond to you more effectively.

Our Medical Experts

William Stixrud, Ph.D., is a clinical neuropsychologist and director of William Stixrud & Associates in Silver Spring, Maryland, a group practice specializing in learning, attention, and social/emotional disorders. Dr. Stixrud is adjunct faculty at the Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C.

Sarina Grosswald, Ed.D., is an expert in cognitive learning who recently directed the first-of-its-kind research study on the effects of the Transcendental Meditation program on children with language-based learning disabilities. Dr. Grosswald and her work have been extensively featured in the national media, including PBS and ABC News.

James Krag, M.D., s a Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association, president of the Psychiatric Society of Virginia, and former president of the Virginia Association of Community Psychiatrists for four years. He is currently Medical Director of Liberty Point, a residential treatment program for adolescents with psychiatric problems.

Blood Pressure

Doctors Gary Kaplan and Vernon Barnes answer your questions on high blood pressure, explaining how Transcendental Meditation could help.

Q : Is there evidence that the Transcendental Meditation program alone can lower high blood pressure?

Dr. Kaplan: Several studies on both teenagers (American Journal of Hypertension, 2004) and elderly adults (Hypertension, 1999) have demonstrated that high blood pressure is reduced even after a few months of twice-daily practice of the Transcendental Meditation technique. The need for antihypertensive medication is reduced and sometimes eliminated. Anyone on medication who starts practicing the TM technique should follow up regularly with their physician to monitor this positive effect on blood pressure and the need for continued medication.

Q : Since the result of high blood pressure over many years is usually hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis), leading to complications of stroke and heart attack, is there evidence that the Transcendental Meditation technique can reduce atherosclerosis?

Dr. Kaplan: A groundbreaking study published in the journal Stroke showed that the thickness of the wall of the carotid artery, a warning sign for hardening of the arteries, is reduced with regular practice of the Transcendental Meditation technique.

Q : Why is the problem of hypertension such a serious health risk?

Dr. Barnes: In studying the world’s population, 26.4% of the adult population are projected to have hypertension by 2025, which is a predicted increase of about 60% to a total of 1.56 billion. Therefore, hypertension is an important public-health challenge worldwide, and prevention, detection, treatment, and control of this condition is of high priority.

It’s an enticing concept that a blood pressure-reducing intervention such as the Transcendental Meditation technique, if used widely by the general population, could potentially have an enormous impact on public health. Although long-term studies will be needed to demonstrate the concept, the expectation is that even a small downward shift (i.e. a few mm Hg, or points) in the distribution of blood pressure, if maintained throughout adulthood, could substantially reduce the risk of hypertension and related cardiovascular disease.

Q : What are the possible causes of hypertension and heart disease?

Dr. Barnes: Stress has been implicated in the development of hypertension. This has been documented through epidemiological blood pressure studies; naturalistic studies of the relationship among blood pressure, psychology, and everyday life events; and experimental studies of cardiovascular and neuroendocrine responses to behavioral stimuli.

The mind and body are very intimately connected. The subjective experience of the Transcendental Meditation technique is one of mental relaxation and peacefulness combined with inner wakefulness. The meditation response is very rapid, and the most clear-cut effects have been seen after 15-30 minutes of practice. The mental relaxation elicits physiological relaxation; that is, when the mind settles down, the body gains deep rest

Q : What are the possible mechanisms responsible for the reduction of blood pressure with Transcendental Meditation practice?

Dr. Barnes:Chronic environmental and psychosocial stress contribute to an increase in acute stress-induced sympathetic nervous system arousal, resulting in imbalance in the nervous system biochemistry. Such changes result in an exaggerated response to stress, as evidenced by constriction of the blood vessels and increased blood pressure levels.

Moderating factors such as stress reduction via practice of the Transcendental Meditation technique impact on the sympathetic nervous system, resulting in reduced blood pressure reactivity to acute stress. Over time, due to decreased cardiovascular reactivity to acute events, there is reduced load upon the heart, resulting in decreased blood pressure levels, thereby helping to prevent early onset of hypertension.

Q : What has research found about the effect of the Transcendental Meditation technique on the physiology?

Dr. Barnes:According to a review article by Dr. Jevning and his colleagues (Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews, 1992), the Transcendental Meditation experience appears to elicit a physiological state characterized by a wakeful hypometabolic integrated response. Research has reported a decreased metabolism of the peripheral muscles and red cells, as well as decreased stress hormone secretion. These qualities consistent with deep rest have also been measured using EEG. Additionally, findings of reduced respiratory rates, blood lactate levels and skin conductance levels have been reported.

In other words, the Transcendental Meditation technique allows us to experience a simpler, more settled form of awareness, reducing levels of stress hormones. Effects of chronic stress on hormone levels have been well documented. Acute effects on stress hormone secretion are consistent with decreased activation during meditation. Chronic decrease of this level of activation may also occur. According to scientific research, regular practice of the Transcendental Meditation technique supports reduction in blood pressure in those who have high blood pressure.

Q: How long is it necessary to meditate before you can see benefits on blood pressure?

Dr. Barnes:The benefits can be immediate, but since every person is different it is not possible to predict exactly how soon blood pressure will drop. In most cases, the research has shown that within 1-2 months there is a significant drop in blood pressure if it has been too high.

Q: Does the Transcendental Meditation technique work for everyone?

Dr. Barnes:The Transcendental Meditation program works for everyone and generally it works from the first sitting, but it may take some time before the benefits are seen. Stress is often associated with high blood pressure, and high blood pressure is also a risk factor for heart disease. Practicing the Transcendental Meditation technique twice a day could reduce blood pressure. If practicing Transcendental Meditation reduces stress and high blood pressure enough, it may be possible to avoid or reduce medications.

Doctors may prescribe the Transcendental Meditation technique to patients as a first line of treatment prior to prescribing medication drugs. They also may prescribe it as an adjunct treatment.

Q: Is there a time when the patient can stop with the medication?

Dr. Barnes:That should be decided by the individual patient’s doctor according to certain criteria; when, for instance, the patient’s blood pressure has reached normal levels on at least three consecutive occasions. Patients should not decide for themselves when to stop medication.

Q: How do you see this treatment developing in the future?

Dr. Barnes:There is a great potential for doctors to prescribe the Transcendental Meditation program to their patients, especially for those who are stressed or suffering from stress-related disorders. This technique has been viewed as having the highest potential to change clinical practice from the perspective of treatment.

Our Medical Experts

Gary P. Kaplan, M.D. Ph.D. is a neurologist and associate professor of clinical neurology at New York University School of Medicine. He is also a recipient of the Albert H. Douglas Award from the Medical Society of the State of New York for outstanding achievements as a clinical teacher interested in promoting and improving the medical education of physicians.

Vernon Barnes, Ph.D. is a researcher at the Georgia Prevention Institute of the Medical College of Georgia in Augusta, which received $1.5 million from the American Heart Association and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute to study the effects of the Transcendental Meditation technique on African American teens at risk for high blood pressure.

Brain and Memory Function

Dr. Christopher Clark, leading Florida psychiatrist answers your questions on brain and memory function, outlining the benefits of Transcendental Meditation.

Q: I'm in my 50s now and my memory doesn't seem as good as it used to be. Will the Transcendental Meditation technique help?

Dr. Clark: Many research studies have shown that both short-term and long-term memory are improved with the regular practice of the Transcendental Meditation technique. Regular practice of the TM technique allows the mind to become more fresh, alert and deeply rested. With a more restful physiology, it’s natural that the mind functions more clearly and coherently—improving memory, concentration and cognitive processing.

When the mental fatigue from a day’s work is dissolved during the practice of the Transcendental Meditation program, the stress and strain that interferes with concentration is also reduced. Improved concentration allows for better memory. By learning the TM technique at the age of 50-something, you may find your memory becomes clearer and crisper and you’re able to retain what you read better than you have in years.

Q: I'm so tired all the time that I have trouble focusing in my work. Could TM help?

Dr. Clark: Scientific research on people practicing the Transcendental Meditation technique reveals greater ability to focus, less distractibility and improved performance at work. Studies have shown that people can differentiate an object of attention from its background (better focus on the object) and can make decisions more rapidly and accurately. Each meditation session refreshes the mind, leaving it clearer, more settled and better able to process information. It’s better than a nap or a coffee break.

The TM technique allows for deeper rest than even sleep, and surveys show that Americans are running a sleep deficit—sleeping on average one-and-half hours less than they did 100 years ago. The population has accumulated fatigue due to lack of sleep, which gives rise to mental fatigue during the day, lack of job efficiency and increased stress. Regular practice of the Transcendental Meditation program can reduce this backlog of fatigue and sleep deprivation—and also allow for deeper, more restful sleep at night. Most people focus better on their work when they are less fatigued.

Q: Sometimes I feel so stressed about work and raising my family that I can't think straight, and I make decisions I later regret. How can adding one more thing to my day help me?

Dr. Clark: Adding the Transcendental Meditation technique to the day is adding more coherence, more centeredness, more creativity and resourcefulness. Regular practice of TM brings resolution of stress and fatigue in the physiology. According to research, practice of the TM technique leads to more efficiency at work. Many people who start practicing Transcendental Meditation find that raising their family is more fluid, and that this is the solution that they were searching for.

Q: I'm a little dreamy and impractical—my friends call me spacey. Won't practicing Transcendental Meditation just increase this tendency to daydream and not focus on things at hand?

Dr. Clark: No. Research shows that the practice of the Transcendental Meditation technique enhances the ability to be both creative and focused.

Sometimes people have artistic, creative, broad vision, and those abilities may make them seem dreamy. Research shows that he Transcendental Meditation technique not only will enhance those creative abilities, but will also improve the focused, problem-solving aspects of the mind. The TM technique enlivens the whole brain, including the so-called executive centers of the brain, allowing one to become both more creative and practically productive.

Christopher Clark, MD

Christopher Clark, M.D. is a graduate of Yale University School of Medicine, Department of Psychiatry, and a recipient of a child psychology fellowship from the University of Washington. He has practiced medicine for over 20 years and is currently a psychiatrist in Vero Beach, Florida.

Our Medical Experts

Drs. Kaplan, Molina and Schneider answer your questions on cardiovascular diseases and the benefits of transcendental meditation

Q: Since the result of high blood pressure over many years is usually hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis), leading to complications of stroke and heart attack, is there evidence that the Transcendental Meditation technique can reduce atherosclerosis?

 Dr. Kaplan:A groundbreaking study published in the journal Stroke showed that the thickness of the wall of the carotid artery, a warning sign for hardening of the arteries, is reduced with regular practice of the Transcendental Meditation technique.

Q: How can the Transcendental Meditation technique affect the physical risk factors for atherosclerosis, such as blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and insulin resistance?

Dr. Molina: The Transcendental Meditation technique, even though it is a mental technique, brings about a unique neuro-psycho-physiological state. Those changes in the physiology lead to a drop in cholesterol and a drop in blood pressure. When you lower your blood pressure and your cholesterol, you decrease your risk of atherosclerosis. Studies have shown that patients with coronary heart disease who practice the Transcendental Meditation technique have less angina. On an exercise stress test subjects practicing the Transcendental Meditation technique also demonstrate an increased capacity to exercise, associated with decreased ischemia, or coronary artery insufficiency.

It’s also important to recognize that high blood pressure, diabetes and tobacco use are the three most important risk factors for heart disease. At the same time, high blood pressure is the most important risk factor for stroke. The Transcendental Meditation technique has been shown to decrease both the systolic and the diastolic blood pressure, but it particularly decreases the systolic blood pressure, which is most related to increased risk for stroke. It’s also the one that is not well-treated by the present pharmacologic therapy for high blood pressure.

The Transcendental Meditation technique has also been shown to reduce insulin resistance, which is considered to be a very important risk factor for diabetes, hypertension and coronary heart disease.

Dr. Schneider: It’s true that atherosclerosis is caused by a variety of risk factors, such as high blood pressure, smoking, high cholesterol, metabolic syndrome or insulin resistance. In addition there are underlying biochemical imbalances due to free radicals or oxidative stress. Research has shown that chronic stress contributes to the development and progression of atherosclerosis directly and by increasing just about every other risk factor for heart disease. The effects of chronic stress are mediated by stress hormones such as cortisol and by the sympathetic nervous system, which releases adrenaline and noradrenalin.

RESEARCH ON THE TRANSCENDENTAL MEDITATION PROGRAM has shown that it deceases most of the major risk factors for atherosclerosis [heart disease]—psychological stress, high blood pressure, smoking, cholesterol, oxidized lipids, and insulin resistance. At the level of neurohormones, there are reductions in stress hormones and sympathetic nervous system disorders. The neuro-endocrine and cardiovascular changes are likely the result of greater orderliness and balance in the central nervous system.

Besides reduction in cardiovascular risk factors, research has shown reductions in narrowing of the arteries (regression of atherosclerosis), reduced hypertrophy of the heart (left ventricular hypertrophy), and reductions in mortality from heart disease and other causes. So this is a well-established sequence of events whereby transcending through the Transcendental Meditation technique leads to greater heart health.

Q: I thought that hardening of the arteries was due primarily to genetic factors and diet. How is it that practice of TM can reduce atherosclerosis?

Dr. Molina: The Transcendental Meditation technique, even though it is a mental technique, brings about a unique neuro-psycho-physiological state. Those changes in the physiology lead to a drop in cholesterol and a drop in blood pressure. When you lower your blood pressure and your cholesterol, you decrease your risk of atherosclerosis. Studies have shown that patients with coronary heart disease who practice the Transcendental Meditation technique have less angina. On an exercise stress test subjects practicing the Transcendental Meditation technique also demonstrate an increased capacity to exercise, associated with decreased ischemia, or coronary artery insufficiency.

It’s also important to recognize that high blood pressure, diabetes and tobacco use are the three most important risk factors for heart disease. At the same time, high blood pressure is the most important risk factor for stroke. The Transcendental Meditation technique has been shown to decrease both the systolic and the diastolic blood pressure, but it particularly decreases the systolic blood pressure, which is most related to increased risk for stroke. It’s also the one that is not well-treated by the present pharmacologic therapy for high blood pressure.

The Transcendental Meditation technique has also been shown to reduce insulin resistance, which is considered to be a very important risk factor for diabetes, hypertension and coronary heart disease.

Dr. Schneider: It’s true that atherosclerosis is caused by a variety of risk factors, such as high blood pressure, smoking, high cholesterol, metabolic syndrome or insulin resistance. In addition there are underlying biochemical imbalances due to free radicals or oxidative stress. Research has shown that chronic stress contributes to the development and progression of atherosclerosis directly and by increasing just about every other risk factor for heart disease. The effects of chronic stress are mediated by stress hormones such as cortisol and by the sympathetic nervous system, which releases adrenaline and noradrenalin.

RESEARCH ON THE TRANSCENDENTAL MEDITATION PROGRAM has shown that it deceases most of the major risk factors for atherosclerosis [heart disease]—psychological stress, high blood pressure, smoking, cholesterol, oxidized lipids, and insulin resistance. At the level of neurohormones, there are reductions in stress hormones and sympathetic nervous system disorders. The neuro-endocrine and cardiovascular changes are likely the result of greater orderliness and balance in the central nervous system.

Besides reduction in cardiovascular risk factors, research has shown reductions in narrowing of the arteries (regression of atherosclerosis), reduced hypertrophy of the heart (left ventricular hypertrophy), and reductions in mortality from heart disease and other causes. So this is a well-established sequence of events whereby transcending through the Transcendental Meditation technique leads to greater heart health.

Q: Don't I have to change my diet to get any improvement?

Dr. Schneider:No, the research showed that subjects who practiced the Transcendental Meditation technique experienced a reduction in coronary risk factors without any change in diet or lifestyle. Of course, it’s always best to choose healthy foods for improved health and longevity.

Dr. Molina:No, there are no dietary requirements to practice the Transcendental Meditation technique. Changing your diet is not a requirement to practice the Transcendental Meditation program nor is it a requirement to obtain the benefits reported in research studies. However, it is always wise for patients to eat regular meals and to eat healthy, freshly prepared foods, especially fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts and whole grains.

Q: Do you recommend the Transcendental Meditation technique to help reduce the risk factors for heart attack and stroke?

Dr. Molina:Actually, I recommend the Transcendental Meditation technique to anyone, because you don’t have to be sick to meditate.

There have been studies showing that Transcendental Meditation technique increases longevity and decreases cardiovascular death, as compared to control groups that did nothing, received regular medical care and practiced other relaxation techniques. Also, the TM technique does reduce the risk factors for heart disease and stroke.

The Transcendental Meditation technique is a very simple mental technique, and when practiced regularly, it is associated with a decrease in blood pressure and improved neuro-physiological integration and endocrine integration; therefore, it is a process in which you can decrease high blood pressure, decrease atherosclerosis, and at the same time become more awake, alert, bright and happy.

Our Medical Experts

Gary P. Kaplan, M.D., Ph.D. is a neurologist and associate professor of clinical neurology at New York University School of Medicine. He is also a recipient of the Albert H. Douglas Award from the Medical Society of the State of New York for outstanding achievements as a clinical teacher interested in promoting and improving the medical education of physicians.

César Molina, M.D., F.A.C.C. is Medical Director of the South Asian Heart Center at El Camino Hospital in Mountain View, CA. He is a graduate of Yale University School of Medicine and a fellow of the American College of Cardiology. Dr. Molina has recently appeared in the international edition of CNN discussing the benefits of diet and exercise in the treatment and prevention of coronary heart disease.

Robert Schneider, M.D., F.A.C.C., F.A.B.M.R. has been awarded more than $20 million in grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for his pioneering research on natural approaches to heart disease. Dr. Schneider is the author of Total Heart Health and 100 medical research articles, and he has been featured in more than 1,000 media reports, including CNN Headline News, The New York Times, and Time magazine.

James Krag, M.D.  is a Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association, president of the Psychiatric Society of Virginia, and former president of the Virginia Association of Community Psychiatrists for four years. He is currently Medical Director of Liberty Point, a residential treatment program for adolescents with psychiatric problems.

Cholesterol

Drs. Kaplan, Molina, and Schneider answer questions on high cholesterol and how Transcendental Meditation can help.

Q: Can the TM technique help control both blood sugar and cholesterol? What about weight?

Dr. Kaplan:There is evidence now from a well-controlled scientific study published in Archives of Internal Medicine in 2006 that the TM technique can reduce the components of “metabolic syndrome,” a major cause of poor health and premature death. Patients with metabolic syndrome are characteristically overweight, with high blood pressure, elevated blood sugar and triglycerides, and low HDL (good) cholesterol.

Q: Can the Transcendental Meditation program lower cholesterol?

Dr. Molina: In a study published in the Journal of the Israeli Medical Association, researchers reported a significant drop in total cholesterol in people who practice the Transcendental Meditation technique. So yes, the Transcendental Meditation technique is an effective way to lower total cholesterol.

Most of the emphasis today is on lowering cholesterol, and thus you hear many advertisements for cholesterol medications on TV. Yet we need to remember that high blood pressure is, in fact, the most important risk factor for both stroke and coronary heart disease. Research studies have consistently demonstrated a drop in the blood pressure of people who practice the Transcendental Meditation technique. So we should not underestimate the power of lowering the blood pressure of anyone, whether or not they have high cholesterol.

Q: I've been on statin drugs for several years. Could I get off them with the practice of the Transcendental Meditation technique?

Dr. Schneider:It’s possible. A couple of studies have reported reduced serum cholesterol as a result of the practicing the Transcendental Meditation technique. As with all medical conditions, it is recommended to follow the advice of your physician or health care provider before changing any prescribed medications or other treatment methods.

Dr. Molina: It could. The Transcendental Meditation program has been associated with a drop in total cholesterol in research studies, but there has never been a large, formal study comparing it against statins. And therefore, for people who require statins, someone who has had a heart attack, for example, I would not use the Transcendental Meditation program in place of statins. In those cases I would recommend the Transcendental Meditation technique to be used in addition to statin drugs and not in lieu of them. The Transcendental Meditation technique is a very powerful addition, and in fact may be more powerful than statin drugs in improving outcome, but we don’t have that data.

Our Medical Experts

Gary P. Kaplan, M.D., Ph.D. is a neurologist and Associate Professor of Clinical Neurology at Hofstra University School of Medicine. He is also a recipient of the Albert H. Douglas Award from the Medical Society of the State of New York for outstanding achievements as a clinical teacher interested in promoting and improving the medical education of physicians.

César Molina, M.D., F.A.C.C. is Medical Director of the South Asian Heart Center at El Camino Hospital in Mountain View, CA. He is a graduate of Yale University School of Medicine and a fellow of the American College of Cardiology. Dr. Molina has recently appeared in the international edition of CNN discussing the benefits of diet and exercise in the treatment and prevention of coronary heart disease.

Robert Schneider, M.D., F.A.C.C., F.A.B.M.R.  has been awarded more than $20 million in grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for his pioneering research on natural approaches to heart disease. Dr. Schneider is the author of Total Heart Health and 100 medical research articles, and he has been featured in more than 1,000 media reports, including CNN Headline News, The New York Times, and Time magazine.

Congestive heart failure.

Doctors Robert Schneider and Gary P. Kaplan answer questions on congestive heart failure and how transcendental meditation can help.

Q: Can heart disease be averted? For instance, is it possible to change the course of a serious condition such as congestive heart failure?

Dr. Schneider:Congestive heart failure, or simply heart failure, is the end result of many forms of heart disease, such as coronary heart disease or hypertensive heart disease. It kills 300,000 people a year in the United States and carries a 50% mortality rate over five years’ time.

Congestive heart failure is very difficult to treat with medicinal drugs or even surgical intervention. However, research on the Transcendental Meditation technique, conducted at the University of Pennsylvania, has demonstrated that individuals who are taking conventional treatments for heart failure, and who have added twenty minutes twice a day of Transcendental Meditation practice to their routine, have significant improvements in measures of heart failure as indicated by greater functional capacity in the six-minute walk test compared to health education controls.

Q: Does the Transcendental Meditation program also help relieve depression in heart patients?

Dr. Schneider: Yes. In the study on congestive heart failure that we have been discussing, the same individuals showed improvement in quality of life and mental health in addition to improvements in physical capacity of heart functioning, as shown by a clinically significant reduction in depression in the Transcendental Meditation practitioners as compared to controls.

This shows that adding an effective mind-body intervention program to usual medical treatment program results in significant improvements in both physical and mental health in patients with heart failure. This is a remarkable medical discovery, and it is very easy to implement on a widespread basis.

Q: Can someone with an already weakened heart who is suffering from congestive heart failure benefit from the practice of the Transcendental Meditation technique?

Dr. Kaplan: A recent study published in Ethnicity and Disease documents improvement in measures of congestive heart failure, including exercise tolerance, after only three months of regular practice of the TM technique.

Our Medical Experts

Robert Schneider, M.D., F.A.C.C., F.A.B.M.R. has been awarded more than $20 million in grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for his pioneering research on natural approaches to heart disease. Dr. Schneider is the author of Total Heart Health and 100 medical research articles, and he has been featured in more than 1,000 media reports, including CNN Headline News, The New York Times, and Time magazine.

Gary P. Kaplan, M.D., Ph.D. is a neurologist and associate professor of clinical neurology at New York University School of Medicine. He is also a recipient of the Albert H. Douglas Award from the Medical Society of the State of New York for outstanding achievements as a clinical teacher interested in promoting and improving the medical education of physicians.

Depression in Adults

Doctor James Krag answers your questions on depression in adults and explains how Transcendental Meditation can help.

Q: I sit around too much anyway. How could practicing the Transcendental Meditation technique help me?

 Dr. Krag: The Transcendental Meditation technique tends to produce what is most needed in our lives—balance. It has a healthy “normalizing” effect. So for people who have become too inactive, the regular practice of TM tends to lead to more activity. Conversely, if you have become active to an unhealthy degree, regular TM practice tends to lead to a more balanced life-style. In my experience those who regularly practice the Transcendental Meditation technique have a more stable level of mood and activity.

Q: If I practice the Transcendental Meditation technique, will I still need to take antidepressants?

Dr. Krag: People with depression and taking antidepressants can certainly benefit from the practice of the Transcendental Meditation technique. The benefits of TM are accumulative and gradual . . . don’t rush it. It is important to allow the brain physiology to normalize. Continue with your medication and your meditation and later, after a period without depression you may choose to consult with your doctor about the possibility of tapering off. I recommend that you always work with your doctor regarding your medication and not stop it on your own.

Q: I get severe episodes of depression every few years. Will the Transcendental Meditation technique prevent these episodes?

Dr. Kaplan: Transcendental Meditation tends to have a balancing effect. We can’t say for sure that TM will prevent all episodes of depression but research shows that TM does help to stabilize mood and has a healthy effect. So it is worth a try. I have certainly known people that had a reduction in their depressive episodes after learning TM.

Research also shows a decrease in depression with the practice of TM. For instance, in a study published in the Journal of Counseling and Development, patients suffering from post-traumatic stress problems who learned the Transcendental Meditation technique showed significant reduction in depression after four months, in contrast to others who were randomly assigned to receive psychotherapy and did not show significant reduction in depression.

Q:If I close my eyes, my mind is filled with thoughts about the things I have to do or about problems I have to solve. I can't stop these thoughts, so how could I ever successfully practice the Transcendental Meditation technique?

Dr. Stixrud:This is not a problem since in the practice of the Transcendental Meditation technique we don’t go against this natural tendency of the mind to be active. With the TM technique we guide the mind to more refined or settled levels of activity and this leads the physiology to very deep rest. It’s easy and natural. And research has shown that when people have this experience of restful alertness on a daily basis, they naturally start feeling more calm, clear and focused in activity.

James Krag, M.D.

James Krag, M.D. is a Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association, president of the Psychiatric Society of Virginia, and former president of the Virginia Association of Community Psychiatrists for four years. He is currently Medical Director of Liberty Point, a residential treatment program for adolescents with psychiatric problems.

Depression in Adolescents

Neuropsychologist William Stixrud answers your questions on adolescent depression, explaining the benefits of Transcendental Meditation.

Q: My teenage son has debilitating problems with depression. Can the TM technique help?

Dr. Stixrud: We know that there’s a genetic component to depression, although genes contribute much less to depression than to other disorders such as autism and ADHD. The genetic contribution to depression is on the order of 35-50 percent, which means that most of the contribution doesn’t come from genetics. It comes from your experience, and the primary culprit is stress.

Q: So it's critically important to prevent depression in kids?

Dr. Stixrud: One of the world’s top experts on child and adolescent mental health says that the highest political priority in this country should be preventing mental health problems in children and adolescents. By preventing these problems in childhood and adolescence, we could then prevent most adult mental health problems, for which we pay an enormous price in terms of human suffering and health care costs as well.

Q: Is the Transcendental Meditation technique something that you recommend to your patients?

Dr. Stixrud: Yes, and I’m not the only one. A top expert on childhood brain development and mental health problems once advised one of my young patients, who wanted to go off medicine for depression, in this way, “You’ve got my blessing, as long as you do three things: you keep a regular schedule; you get plenty of sleep; and you learn to meditate.” He said that because he’s worked at the National Institutes of Health, where researchers were studying the connection between stress and depression. He knew that when people get depressed, their stress hormones get imbalanced. This can be prevented by normalizing the stress response. Practicing the Transcendental Meditation technique twice a day helps young people build an orderliness, a structure and a routine into their day, which allows the nervous system to function better.

Q:Is depression a widespread problem for kids?

Dr. Stixrud: Yes, and one of the really worrisome things about depression is how much of it there is in young people. There’s not complete agreement, but many professionals in this area think that we’re seeing an epidemic of depression. Virtually everybody agrees that the onset of depression is much younger, so that a generation or two ago, the average age of onset of depression was 34 or 35. Now, it’s 14.

Researchers say that depression scars the brain, so that even if teenagers are treated for depression and it lifts, they’re more pessimistic than they were before. They have more trouble sleeping than they had before, which places them at risk for getting depressed again. And every time a person gets depressed, it makes it more likely that he or she will have a lifetime of depression, which is why experts say that the highest priority should be preventing mental health problems in adolescents.

Q: It seems like there is more pressure on young people than ever before?

Dr. Stixrud: I saw a boy with ADHD when he was 10, and he was very hyperactive, but also irrepressible, delightful, extremely funny, extremely smart, and an enormously likeable boy. I saw him again when he was 16, and he was on anti-depressants. I said, “So, what’s the story with the Zoloft?” And he said, “Well, they used to call me the Teflon Kid, because when I was younger everything just rolled off my back. I was always in a good mood. But then I hit high school, and I wasn’t getting enough sleep. I really wanted to go to Duke, and I started staying up until 1:00 a.m. every night trying to do as well as I could in school. And I got worn out. I just got depressed.”

And I think that this happens over and over and over again, particularly with girls, because once they hit adolescence, girls are at much higher risk for depression than boys are. I do a lot of consulting with private girls’ schools, many of which are very academically demanding. I’m trying to help them understand that in the long run, we don’t want these teenagers to be so tired and so stressed that they get depressed. At Harvard, for example, 80% of the student respondents to a newspaper survey said that they had felt depressed in the last year.

Q: So the TM technique can give these children and teenagers relief from stress?

Dr. Stixrud: I feel that teaching kids to practice the Transcendental Meditation program is arguably the best thing we could possibly do for them. I say this because it can help them to create environments that are relatively de-stressed, to normalize their own stress response, to build order and regularity into their routines, and to experience a deep level of happiness, creativity, and energy.

William Stixrud, Ph.D.

William Stixrud, Ph.D. is a clinical neuropsychologist and director of William Stixrud & Associates in Silver Spring, Maryland, a group practice specializing in learning, attention, and social/emotional disorders. Dr. Stixrud is an adjunct faculty at the Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C.

Diabetes

Drs. Chaudhary, Molina, Schneider and Kaplan answer your questions on diabetes, outlining the benefits of Transcendental Meditation.

Q: How can the Transcendental Meditation technique influence Type 2 diabetes?

Dr. Sandeep Chaudhary: When you look at diabetes as a process of manifesting disease in several stages, in the initial stages the person develops insulin resistance. This means that your insulin is not working as efficiently as it should, and consequently your blood sugars start to rise.

As a secondary consequence, when the pancreas has been overworked for decades, it starts secreting less and less insulin. Now you need more insulin, but your pancreas can’t make any more; in fact, it slowly starts to die off because it’s been overworked for years.

Research published in the Archives of Internal Medicine in 2006 shows that the practice of the Transcendental Meditation technique can help during the initial stages, by lowering insulin resistance. So even though it’s true that some damage has been done to your pancreas over the years of developing diabetes, it doesn’t mean you can’t still be helped.

Dr. Schneider: Stress hormones such as cortisol, adrenaline and noradrenalin aggravate insulin and glucose levels. Reducing these neurohormones through the Transcendental Meditation technique helps to balance glucose and insulin in the blood. This helps to normalize metabolic syndrome and diabetes.

Q: Does stress play a role in Type 2 diabetes as well?

Dr. Sandeep Chaudhary: Yes, for the same reason that it does in obesity. When you’re stressed you tend to have higher cortisol levels, which increases insulin resistance; you also tend to eat the wrong foods, eat excessively, and eat at night because sleep patterns tend to be off in people who are anxious.

Eating at night is particularly bad for diabetics, because there is a natural five-minute spike in growth hormone at 3:00 a.m. This leads to a temporary increase in insulin resistance and subsequent higher blood sugar. If you have eaten something at midnight, blood sugars can spike even higher because of this growth hormone effect. This makes medication less effective. So it’s very important to control stress and anxiety when treating diabetes.

As shown by research, the Transcendental Meditation technique can help by decreasing stress and regulating sleep patterns, so the person is sleeping through the night and not eating at midnight because of stress or anxiety.

Dr. Molina: Since the Transcendental Meditation technique is a stress reduction technique, and since diabetes can be worsened by both physiologic and psychological stress, it makes sense that the regular practice of the Transcendental Meditation technique may improve the ability to control diabetes.

Q: How does the Transcendental Meditation technique reduce stress?

Dr. Molina: Stress is the inability of the physiology to maintain a steady state, a balanced state or homeostasis. The Transcendental Meditation technique has been shown to improve neurophysiologic integration, thereby enhancing the physiology’s capacity to return to a steady state when challenged. The challenge may be caused by emotional stress, physical stress or an irregular daily routine. By enhancing the body’s capacity to return to homeostasis, the Transcendental Meditation technique decreases the effect of stress, an important risk factor associated with increased incidence of diabetes, atherosclerosis and many other diseases.

Q: How does making better food choices help lower insulin resistance?

Dr. Sandeep Chaudhary: If someone starts eating healthier foods—such as complex carbohydrates, healthier proteins and cooked vegetables with high fiber content—his pancreas will tend to secrete less insulin because he is not stressing his pancreas as much.

If, on the other hand, he eats junk food, his blood sugars will go sky high; and because of that the pancreas will have to work extra hard to secrete more insulin, to bring the sugar down.

Q: Does practicing TM help lower insulin resistance?

Dr. Sandeep Chaudhary: Research on insulin resistance, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine in 2006, has shown that practitioners of the Transcendental Meditation program experience a significant decrease in insulin resistance, as measured by HOMA. “HOMA” stands for homeostasis model assessment, and is a measure of a person’s insulin level.

People with more stable blood sugar levels tend to have more energy, whereas people with higher fluctuations in their blood sugars tend to experience more fatigue and reduction in mental clarity throughout the day. Medication can decrease the fluctuations in the blood sugars. Properly medicated, the patient can concentrate better and make it through the day better. But that’s on a biochemical level; with the Transcendental Meditation technique one can create changes on a much more fundamental level.

The Transcendental Meditation technique creates balance at the deepest level of the physiology—at the level of consciousness itself. When a health intervention works at such a profound level, it creates more profound changes on the gross level of the human physiology as well. The TM technique allows one to make changes at this most fundamental level of existence, leading to greater changes—and healthier choices—in creating mental and physical health.

Practicing the Transcendental Meditation technique, by reducing anxiety and stress, not only leads to better food choices, but the food is digested and assimilated into the body in a more efficient way.

Q: If I practice TM, will I need to take less insulin or oral diabetes drugs?

Dr. Sandeep Chaudhary: The answer to that is to follow the advice of your doctor. Research indicates that if one practices the Transcendental Meditation technique and starts eating healthier, then in general, one will need fewer medications. You can start practicing the Transcendental Meditation technique and monitor your insulin requirement with your doctor’s guidance.

I have a patient who had diabetes for many years and was on many medications. She started the Transcendental Meditation technique, completed several sessions to remove toxins from her body, and started a healthier diet. Where her A1C test (a measure of average blood sugar levels) started at 9, which is relatively high, her A1C eventually dropped below 7, which is ideal for diabetics.

So in my experience, when people start the TM technique and become more in tune with what the body needs, they spontaneously start eating foods that are healthier.

Dr. Schneider: Many people might be able to avoid the need for diabetes medications or lower their doses. As usual, continue to monitor your condition with the supervision of a qualified health care professional.

Q: Can the TM technique help control both blood sugar and cholesterol? What about weight?

Dr. Kaplan:There is evidence now from a well-controlled scientific study published in Archives of Internal Medicine in 2006 that the TM technique can reduce the components of “metabolic syndrome,” a major cause of poor health and premature death. Patients with metabolic syndrome are characteristically overweight, with high blood pressure, elevated blood sugar and triglycerides, and low HDL (good) cholesterol.

Q: Many people who have weight problems have Type 2 diabetes as well, right?

Dr. Sandeep Chaudhary:Yes. It runs in families—most people with Type 2 diabetes have a family member who also has it. As a nation we’re getting more and more obese, and because of that each subsequent generation has more insulin resistance than the previous generation. This is one reason why Type 2 diabetes is becoming more prevalent in children.

Add to that our national habits of eating fast food, exercising too little and living a stressful lifestyle, and you have a nation that is becoming more and more obese and has a higher and higher incidence of Type 2 diabetes

This is where the Transcendental Meditation program can really help, because if people can decrease stress, take time twice a day to get in tune with their own nature, they might find themselves thinking, “Hey, I’m not eating so much all the time, now that I’m not as anxious or stressed,” or “Let’s go for a walk in nature” instead of sitting in front of the TV. Then you start fixing many of these problems.

Q: Q: Can the Transcendental Meditation technique decrease my risk of diabetes?

Dr. Molina:The practice of the Transcendental Meditation technique for even a short period of time has been shown to be associated with decreased insulin resistance and a lowering of the blood sugar, thereby decreasing the risk factors of diabetes.

Our Medical Experts

Drs. Chaudhary, Molina, Schneider and Kaplan, experts on diabetes and the benefits of transcendental meditation.

Sandeep Chaudhary, M.D.  earned a double board certification in both Internal Medicine and Pediatrics at Loma Linda University Medical School and later earned his board certification in Endocrinology at the University of California, San Diego. He is currently the Medical Director of Wellspring Endocrinology at Scripps Memorial Hospital in La Jolla, California.

César Molina, M.D., F.A.C.C.  is Medical Director of the South Asian Heart Center at El Camino Hospital in Mountain View, CA. He is a graduate of Yale University School of Medicine and a fellow of the American College of Cardiology. Dr. Molina has recently appeared in the international edition of CNN discussing the benefits of diet and exercise in the treatment and prevention of coronary heart disease.

Robert Schneider, M.D., F.A.C.C., F.A.B.M.R.  has been awarded more than $20 million in grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for his pioneering research on natural approaches to heart disease. Dr. Schneider is the author of Total Heart Health and 100 medical research articles, and he has been featured in more than 1,000 media reports, including CNN Headline News, The New York Times, and Time magazine.

Gary P. Kaplan, M.D., Ph.D.  is a neurologist and Associate Professor of Clinical Neurology at Hofstra University School of Medicine. He is also a recipient of the Albert H. Douglas Award from the Medical Society of the State of New York for outstanding achievements as a clinical teacher interested in promoting and improving the medical education of physicians.

Substance Abuse in Adolescents

Dr. Stixrud answers questions about alcohol and drug abuse, outlining the benefits of transcendental meditation in reducing dependencies.

Q: Are we seeing a rise in substance abuse in children and adolescents?

Dr. Stixrud: Certainly one of the huge stress-related problems that young people experience is problems with drug and alcohol. There’s been a significant change in drinking patterns in adolescents over the last few years, including more binge drinking with the conscious goal to pass out.

When I went to college 30 years ago, young people usually drank for the most part to have fun. Students now are drinking for oblivion

Q: And this alcohol abuse is due to stress?

Dr. Stixrud: We know that people drink, in part, to alleviate stress, which is probably why there is such good evidence that the Transcendental Meditation technique is extremely effective in helping to prevent and to treat addictive behaviors.

Stress not only places young people at increased vulnerability to abusing drugs or alcohol, but the stress hormones seem to interact with alcohol and drugs to make them more effective and pleasurable. This means that if you’re stressed, you’re more likely to use alcohol and non-prescription drugs, and also, you’re more likely to find real enjoyment in abusive substances because of this interaction between the chemicals you’re taking and the stress hormones. And that’s a horrible double-whammy.

Q: So how can I protect my children from drug and alcohol abuse?

Dr. Stixrud: There is probably no way to inoculate every person against drug and alcohol problems, but I think that teaching kids to practice the TM technique can help. With the practice of the Transcendental Meditation program, teenagers can learn to de-stress themselves, and learn to find inner peace and find happiness inside. This is the common experience of meditators all over the world, including young people. When the mind settles down, that peacefulness is very enjoyable; it’s very pleasant. There is sound RESEARCH ON THE USE OF TM to prevent and treat chemical dependency problems in adults, and there is no reason to think that this research wouldn’t be relevant to adolescents as well.

Q: It seems that alcohol and drug abuse is more harmful to adolescents.

Dr. Stixrud: Exactly. When it became clear ten years ago that the adolescent brain is still developing very rapidly, scientists thought, “We have to start studying this, because we know that alcohol has a terrible effect on the developing brain in utero; so what does it do to these developing brains in adolescents?”

And the consensus now is that it’s very worrisome. Alcohol has a much, much more deleterious effect on adolescent brains than it does on adult brains. So I think we’re going to see a sea-change, moving away from this idea that “Everybody drinks; no big deal,” to the idea that “We’ve got to protect these adolescent brains from the harmful effects of drugs and alcohol.”

And I see Transcendental Meditation as one tool for doing that, in part, once again, because it regulates the stress response. And secondly, it allows people to experience inner happiness, peace, self-satisfaction, and release from stress—which are the things that many kids seek through the use of drugs and alcohol.

William Stixrud, Ph.D.

William Stixrud, Ph.D.  is a clinical neuropsychologist and director of William Stixrud & Associates in Silver Spring, Maryland, a group practice specializing in learning, attention, and social/emotional disorders. Dr. Stixrud is an adjunct faculty at the Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C.

Epilepsy

Doctor James Krag answers your questions on epilepsy and explains the benefits of Transcendental Meditation.

Q: Can people with epilepsy practice the Transcendental Meditation technique? Won't the increased brain wave synchrony cause them to have seizures?

 Dr. Krag: Certainly people with a seizure disorder can practice the Transcendental Meditation technique. Often the seizure threshold is lowered when the person is anxious or tired. Since the Transcendental Meditation program reduces stress and produces more neurological stability, the practice of the TM technique should be helpful. And a person with seizure disorder could, of course, enjoy all of the other benefits of the Transcendental Meditation technique, such as better cardiovascular health, reduced stress, improved interpersonal relationships and a calmer, more focused mind.

Q: Will practice of Transcendental Meditation reduce the need for anticonvulsant drugs?

Dr. Krag: It would be unwise to begin the Transcendental Meditation program expecting that a reduction of medication will follow. However, if there was a decrease in seizures over time, then your neurologist would likely be willing to make small and gradual reductions in medication to assess its need.

James Krag, M.D.

James Krag, M.D. is a Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association, president of the Psychiatric Society of Virginia, and former president of the Virginia Association of Community Psychiatrists for four years. He is currently Medical Director of Liberty Point, a residential treatment program for adolescents with psychiatric problems.

Insomnia

Doctors James Krag and Sarina Grosswald answer your questions on insomnia and explain how Transcendental Meditation can help.

Q: I tend to awaken in the middle of the night. Sometimes I'm sweating or feeling very agitated. Will practicing the Transcendental Meditation technique help me sleep through the night?

 Dr. Krag: There are many reasons for insomnia, but the most frequent cause is anxiety and stress. Of course, it is possible that some practitioners of the Transcendental Meditation technique can occasionally have the problem of insomnia. However, since the TM technique helps lessen stress, most people with insomnia who learn the Transcendental Meditation program find that it becomes less and less of a problem.

Q: If I sit in a chair and close my eyes, I fall asleep immediately. What good would TM do me?

Dr. Krag: This is simply an indication that you are in need of rest and likely have a “sleep debt.” The Transcendental Meditation technique provides a profound level of rest and over time it will assist you in “paying off” the “sleep debt,” leaving you feeling more clear and more energetic during the day.

Q: What about stress due to sleep deprivation? I almost never get a good night's sleep. Does the Transcendental Meditation technique help with that?

Dr. Grosswald: It’s interesting that you should ask, because research shows that Americans are the most sleep deprived people in the world. The stress of not sleeping accumulates over time.

And even if you are getting normal sleep once in a while, sleep does not dissolve the accumulated stress of day-in-and-day-out pressures of daily life; it can only dissolve the fatigue of today. So fatigue and stress keep building. Even when you go on vacation, the relaxation doesn’t last very long once you get back to your usual lifestyle. That’s why everyone needs a way to dissolve the accumulated fatigue and stress of daily living, which is made worse by sleep deprivation.

Practicing the Transcendental Meditation technique on a regular basis allows you to throw off that accumulated stress. Research indicates that the regular practice of Transcendental Meditation improves health, including psychological well-being. Researchers estimate that 70 to 90% of disease is stress related, so if you have a mechanism for reducing stress, it improves your overall health and all aspects of your life.

Our Medical Experts

James Krag, M.D. is a Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association, president of the Psychiatric Society of Virginia, and former president of the Virginia Association of Community Psychiatrists for four years. He is currently Medical Director of Liberty Point, a residential treatment program for adolescents with psychiatric problems.

Sarina Grosswald, Ed.D. is an expert in cognitive learning who recently directed the first-of-its-kind research study on the effects of the Transcendental Meditation program on children with language-based learning disabilities. Dr. Grosswald and her work have been extensively featured in the national media, including PBS and ABC News.

Development and Learning Disabilities

Psychiatric expert, Doctor James Krag answers your questions on intellectual and learning disabilities.

Q: Can people with intellectual and developmental disabilities learn the Transcendental Meditation program?

Dr. Krag: If a person can think a thought he or she can learn to meditate. The majority of intellectually challenged people are in the “mild” to “moderate” range of mental retardation, and all of these individuals should be able to easily learn the Transcendental Meditation technique. I am not sure if someone with “severe” developmental disabilities could learn the Transcendental Meditation program, and I doubt that those with more profound degrees of retardation could.

Q: Will practice of the Transcendental Meditation technique help a person with intellectual or developmental disabilities think better?

Dr. Krag:People with mental disabilities are no different than anyone else in that when we are more rested and calm our thinking will be clearer. When we make “smarter” decisions on some days and not others, it is not because our innate IQ has risen, but rather because we are making more intelligent use of the intelligence we have. TM helps people develop and maintain more neurophysiological stability, whether one tests in the mentally challenged range or the genius range.

James Krag, M.D.

James Krag, M.D. is a Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association, president of the Psychiatric Society of Virginia, and former president of the Virginia Association of Community Psychiatrists for four years. He is currently Medical Director of Liberty Point, a residential treatment program for adolescents with psychiatric problems.

Menopause

Doctor Nancy Lonsdorf answers questions on the symptoms of menopause and the benefits of Transcendental Meditation.

Q: I've read that Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) is dangerous and can cause cancer. But I'm suffering from insomnia, anxiety and night sweats. Can the Transcendental Meditation technique help me?

Dr. Lonsdorf: While hormone therapy (HT) is effective at relieving menopause-related symptoms such as yours, it has been shown to increase breast cancer risk, as well as blood clots, stroke and heart attacks in older women. Therefore, it is used now as a “last resort,” when symptoms are intolerable and all safer treatments have not given relief. In fact, research has so completely disproved the idea that the body needs replacement of reproductive hormones after menopause that the term has been changed from “Hormone Replacement Therapy” (HRT) to Hormone Therapy (HT), indicating that hormones that decline naturally with age do not need “replacing,” but may be used as a medical therapy if needed.

Even Bioidentical Hormone Therapy, heralded by some as a “safe” hormone alternative, is not yet adequately researched and likely carries similar risks. Fortunately, most women with menopause-related symptoms can be helped with safer, more natural approaches.

Since stress is a trigger for common menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes and sleep problems, helping the body handle stress better is likely to help. The Transcendental Meditation program has been shown to reduce anxiety twice as effectively as other relaxation and meditation techniques and is highly effective at reducing stress, a major contributor to menopausal symptoms. Practice of the Transcendental Meditation technique for twenty minutes twice a day has been shown to lower cortisol (a stress hormone), reduce stress, improve sleep and lift mood. Curbing excess cortisol production might also support the body’s production of helpful reproductive hormones such as progesterone, according to some researchers.

In addition, research has shown that the Transcendental Meditation technique reduces heart attack risk in postmenopausal women, as well as reducing metabolic syndrome, a precursor to diabetes. The Transcendental Meditation technique has helped alleviate mood swings and menopausal symptoms in many of my patients in midlife, as well as helping smooth their transition through this time that can be challenging in many ways. For all these reasons, I highly recommend the Transcendental Meditation technique as part of a comprehensive approach to managing menopausal symptoms.

Q: I feel tired all the time. Between my job and my family, I don't have any time for myself. Even if the Transcendental Meditation technique could help me, how could I possibly fit it into my day?

Dr. Lonsdorf:When we’re tired, we don’t think as clearly, are more distractible, and take longer to complete our tasks. We also may stay up too late trying to finish off what didn’t get done due to inefficiency during the day. All this ends up creating a vicious cycle of fatigue, lack of rest, too much activity, and more fatigue. If 20 minutes of TM twice a day can break that cycle, it is well worth doing and will end up creating more time than it takes.

The Transcendental Meditation technique has been shown to provide a deep state of rest that refreshes both the mind and body. This results in improved sleep, increased job productivity, creativity and intelligence, as well as reduced anxiety, another drain on energy.

Many of my patients have reported that adding the Transcendental Meditation technique to their daily routine gives them greater clarity of mind and helps them get more done in less time. Most people find they spend 15–20 minutes here or there during the day just relaxing with the news or a magazine, chatting or otherwise trying to get themselves motivated. The Transcendental Meditation program is time taken truly for one’s “self,” our quiet, blissful inner self that is the source of our creativity and energy. Coming out of meditation, the mind is more settled and clear, which in the morning leaves you ready to dive into your work and in the evening refreshes you to enjoy your family more fully. If you are like most of my patients, you will find your time investment in TM well worth it, and both you and your loved ones will enjoy a happier, less stressed you!

Q: Is it more important to meditate or to exercise for good health?

Dr. Lonsdorf: Health is a result of balance of life. Balanced rest and activity both are needed and support one another. The Transcendental Meditation technique and exercise both have been shown to reduce anxiety, heart attack and stroke risk, high blood pressure, metabolic syndrome, as well as cancer deaths. Both benefit mind, body and health, yet one deeply rests and relaxes the body, and the other strengthens and invigorates it.

The Transcendental Meditation technique is the most fundamental thing you can do–it enlivens consciousness, which is at the basis of everything. Research shows that practicing this one simple technique improves relationships, mental focus, emotional health, job satisfaction and overall health. By developing consciousness, it provides a holistic way to develop balance in every aspect of life.

Better to choose both for longer life and good health. And if someone is not doing either at this time, I recommend starting with the Transcendental Meditation technique. It will give more clarity of mind and creativity, and that will support the ability to fit in the exercise too.

Nancy Lonsdorf, M.D.

Nancy Lonsdorf, M.D.  is a graduate of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. She is a nationally renowned specialist in natural health and women’s health issues. The author of The Ageless Woman: Natural Health and Beauty After Forty, she has been featured frequently in the national media, including National Public Radio, CNN and The Phil Donahue Show.

Childhood & Adolescent Disorders

Doctors William Stixrud and Christopher Clark answer your questions on childhood and adolescent issues, explaining how Transcendental Meditation can help

Q: Can children learn TM? And, if so, are there any negative side effects?

 Dr. Clark:Children can start the Transcendental Meditation technique at the age of ten. There are no side effects—research has found only positive benefits, such as greater focus, clarity of mind, improved grades at school, higher intelligence, more creativity and self-esteem. Children younger than ten can learn a special walking technique, which has been found to have a harmonious and stabilizing effect.

Q: Everyone gets nervous about things, but my daughter's really sensitive. She has anxiety attacks when math tests come up, and almost anything can set her off. Is this normal?

Dr. Stixrud: Anxiety is very common in children. In fact there are many, many kids with anxiety disorders who are not diagnosed because people don’t take anxiety in children sufficiently seriously. They should take it seriously, because anxiety is the gateway to other mental health problems, in the sense that if you look at people who are depressed as adults, almost all of them have histories of anxiety in childhood.

One of the top experts on stress in the world thinks that depression is the result of a worn-out stress response. In other words, if you’re anxious a lot as a kid, and your stress response—or fight-or flight response—is constantly trying to protect you and filling your brain and your body with stress hormones, that can work for a while. But eventually, the stress response system gets worn out, and when it gets worn out, you give up.

Most anxiety disorders in children—whether it’s a panic disorder, a separation anxiety disorder, or a generalized anxiety disorder—are transient, which means they go away. But in a sizeable proportion of kids with anxiety problems, they return; and again, the best predictor of later mental health problems is anxiety during childhood.

That’s why the experts say, “You’ve got to treat it.” If you’ve got an anxious kid, you’ve got to treat it, not only to alleviate his suffering, but because if you don’t treat it, it’s likely to get worse. If you can effectively treat their anxiety problems, you significantly decrease the likelihood that they’re going to develop depression, or addictive behaviors, or other kinds of mental health problems. So, treating anxiety is very important.

Q: What kinds of treatments will help my daughter?

Dr. Stixrud: One of the best-documented ways to address anxiety in children is to teach them to deeply relax themselves. I think that Transcendental Meditation becomes a very important tool, not only in the treatment of children with anxiety problems, but also in the prevention of anxiety disorders. This is because anxiety disorders basically reflect a fight-or-flight response that’s hyperactive. And we know from research that over time, the practice of Transcendental Meditation increasingly normalizes—or makes more efficient—that fight-or-flight response.

Q:Isn't some amount of stress good for us?

Dr. Stixrud:It’s not that we want people to never be anxious. When there’s something threatening, you want to have some anxiety; you want to feel some stress, because that’s what makes you run away from a predator or a dangerous situation. Nature programs us to be able to deal with danger through the fight-or-flight response.

What we want is an optimal stress response, so that when we’re in a real emergency, we can deal with it. But then it goes away, and our stress hormones normalize and we don’t feel chronically anxious, or worried, or obsessive. Transcendental Meditation can potentially play an enormous role in inoculating kids against anxiety and the problems that grow out of chronic anxiety in childhood and adolescence.

Q: My teenage son is not only anxious, but he gets depressed a lot. Is the Transcendental Meditation technique something that can help?

Dr. Clark:Anxiety and depression are symptoms of stress. Children and adolescents often encounter stress at home and at school just as adults do in their jobs and relationships. Research studies have demonstrated that the TM technique not only reduces stress, it increases inner happiness, and results in improved flexibility, social ability, and self esteem. When children and adolescents learn the Transcendental Meditation program, they tend to find approval from within rather than needing it from the outside, which leads to greater independence and less influence from peer pressure.

Research shows that with the regular practice of the Transcendental Meditation technique, students improve significantly in academic performance and socialization skills. One striking example of a school where students practice the Transcendental Meditation technique is the MAHARISHI SCHOOL OF THE AGE OF ENLIGHTENMENT IN FAIRFIELD, IOWA, where students have demonstrated high levels of success in academics, the arts, and athletics.

Q: My son is bright but doesn't seem to apply himself. Is the TM technique something that could help him do better?

Dr. Clark:Sometimes bright students don’t apply themselves in school because they may be stressed, depressed, or bored. But when one learns the Transcendental Meditation technique and practices it regularly, those symptoms of stress, depression and boredom are reduced. And because there is more inner brightness, more inner joy, the ability to appreciate others and the environment is also enhanced. A truly bright student is not just intelligent—it’s not the intellect alone that allows a child to do well at school and become a fully developed student—a truly healthy and bright student is healthy, happy and socially adjusted as well.

Q: My daughter is overweight and I'm concerned for her health. Can Transcendental Meditation help?

Dr. Clark:Obesity is a major health concern in children and young people. Unfortunately, it has become an epidemic over the last 20 years, and it does have long-term consequences for health. Childhood obesity is related to diabetes and cardiovascular disease later in life.

Obesity is related to both poor eating habits and lack of exercise. TM practitioners often report that they feel more in tune with their bodies once they start meditating. This is because the Transcendental Meditation technique provides deep rest and dissolves stress, and it’s the fatigue and stress that block the feedback messages to the body and mind. When children feel more alert and clear with regular mediation, they are more likely to choose healthier foods and activities.

Research studies on the Transcendental Meditation technique show increased energy and a more balanced physiology. With regular practice, those who felt lethargic tended to become more physically active. For these reasons, practicing the Transcendental Meditation technique may be the most important thing an overweight child can do for his or her health.

Our Medical Experts

William Stixrud, Ph.D. is a clinical neuropsychologist and director of William Stixrud & Associates in Silver Spring, Maryland, a group practice specializing in learning, attention, and social/emotional disorders. Dr. Stixrud is an adjunct faculty at the Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C.

Christopher Clark, M.D.  is a graduate of Yale University School of Medicine, Department of Psychiatry, and a recipient of a child psychology fellowship from the University of Washington. He has practiced medicine for over 20 years and is currently a psychiatrist in Vero Beach, Florida.

“Life finds its purpose and fulfilment in the expansion of happiness”

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi
Founder of Transcendental Meditation


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