Science has demonstrated for the past 35 years that transcendental meditation was a good way to lower blood pressure naturally, but this study is the first to associate transcendental meditation to both lower blood pressure and lower psychological distress, particularly in a younger population. "Research has shown that high blood pressure and hypertension are increasingly being seen at lower and lower ages, so it's a major problem on college campuses," says Nidich. "We know from recent surveys that colleges are reporting a substantial rise in the number of students who have depression, and in students seeking out counseling services."
The benefit of transcendental meditation, he notes, is that it prevents overactivation of the sympathetic nervous system, which triggers that "fight-or-flight" response when we become stressed, and prevents blood pressure from spiking. Plus, the fact that it's a standardized technique, taught by certified professionals, means that it can yield consistent results across the entire population, Nidich says, unlike other forms of meditation, such as mindfulness, that are practiced differently from individual to individual.
Interested in seeing what George Harrison was so enamored with? Here are a few points to remember.
• You can't learn it from a book. Transcendental meditation practitioners say it can only be taught by certified instructors. The program, which includes the same seven-step course as the college students went through, as well as a lifetime of follow-up training sessions, costs $1,500 for adults. Nidich says that he's aware of a few instances in which an insurance company reimbursed an individual for the fee, and a representative from the Transcendental Meditation Program says that the Veterans Administration has been known to pay for training for Iraq war veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. However, as of yet, it's not widely covered by insurance. You can find a course online at www.tm.org or by calling 888-LEARN-TM.
• You can still meditate cost-effectively. "From our research, which has been going on for over 35 years now, clearly [transcendental meditation] is the best way," says Nidich. However, "I don't doubt that transcendental meditation produces some physiological and psychological results that are different from other methods, but there is also a good deal of overlap in the results obtained by different meditation practices," says Rossman. He suggests that you could find a local yoga teacher or psychotherapist that teaches other forms of meditation for less cost, and while you may not reap the dramatic results seen by transcendental meditation practitioners, you will experience some of the same benefits.