What is transcendental meditation?

Olivia Petter
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Transcendental meditation is a specific form of silent meditation that originates from India.

Unlike other types of meditation, which may require movement or chanting, transcendental meditation is effortless and simply calls on practitioners to think of a mantra and focus on nothing else.

The idea is that regularly practising this kind of meditation will allow someone to enter a psychophysiological state of restful alertness, which experts claim can help treat a number of mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety.

Read on for everything you need to know about transcendental meditation.

What is it?

Transcendental meditation (TM) is a form of meditating whereby someone silently thinks of a mantra but without contemplation or concentration, the idea being that it is entirely effortless.

The mantra can be decided by the individual, though it is traditionally determined by a TM teacher and could be based on anything from a particular goal someone is striving towards to a fear they’re trying to overcome.

Typically, it’s practised for 15 to 20 minutes twice a day, with the practitioner sat down with their eyes closed; most teachers advise doing it first thing in the morning.

It can be practised by anyone of any age.

Where does it come from?

TM was founded by the spiritual leader Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, who developed the technique in the mid-1950s.

He soon attracted a worldwide following and is alleged to have been a spiritual advisor to the Beatles in the late 1960s.

Now, TM is practised by a number of celebrities, with Ellen Degeneres, Mia Farrow and Michael J Fox all thought to be major supporters.

What are the benefits?

To date, studies have linked TM to reducing symptoms of anxiety, depression and insomnia.

According to TM expert Bob Roth, who has taught Oprah, Katy Perry and Stella McCartney how to practise the technique, it can also improves memory, focus and creativity.

Roth is CEO of the David Lynch Foundation, the global charitable organisation that provides TM teaching to veterans struggling from post traumatic stress disorder and women who are survivors of domestic abuse.

Founded by Lynch, the renowned filmmaker known for classic hits such as Mulholland Drive and Blue Velvet and began practising TM himself in 1973. On the charity’s website, he claims that the technique has given him “access to unlimited reserves of energy, creativity and happiness deep within,” something he refers to as “pure consciousness”.

Some researchers have also linked TM to boosting cardiovascular health, while others have claimed it might help patients with ADHD and those who are on the autism spectrum.

However, the majority of these studies have either been uncontrolled or been conducted with small numbers, highlighting the need for more research in order for these benefits to be sufficiently supported by science.