Transcendental Meditation, or TM, was developed in the 1950s by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, a Hindu mystic. It is a form of mantra meditation. In other words, to do TM, the practitioner sits quietly and repeats a single word or phrase over and over. This repetition focuses the mind and quiets the body. Research into TM shows several positive effects and some negative ones.
The immediate effect of TM is relaxation. According to Hilary B. Weiss of Vanderbilt University, practitioners often report "inner tranquility and awareness" while meditating. As they finish their meditation session, they carry away a feeling of restful alertness into their day-to-day affairs. What's happening is that the meditation quiets the sympathetic nervous system. It takes the mind away from the commotion and worries of life. The nervous system stills. The blood pressure, respiration rate and heart rate, which rise with stress, fall to a more normal level.
Several studies report benefits for the cardiovascular system. A study presented at the 2009 annual meeting of the American Heart Association reported that patients with coronary heart disease who practiced TM experienced 47 percent fewer heart attacks, strokes and sudden death during the nine years of the study. Studies show that TM decreases both systolic and diastolic blood pressure. It lowers sympathetic nervous system arousal level and blood pressure. A doctoral study performed at the Maharishi School of Management suggests that it may even help lower cholesterol levels.
Studies reported by the Maharishi School of Management show emotional and psychological benefits as well. Meditators show increased creativity, better focus, less depression and improved use of brain reserves. But perhaps the best known emotional benefit is as an antidote to stress. One study looked at Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in American veterans of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. Researchers found a decreased level of stress and an increased quality of life in those veterans who were taught to meditate.
However, not all TM effects are positive. A meta study reported in the International Journal of Psychotherapy notes several possible negative side effects of TM. Some practitioners reported not relaxation but stress, anxiety and panic. Others reported feelings of disconnection with reality both during and after meditation. Some had increased depression. Others reported less motivation in life. Meditators reporting difficulty were not just beginners but also experienced meditators; some said the effects lasted as long as 105 months.