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Are All Forms Of Meditation Equally Effective?

Lee Leffler

The first research on the Transcendental Meditation® technique was conducted in the early 1970s. At that time, a common hypothesis was that all techniques of relaxation and meditation would create similar reductions in "sympathetic arousal" (how nervous or calm someone feels). It was thought that all techniques of meditation and relaxation should be equally effective.

For many clinitians and researchers, this theory soon became accepted as proven. However, this theory has not withstood scientific scrutiny. On the contrary, it has been scientifically shown that some techniques, ironically, increase stress.

Different types of relaxation, mental techniques and meditation techniques involve different types of mental activity. Therefore, one can expect that different techniques will uniquely activate the body and brain, resulting in different ranges of effects.

Meta-analysis combines the results of many studies within a body of research. In 1989, the peer-reviewed Journal of Clinical Psychology published a meta-analysis of research on a wide variety of meditation and relaxation technique, titled "Differential effects of relaxation techniques on trait anxiety: A meta-analysis."

Effectiveness in Reducing Trait Anxiety Meta-Analysis

This meta-analysis compared the effectiveness of various relaxation techniques for reducing trait anxiety. One hundred and forty-six studies were analyzed - virtually all of the published research that met basic design criteria at the time, such as sufficient control and group size. The studies were grouped according to the type of technique used and the number of studies in each category. The study controlled for experimental design and various other potential confounders.

All techniques were equal to or less effective than placebo except the Transcendental Meditation technique (TM®). TM measured an effect size nearly twice that of any other technique.

Meditation that involved concentration led to an increase in anxiety, further emphasizing that not all meditation techniques yield the same results.

In a future article on Lokvani, we will answer the question "Are All Forms of Meditation the Same?" and explore the inner workings of the brain.

More information on research on the TM technique is available at:




Orme-Johnson DWW, Walton K. All approaches to preventing or reversing effects of stress are not the same. American Journal of Health Promotion. 1998:(5)297-298.

Eppley, K, Abrams, A, Shear, J. Differential effects of relaxation techniques on trait anxiety: A meta-analysis. Journal of Clinical Psychology. 1989; 45:957-974.)

®Transcendental Meditation and TM are registered or common law trademarks licensed to Maharishi Vedic Education Development Corporation and used under sublicense or with permission.

(Author Lee Leffler, M.A., is the Director of Communications at Maharishi Academy of Total Knowledge in Antrim, New Hampshire. )

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Lee Leffler

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