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What is Transcendental Meditation?

By Your Headspace Mindfulness & Meditation Experts

The meditation techniques and exercises in the Headspace app are not the Transcendental Meditation® (TM®) program, nor is the Headspace app endorsed by Maharishi Foundation USA, Inc., which teaches the Transcendental Meditation program. If you are interested in the Transcendental Meditation® (TM®) program you can visit the Maharishi Foundation’s website.

You may have heard about the benefits of the Transcendental Meditation® program Transcendental Meditation (aka TM® or TM Meditation®) and wondered what it was all about. It’s a unique form of meditation taught by Maharishi Foundation that is practiced by 5 million people worldwide, including celebrities who frequently describe its benefits, such as Jerry Seinfeld, Ellen Degeneres, David Lynch, and Howard Stern.

Meditation practice of any type can have numerous benefits for our mental and physical health. When it comes to meditation, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all practice. There are literally hundreds of meditation techniques which includes encompassing practices from many different traditions, cultures, spiritual disciplines, knowledge traditions and religions. Each meditation type has a unique manner of practice, intent, purpose and effect. The scientific research on meditation confirms this as it shows unique psychological and physiological signatures for the various meditations and differing measured results. Reviewing the literature may be of value to you in deciding what practice you feel is best for you.

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How Transcendental Meditation® is practiced

The Transcendental Meditation® program is taught one-on-one by instructors trained and licensed by Maharishi Foundation in a personalized and individual manner.

The first step to practicing the Transcendental Meditation® program is finding a certified instructor. The TM® technique is only taught by certified TM® instructors from the Maharishi Foundation USA (a federally recognized non-profit 501(c)(3) educational organization named for Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, its founder). There are thousands of licensed Transcendental Meditation® centers and more than 40,000 teachers globally.

The practice involves sitting comfortably with one’s eyes closed for 20 minutes twice per day and engaging in the effortless practice as instructed.

Students are encouraged to practice twice a day, which often includes morning meditation, and then a second session is in the mid-afternoon or early evening.

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Study-based benefits of Transcendental Meditation®

Much has been documented on the benefits of twice-daily 20-minute meditation as performed during TM®. The Maharishi Foundation USA reports that more than 380 peer-reviewed research studies at medical schools worldwide (including Harvard, Stanford, Yale, and UCLA), have appeared in more than 160 scientific journals.

TM® practitioners in a 5-year randomized controlled study published in 2012 on patients with established coronary heart disease were reportedly 48% less likely to die of a heart attack or stroke than subjects in the control group. And research suggests TM® practice has “clinically meaningful” potential to reduce systolic and diastolic blood pressure.

Research has also uncovered potential real-world applications for TM® with veterans, prisoners, and students with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). For example, studies link TM’s® benefits to male and female prison populations (where it may also reduce recidivism among convicted felon parolees). A 2018 study published in Military Medicine showed that veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) found significant relief from their symptoms when they practiced Transcendental Meditation®. Finally, an exploratory study of students aged 11-14 with pre-existing diagnoses of ADHD indicated that Transcendental Meditation® has the potential to reduce stress, anxiety, and stress-related ADHD symptoms within three months.

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The history of Transcendental Meditation®

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (“Maharishi”) is the founder of the Transcendental Meditation technique.

Maharishi began publicly teaching a Vedic-based meditation technique inspired by his teacher, a leading figure in the Vedic tradition, an ancient tradition of knowledge rooted in the sub-continent of India.

Director, musician, and fine artist David Lynch was inspired to create his foundation in 2005 to bring TM® to underserved populations. Today the organization annually raises millions of dollars in donations, funding scholarships for TM® training for at-risk youth, HIV/AIDS patients, veterans, prisoners, and female victims of violence with its mission to prevent and eradicate “trauma and toxic stress among at-risk populations.”

“I started Transcendental Meditation® in 1973 and have not missed a single meditation ever since — twice a day, every day,” Lynch wrote in a letter published on the Foundation’s website. “It has given me effortless access to unlimited reserves of energy, creativity, and happiness deep within.”

It’s a sentiment with which both comedian Jerry Seinfeld and radio host Howard Stern, two TM® practitoners for over 40 years, can relate. “You know how your phone has a charger?” Seinfeld said in an appearance on ABC’s Good Morning America, “TM® is like having a charger for your mind and body.”

“It’s the easiest thing I ever did,” Stern said in a 2011 appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman. “I have been doing it since I was 18. I love to do it after the show. I find it very relaxing.”

Get your own meditation practice started — and begin reaping benefits

Ultimately at Headspace we believe that it doesn’t matter which meditation technique you choose. What does matter, however, is that you choose a style that allows you to integrate the qualities you experience during meditation practice — calm, empathy, mindfulness — into the rest of your day.

If you’re curious about trying mindfulness meditation, you can try a session when you register for the Headspace app. You’ll see that the key to any meditation practice is regular practice – just like any exercise. For example, 10 days of Headspace app use has been proven to reduce signs of stress and irritability, while improving focus, empathy, and life and job satisfaction. Whether you practice our meditation for one-minute, 5 minutes, 10 minutes, or 20 minutes or, even for an entire hour is up to you; just do what feels right. And if one type of meditation just feels right to you; that’s what matters.

If you’re looking for an introduction to different types of meditation, check out the 10-day beginner’s course meditation essentials — available for free in the Headspace app. From there, once you gain more experience and confidence, you can explore the whole library of exercises, covering everything from sleep, compassion, and sports to anger, stress, focus, and more. Get started today! Sign up for Headspace for free, and start reaping the benefits of a meditation practice.

READ NEXT: How to start a morning meditation practice

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