According to a new study conducted in Australia Sahaja Yoga founded by Mata Nirmala Devi, that is gaining greater acceptance worldwide for calming the mind and busting stress, contributes to promoting mental and physical health.
The essence of Sahaja Yoga, described as mental silence, is much more than mere tranquillity, having several dimensions, including medically beneficial ones, Ramesh Manocha, senior lecturer of psychiatry at the University of Sydney Medical School, told IANS from Australia.
"We found that the health and well-being profile of people who had meditated for at least two years was significantly higher in the majority of health and well-being categories when compared to the (general) population," says Manocha.
Manocha was referring to his latest study on Sahaja Yoga, which focussed on meditation as mental silence, involving more than 348 people, conducted with colleagues Deborah Black and Leigh Wilson at the Sydney Medical School.
Fifty-two percent of the volunteers experienced mental silence "several times per day or more" while 32 percent were experiencing it "once or twice per day", according to Manocha, who is at the forefront of research into meditative disciplines.
"Our survey also demonstrated that practitioners had not only better mental and physical health but also a consistent relationship between health, especially mental health, and self-reported experience of mental silence," says Manocha.
Elaborating on mental silence, Manocha says: "As one learns to slow down the thoughts, the practitioner will start to perceive a small gap between each thought. With practice and by applying specific techniques, the meditator can widen the gap so that he experiences a thought or two and then a space of silence and then another thought or two."
"In this way, the gap between thoughts can be widened until there are long moments of no thoughts. Ultimately, the thoughts stop completely and the meditator remains fully alert and aware, but experiencing no thinking activity. This is 'mind emptiness' or mental silence of Sahaja Yoga," he said.
The outcome is a quietly joyful state rather than an extreme of manic happiness. Mental peace and emotional equilibrium in turn reduce levels of adrenaline and cortisol in the blood stream, decreasing blood pressure and lowering brain activity and slowing down the thinking processes, says Manocha.
"The first ever quality-of-life survey of long-term meditators we conducted involved almost every Sahaja Yoga practitioner in Australia, which points to the findings being more concrete than individual stories," informs Manocha.
Manocha's stressful life as a medical student turned his attention towards meditation and Sahaja Yoga. "I found the experience of mental silence distinctly powerful. The traditional western ways of dealing with stress, such as alcohol and tobacco consumption, were damaging my health," he recalls.
Since western scientists had overlooked this phenomenon, Manocha decided that he would subject it to scientific evaluation to determine whether it could help people in the west facing common mental and physical problems.
"We have actually done considerable research on the impact of Sahaja Yoga on work stress, bronchial asthma, menopause and mental health, involving hundreds of participants in many different contexts, all of which indicate its effectiveness," Manocha told IANS.
Two separate observational studies of participants suffering from menopausal symptoms and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder demonstrated promising outcomes. These were followed by a small but well-designed randomized controlled trial (RCT) of meditation for asthma, then a much larger RCT of meditation for occupational stress, said Manocha.
Their outcomes provided strong evidence that mental silence is associated with a specific, therapeutic effect. An RCT is one of the simplest but most powerful research tools to test the efficacy of a new drug, procedure or treatment on human health.
"There is credible evidence to support the idea that Sahaja Yoga meditation, and hence the mental silence experience that typifies it, is associated with unique effects," concludes Manocha.