A new study, published in the journal PLOS ONE in July 2014, has found that different types of meditation can have entirely different effects on the body and mind.
In a story by “News Medical”, the study is described in further detail:
“Contrary to popular belief, not all meditation techniques produce similar effects of body and mind. Indeed, a recent study by researchers from the National University of Singapore (NUS) has demonstrated for the first time that different types of Buddhist meditation – namely the Vajrayana and Theravada styles of meditation – elicit qualitatively different influences on human physiology and behaviour, producing arousal and relaxation responses respectively.
In particular, the NUS research team found that Vajrayana meditation, which is associated with Tibetan Buddhism, can lead to enhancements in cognitive performance.”
The study subjects were “experienced Theravada practitioners from Thailand and Nepal, as well as Vajrayana practitioners from Nepal”.
Two entirely different schools of meditation were studied alongside each other – namely the Vajrayana and the Theravada traditions. Both are Buddhist traditions, but the meditation techniques and focus differ.
While the techniques practiced by the Vajrayana practitioners focused on visualization and mantras, the Theravada practitioners practiced breath-awareness and mindfulness oriented meditation.
The research and study was conducted by Associate Professor Maria Kozhevnikov and Dr Ido Amihai from the Department of Psychology at the NUS Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences.
What they found was really interesting:
“They observed that physiological responses during the Theravada meditation differ significantly from those during the Vajrayana meditation. Theravada meditation produced enhanced parasympathetic activation (relaxation). In contrast, Vajrayana meditation did not show any evidence of parasympathetic activity but showed an activation of the sympathetic system (arousal).
The researchers had also observed an immediate dramatic increase in performance on cognitive tasks following only Vajrayana styles of meditation. They noted that such dramatic boost in attentional capacity is impossible during a state of relaxation. Their results show that Vajrayana and Theravada styles of meditation are based on different neurophysiological mechanisms, which give rise to either an arousal or relaxation response.”
I find this to be exciting news. Both regarding the finds on dramatic performance increase from Vajrayana meditations, and also that the scientific community is becoming more aware that different types of meditation and mental training can have entirely different benefits on the human body and mind.
The researchers are optimistic about future studies, and what new discoveries these findings may help uncover:
Assoc Prof Kozhevnikov said, “Vajrayana meditation typically requires years of practice, so we are also looking into whether it is also possible to acquire the beneficial effects of brain performance by practicing certain essential elements of the meditation. This would provide an effective and practical method for non-practitioners to quickly increase brain performance in times of need.”
If specific results are what you are after when meditating, this is great news!
Want more stress relief and increase in relaxation, then breath-awareness and mindfulness will be helpful to you.
Want to boost your mental performance and cognitive abilities, then visualization and mantras might be your thing.
Do you find this news interesting? Comment below, and give us your thoughts!
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