In 1970, a study of transcendental meditation found that it had physiological effects and “may have practical applications”. Within five years, transcendental meditation was a household word; research experienced an uptick. Between 2013-2015, there were 216 studies into the practice. Today, it retains its popularity, with millions practising it all over the world — even the Beatles were fans in their heyday.
So what is it? The technique and movement was founded by Maharishi Mahed Yogi in the 1950s. According to Headspace, it is a Vedic-based meditation technique inspired by his teacher — a leading figure in the Vedic tradition. As for what Vedic is? It’s an ancient tradition of knowledge, rooted in the sub-continent of India.
In the easiest way to understand, the practice involves sitting comfortably with one’s eyes closed for 20 minutes twice per day, using a mantra or series of words that are specific to each practitioner.
“Ommm” may come to mind when you think of a mantra, but according to Lifehack, it shouldn’t be used — aim for saying something like ‘Kirim’, ‘Shirim’, ‘Inga’ and ‘Aema’. You should vary both the length and the tone, of each letter of your mantra while you’re chanting.
According to Byrdie, the entire practice is “a method for achieving a greater sense of peace and calm into daily life, not to mention the benefit of being present”.
The benefits of transcendental meditation? Studies have shown it is a “feasible treatment” for PTSD in active-duty military personnel; effective in reducing psychological distress in teachers; lowers stress and anxiety; is helpful for depression and chronic pain; lowers blood pressure and more.
If you’re thinking it sounds easy, be warned — Healthline says it’s a practice for those “who like structure” and are “serious” about maintaining a meditation practice. Lifehack states that it “can be quite tricky for a beginning without having the proper guidance” — and a course in transcendental meditation can set you back hundreds.
As for how to do it? No, you don’t need to sit cross-legged on the floor with your hands in the stereotypical pose. Sit in a chair with your feet on the ground, hands in your lap and everything uncrossed.
Next, close your eyes and take some deep breaths — this will help relax your body. Your eyes are to remain closed during the 20-minute practice.
Repeat one of the aforementioned mantras, but only in your mind. The mantra shouldn’t be the point of focus for your session, according to Pilotworks, but something to “rest your attention on”. Remember, the point is to ‘transcend’ thoughts, apprehension and worry.
When your mind wanders — which it’s bound to, especially for beginners — return to the sound. After 20 minutes, wriggle your fingers and your toes to slowly, calmly, bring yourself back into the world. When you feel ready, open your eyes, and continue on with your day.