- Transcendental meditation is a mantra-based form of meditation designed to induce calmness.
- The benefits of transcendental meditation include reduced stress, anxiety, and depression.
- To do transcendental meditation, repeat a personalized mantra for 10 to 15 minutes twice a day.
- Visit Insider’s Health Reference library for more advice.
Transcendental meditation (TM) was founded in India by the Hindu monk Swami Brahmananda Saraswatiin, and is a form of meditation in which people repeat a single word or phrase throughout the practice.
Today, it’s a worldwide practice famously used amongst Wall Street executives and celebrities like Oprah Winfrey and Hugh Jackman.
Here are some of the benefits of transcendental meditation and how to practice it.
What is transcendental meditation?
Transcendental meditation is a mantra-based meditation designed to create a sense of calm.
The main thing that differentiates transcendental meditation from other forms is its focus on a repeated word or phrase versus breathing or body scanning.
“It’s simple not because it’s simplistic, or a beginner’s meditation, but because there’s a profound and elegant simplicity to the practice,” says Deboragh Varnel, a Certified TM Teacher and director at Vancouver TM for Women Centre. “It’s effortless in contrast to many other meditation techniques which involve concentration or control of the mind, trying to clear the mind of thoughts.”
According to Varnel, the benefits of transcendental meditation include:
- Less stress
- Decreased anxiety and depression
- Better sleep
- Stronger executive functions, such as more purposeful thinking and farsighted decision-making
Transcendental meditation may be particularly beneficial for those with PTSD. In a 2018 study, researchers compared the use of transcendental meditation to prolonged exposure therapy and PTSD health education. After 12 sessions over 12 weeks, 61% of people doing TM showed significant reductions in PTSD symptoms, compared to 42% in the prolonged exposure therapy group and 32% in the health education group.
As for stress, a small 2014 study looked at the effect of transcendental meditation on teachers at a therapeutic school for children with behavioral problems. Over the course of four months, participants learned and practiced transcendental meditation, both with an instructor and on their own. At the end of the study, they experienced less stress, depression, and burnout than the control group.
Even if you’re skeptical of the benefits, it’s worth giving the practice a go. “The transcendental meditation technique does not involve belief. In fact, you can be thoroughly skeptical, and the technique will still be fully effective,” says Sam Katz, National Director of Communication at the Transcendental Meditation Program. “TM is not a religion or philosophy and involves no change in lifestyle.”
How to do transcendental meditation
Transcendental meditation is typically taught by a practitioner who will provide you with a mantra to repeat. You can do this either with a personal teacher or through an app.
“It’s recommended to work with a teacher for this technique, so you have a voice to guide you to stay focused on the mantra, to not be too hard on yourself, and to breathe,” says Julie Aelbrecht, a transcendental meditation teacher on the app Insight Timer.
For anyone interested in learning the practice you can take one-on-one courses that are four days long through the Transcendental Meditation Program, founded by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi – the person who introduced TM to Western culture. Each session lasts about one and a half hours.
Once you’ve learned the technique and received a mantra, you can practice transcendental meditation on your own. Transcendental meditation should be practiced twice a day, once in the morning and evening, for 15 to 20 minutes at a time. You should sit upright in a comfortable seat with your eyes closed, says Varnel.
The mantra is your point of focus and you can return to it anytime you become distracted.
Transcendental meditation mantras
According to Katz, TM practitioners with the Transcendental Meditation Program do not typically share mantras with those they do not work with as they “are only effective if they are taught and used in a particular way. They are personally chosen for each individual by a trained teacher to ensure that each student gets the maximum benefit from their TM practice,” he says.
Many choose a mantra that causes what they describe as “vibrations” in them.
Mantras can also change over the course of your meditation practice as you progress or as your needs change.
For anyone trying transcendental meditation on their own for their well-being and concentration, Aelbrecht recommends picking “an affirmative phrase or one word with a positive connotation such as ‘I am whole’ or ‘love.'”
“I teach all my courses with the word ‘one,’ like the number, as the beginning mantra. It’s a nice, short word that you can ascribe any kind of meaning to,” says Aelbrecht.
Transcendental meditation is a mantra-based meditation that may reduce stress, depression, anxiety, and even relieve PTSD symptoms.
If you are interested in practicing, start with two 15 to 20-minute sessions a day. It’s best to find a teacher, but if you cannot, then start with an app at home and try mantras like “I am whole” or “love.”