Doctor touts health benefits of Transcendental Meditation
Written by Sara Agnew, Iowa City Press-Citizen
Jan. 7, 2014 8:55 PM
If you want to reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease and lower your blood pressure without taking medication, Dr. Robert H. Schneider has a suggestion: Transcendental Meditation.
Schneider says he has been involved in studies that show this type of meditation can reduce the rate of death from cardiovascular disease by 30 percent and from cancer by 40 percent.
The key is you need to know the “techniques” of Transcendental Meditation to experience the benefits — sitting with your eyes closed for 10 minutes won’t cut it.
That’s the message Schneider shared with about 40 hospital personnel Tuesday during an hourlong presentation called MIND-BODY-HEART: Evidence for Meditation in Hypertension and Cardiovascular Disease at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. It was his first visit with staff and doctors at UIHC.
“It was breakthrough,” he said of his visit.
Schneider is director of the Institute for Natural Medicine and Prevention and dean of medical programs at Maharishi University of Management in Fairfield. As a physician and scientist, Schneider has spent the past 30 years researching evidence-based natural approaches for treating heart disease, high blood pressure, stress and other cardiovascular factors. Over the past 20 years, he has received more than $20 million in research grants from the National Institutes of Health for his natural approaches to treating heart disease.
Much of his work centers on the benefits of Transcendental Meditation.
Schneider said TM is an effortless technique for “automatic self-transcending.” It allows your mind to settle inward beyond thought to experience the source of thought — pure awareness. This is the most silent and peaceful level of consciousness and what many who practice TM call your innermost self.
“It takes a technique that you learn in an eight-hour course,” Schneider said. “Once you have the technique, it happens quite easily.”
Schneider said humans have an “inborn ability” to practice this type of meditation.
“But we have lost this simple and natural technique,” he said.
Schneider said much of his research about the correlation between mind and body were affirmed last June when the American Heart Association announced that Transcendental Meditation is the only meditation practice that has shown to lower blood pressure. In addition, AHA reported lower blood pressure through TM is associated with substantially reduced rates of death, heart attack and stroke.
Ultimately, Schneider said the AHA recommended that TM be recommended for consideration as an alternative treatment for individuals with blood pressure greater than 120/80 mm Hg.
Schneider said he learned about TM 40 years ago as a college student.
“I was always interested in how we can tap into the body’s own cell repair and healing abilities,” he said. “I thought I’d try it and see if it works.”
He read the research and gave TM a try.
“I found I could study better and learn better and had more energy,” Schneider said.
Later, when he was a fellow in hypertension at the University of Michigan Medical School, Schneider took an interest in the connection between the brain and heart.
“I thought maybe we could use the brain to lower blood pressure,” he said.
Schneider believes his years of research on managing the mind-body connection is paying off as organizations such as the AHA begin recognizing the benefits of TM.
During his presentation at UIHC, Schneider highlighted a 2012 study that showed blacks with heart disease who practiced TM regularly were 48 percent less likely to have a heart attack, stroke or die from all causes compared with blacks who attended a health education class over more than five years.
Those practicing TM also “lowered their blood pressure and reported less stress and anger,” Schneider said.
Schneider is interested in researching how TM can be used to help military veterans recover from post-traumatic stress disorder.
Dr. Francois Abboud, the namesake of UI’s Cardiovascular Research Center, asked, “How will I know if I am meditating correctly?”
Linda Rainforth, a certified TM teacher from Iowa City, said people who are practicing TM reach a “deep, deep level of silence and stillness” in which they experience an “expansion of the mind.”
One listener wondered whether men or women followed through most consistently in practicing TM during research studies.
“Men and women both get results,” Schneider said. “But in some of our studies, there was slightly more compliance with the women.”
If you go
Learn more about Transcendental Meditation by attending one of the following presentations by certified teachers in TM. All presentations will be at the Iowa City Public Library, meeting room E.
• 7:30 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday.
• 3 to 5 p.m. Saturday.
• 6:30 p.m. Jan. 16.
TM sessions also can be by appointment by calling Iowa City Transcendental Meditation Program at 936-1986, 641-472-0827 or 641-919-7282. For more information, go to www.tm.org.
Dr. Robert Schneider was also interviewed by Steve Smith on KMCD’s MUM Spotlight Show about the American Heart Association’s recommendation of Transcendental Meditation to lower high blood pressure. He also reported on his visit to UI’s Medical Center. Steve asked some great questions. It was a lively discussion. Listen here: http://fairfieldiowaradio.com/audio/spotlight%201-9.mp3. (20:45)
See Dr. Schneider on New Zealand Television’s Breakfast ONE News describing the value of TM for heart health. http://tvnz.co.nz/breakfast-news/meditating-your-heart-video-5602306
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