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Natural Awakenings South Central Pennsylvania

One-Size Meditation Does Not Fit All

Jan 02, 2013 08:35PM

An intriguing study recently published online in Explore: The Journal of Science and Healing, suggests that new meditators are most likely to stick with the practice and reap its healthful benefits if they select methods with which they are most comfortable, rather than those that are most popular.

In one of the first studies to compare meditation techniques head-to-head, author Adam Burke, a professor of health education at San Francisco State University and the director of its Institute for Holistic Health Studies, taught 247 participants four popular methods—mantra, mindfulness, Zen and qigong visualization. He asked them to choose which they preferred and practice at home for six weeks before techniques were evaluated.

The simpler methods, mantra and mindfulness, were preferred by 31 percent of study participants. Zen and qigong were selected by 22 percent and 14.8 percent, respectively.

The findings don’t surprise Ron Blouch, owner of Just Plain Yoga, in Camp Hill. “The core of my teaching is this, ‘The best meditation is the one you will actually do,’” he says. “No matter how perfect I may find one particular style as a teacher of the practice, I know that meditation works to the extent that someone actually does it. Helping students find the proper way to meditate for their own unique minds is what drove me to begin teaching in the first place.”

Burke says the results showed the value of providing people new to meditation simpler and more accessible methods, and also emphasizes that no one technique is best for everyone. He hopes to see more comparative meditation studies, especially to determine if particular methods are better at addressing specific health issues such as addiction.

“If that’s the case,” he advises, “healthcare professionals would be able to guide patients toward techniques that will be most effective for them. Additional studies are also needed to determine if there is a way to predict which method will be best suited for any particular individual.”

Susan Kiskis, owner of Barefoot Yoga & Wellness Studio, in Mechanicsburg, says she hopes that studies like this make their way into mainstream labs for study and marketing to those seeking relief from anxiety, depression and stress. “According to National Public Radio, one in 10 Americans take antidepressants,” she notes. “The medical community needs to identify alternatives to masking the underlying problem with a temporary solution. Meditation may be the key.”

Local Meditation Resources:

Barefoot Yoga & Wellness Studio

Just Plain Yoga

Kalpa Bhadra Kadampa Buddhist Center

Mindfulness Community of Central PA

The Transcendental Meditation Program

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