Today they are scientifically proven helpful with the following medical conditions:
Angina pectoris, cardiac arrhythmias, allergic skin reactions, anxiety, mild and moderate depression, cough, fatigue, hypertension, infertility, insomnia, many forms of pain – backaches, headaches, abdominal pain, muscle pain, joint aches, postoperative pain, neck, arm and leg pain, even side effects of cancer and AIDS.
These are just a few of the conditions that can be improved by very simple yoga and meditation techniques!
How? Because they reduce stress which is often a cause of these conditions. Many of these can be relieved or even reversed through simple yoga and meditation techniques that reduce stress.
Scientific studies show that there are FOUR basic components of meditation.
1. Quiet surroundings. This helps reduce the number of distractions one would encounter whilst performing the other meditation techniques such as the repetition of a word or phrase or mantra.
2. Comfortable seating. Lying down is not advisable because practitioners tend to fall asleep. A comfortable posture such as sitting upright in a chair or cross-legged on a comfortable surface is more conducive.
3. Mental tool. This could be either of two things. An uplifting word or phrase or set of words sometimes called a mantra. It could be love, laughter, peace, harmony, compassion, I am love, I am loved, I am successful, I am, I will succeed, I will lose weight, I am getting thinner day by day, I am getting better day by day. All these are examples of uplifting mantras. Alternatively one might use a physical symbol that is equally uplifting and possibly representative of the positive values highlighted in the above mantras. Such a symbol might be a cross, om, candle, statue, picture, or simply a printed version of the above mantras … you get the jist.
Why do you need these mental tools? Because they help you to rein in the mind when it wanders off from the meditation. Repeating the mantra disturbs the distraction, so to speak. Gazing upon the symbol has the same effect.
Awareness of one’s breathing rhythm tends to enhance the mantra recitation.
4. Passive attitude. This is perhaps the most important component of meditation. You must let go of the results. You should not strive to be successful in meditation. You should not force yourself to relax or experience tranquility. That will defeat the purpose and no physiological or psychological rewards will be noticed.
Even though the mind will wander initially, you should not worry about it.
You should simply draw it back in and focus on the repetition or gazing. It doesn’t matter that the repetition or gazing will comprise just a small fraction of the period of your practice – most of it initially being spent daydreaming.
Eventually, your mind will become trained and disciplined. Focus on the mantra and gazing will be quite effortless. It’s like learning to cycle.
Following is a simple, unembellished meditation technique developed by Harvard’s Thorndike Memorial Laboratory and used at Beth Israel Hospital of Boston.
It works as well as any culturally or spiritually embellished meditation technique.
SIMPLE SEVEN-STEP TECHNIQUE
Step one. Sit comfortably in a quiet place.
Step two. Shut your eyes. (Not required if you are using a physical symbol.)
Step three. Relax your muscles from your feet upwards to your face.
Step four. Breathe deeply and naturally through your nose. As you breathe out, say your mantra (in your mind) or focus on the image. Try to be aware of your breathing.
Step five. Do this for 10 to 15 minutes. Do not use an alarm. Simply open your eyes to check the time.
Step six. When you notice you have been distracted, do not worry or become anxious. Simply focused again on repeating the mantra or gazing at the object. Soon, relaxation will become quite automatic.
Step seven. After completing your practice do not immediately standup. Wait a few minutes. First, sit quietly without repeating the mantra, with your eyes closed. Then sit for a short while with your eyes open. Then stand up.
Another tip: do not practice these meditation techniques within two hours after a meal. Studies show that the processes of digestion tend to interfere with bringing about the meditation’s physiological, relaxing effects. Try to practice the medication techniques at least once or twice a day. 
That’s it! This is all you really need to do about meditation.
There is no secret.
It is a well-known, well documented, and well established science.
Fortunately, it is not rocket science and can be practiced by almost everyone. Best of all, it is so simple, you can probably learn it on your own and there’s no need to pay anybody to personally teach you.
If you must, however, a good way to reward those from whom you have learned meditation techniques is to teach them to somebody else. Pass on the good work. The benefits they would derive are probably priceless and could save their life. And what goes around, comes around. We will all live in a better world.
What is the difference between the physiology of the body during meditation and sleep?
First, the similarity. This is that oxygen consumption decreases during both meditation and sleep.
The big difference is here.
During sleep, oxygen consumption drops about 8% gradually over 4 to 5 hours. During meditation, oxygen consumption drops 10 to 20% quickly in the first three minutes. Only meditation has been clinically proven to produce such an efficient result.
Clinical studies have shown that these results are brought about universally in all forms of meditation. They are not exclusive to transcendental meditation or any other approved breed or brand.
Tests at the Thorndike Memorial Laboratory of Harvard University have shown this. Being given a ‘secret’ mantra by a teacher or guru makes no difference in the results. You get the same benefits even if you choose the mantra or symbol yourself.
Please remember, always play safe.
The practice of yoga and meditation techniques should always be with the advice of a medically qualified doctor particularly when in association with any physical or psychological illness. Medication and any other treatment prescribed by the doctor should not be modified in any way unless prescribed by your doctor.
CONFUSED BY ALL THE OTHER MEDITATION TECHNIQUES?
You may be confused by the sheer number of meditation techniques to be found on the Internet today.
Firstly, it will be useful to put the whole field of meditation techniques into perspective.
The word meditation has two main uses in current English language. One has a history in the Bible and the other has a history in ancient yoga literature.
In the Bible (NIV), the words ‘meditate’ or ‘meditation’ are used 21 times. They appear predominantly in Psalm, but also in Joshua and Genesis.
Psalm 143:5 – “I remember the days of long ago; I meditate on all your works and consider what your hands have done.
Joshua 1:8 -“Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.”
Genesis 24:63 – “He went out to the field one evening to meditate, and as he looked up, he saw camels approaching.”
In the Bible, the word meditation is mostly used in the sense of utilizing the mind to ponder deeply and thoughtfully upon God’s message or creation.
In the yoga literature, the word meditation has a similar meaning. You are taught to ponder deeply using your mind upon spiritual texts and objects.
But the yoga literature also recommends another form of meditation.
This requires releasing or ignoring the mind and settling beneath it to find one’s true self.
This method of meditation requires much more practice. If it is truly mastered it can lead to incredible knowledge. More on this later.
Scientific studies of both meditative techniques show that both forms of meditation – those that utilize the mind and those that don’t – elicit feelings of peace and tranquility.
To summarize, we can say that most meditation techniques are methods of distraction.
This means a person attains peace by distracting the mind from a negative focus and pushing it towards a positive focus.
In the case of the deeper form of meditation, a person attains peace by releasing or distracting the mind from both positive AND negative focuses and settling in the self.
This second technique has the added advantage that one becomes free from the highs and lows of success and failure.
Both are viewed by the practitioner as equal. The practitioner, in effect, rises above both. Indeed, the practitioner rises above all dualities: success and failure, honor and insult, love and hatred, mine and yours, me and you, life and death. She reaches equanimity in all things.
This does not mean that the practitioner becomes an emotionless stone.
The person continues to love her family and all the world. But she does this from a much higher spiritual perspective. It is not rooted in the physical body or ego but in the spiritual self. And her love is not local but universal. It is not temporary but eternal. It is not binding but unconditional.
These characteristics make the love of that person different to the biased and prejudiced love most people are familiar with.
Such sages are very rare. If they are to be found, they will usually be recluses or monks and nuns.
Some of the earliest manuscripts on meditation techniques arose in India.
One particularly famous book is called the Patanjali Yoga Sutra. It was written by the great Yogi Sage Patanjali. Other great works are by the Yoga Sage Vashishta. There are others texts, too.
These are the world’s original handbooks of meditation techniques.
But they are esoteric. They are very difficult to understand on their own and exponentially more difficult to implement. To genuinely achieve those heights (or depths) of spirit would require a lifetime of practice, if not many lifetimes. That’s why the real masters are recluses or monks or nuns. You will probably not find them appearing on television.
The connection between yoga and meditation.
Why were these ancient experts in meditation techniques called yogis? It is because meditation is a component of yoga. In particular, Ashtanga Yoga.
In ancient Sanskrit, ‘yoga’ means union. These ancient sages strived for union.
Union with what? Union with their true spiritual self, the spiritual selves of every soul in the universe, and even with the source of the universe – the deity.
To do this requires long periods of meditation (and the deity’s grace). Each session would last three hours or longer. The Yogi would be required to sit or stand absolutely still. In some postures, the Yogi would be required to stand on just one leg.
As you can imagine, sitting or standing in such a way for extended periods requires not only physical stamina. It also requires suppleness of muscles. If the body was flexible, the Yogi would be able to sit and meditate comfortably for longer periods. In other words, the physical exercises of yoga that you are familiar with which include a lot of twisting into pretzel-like postures were not in themselves the goal of yoga.
The purpose of the twisting postures was merely to make the muscles suppler and stronger. It was merely a preparation for meditation.
Meditation is the core of yoga.
And this meditation is not for the acquirement of worldly, mundane success. It was not intended for fulfilling one’s material dreams.
Meditation was for the purpose of transcending one’s ego – which is usually the very force driving one’s worldly ambitions. Meditation would bring true peace because it would route you again in your true self, your eternal, blissful soul. The root of all misery can be found in the ego. That is where all misery begins and that is where it all ends.
What is the source of true self esteem? True self-worth?
This is a question that scientists, psychologists, and psychiatrists are still unable to answer. People who have achieved unimaginable success or who are loved deeply by all numbers of people are still found to suffer from depression and other conditions. Despite their success and being loved, they still feel a void within themselves. Why?
It is because there is nothing in this physical world that can be acquired that brings about true self esteem. In short, if it’s derived from something or anyone outside of you, it is not true self esteem. No number of external validations – awards, medals, accolades, loving tributes, praise, wealth and indulgement in sensual activities can build inner self-worth or self-esteem.
It is quite simple, in theory.
Your true self is within you. Therefore true self-esteem must come from within you. Otherwise it’s not ‘self.’ It is someone else or something else.
The reason why scientists are unable to pinpoint the true source of self-esteem or self-worth is because they are still debating the true source of self. Is it the brain? Is it the mind, born of the brain? Or is it something entirely different and transcending the body and mind? If so, that would be the soul or spirit.
Of course, scientists would rather not go in that direction and prefer to reduce the self and consciousness to our body, brain and mind.
Be that as it may, accomplished sages from spiritual traditions across millennia from all over the world have asserted that our true identity lies in our spirit, our soul.
We are MORE THAN our bodies, or brains, or minds.
Why is it then, after practicing meditation which is not intended to reward people materially, do they achieve financial and worldly success?
It is because financial and worldly success is often a byproduct of a happier mind.
When we are happier, we are able to stay positive, bounce back when things hit rock-bottom, and we are able to find solutions to our problems because of our positive state of mind. It is difficult to find a solution to a problem when one is convinced there is no way out.
Indeed, for most of us, worldly success is a welcome byproduct of a profoundly spiritual endeavor.
In the eyes of the great yogis, however, reveling in this material benefit from the practice of meditation is like going to a university to study and becoming stuck in its magnificent restrooms.
Alas, that’s where many people are and they should not be derided for it.
It’s a tough world. Even the yogis knew that. And we all need help. There is absolutely nothing wrong with utilizing meditation techniques to benefit one’s life and to help others, too. Nevertheless, it would truly be a worthy add-on if more people could imbue the spiritual component into their practice and to keep at least an eye towards dissolving the ego and remaining steadfast in the self: the source of true self-esteem.
As the Sage Patanjali defined yoga: “yogash chitta vritti nirodhaha.”
Translation: “Yoga is the cessation of the modes of mind.”
Fortunately, this step of meditation techniques is not too difficult although it does require some practice. (Transcending the ego and acquiring super physical powers is what takes a lifetime, if you’re lucky.)
Here then, are the few simple steps clinically proven to bring about tranquility of mind and reduced levels of stress.
All the other material benefits are benign byproducts.
 This reference encompasses all the material preceding this point till the start of the article: The Relaxation Response [Paperback] Miriam Z. Klipper (Author), Herbert Benson (Author)
Review from scientific writer for the CAMBRIDGE UNIVERSITY
Monograph Series and the fine journal
THE SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN – “REALLY LIKED IT … AUTHENTIC.”