Meditation really works: Make up your own mind…

Sahaja Yoga is a religion founded in 1970 by Nirmala Srivastava who was born in 1923 in Chhindwara, in Madya Pradesh, the heart of old colonialism because of its forest and mineral wealth. With her parents she was politically and socially active throughout her life and died in 2011.

Nirmala Srivastava is known as Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi or Mother by her followers, the Sahaja yogis. Her meditation through peaceful self realisation has grown throughout the world.

During meditation, seekers of truth experience a state of self realisation produced by an awakening, Kundalini: this is accompanied by the experience of thoughtless awareness or mental silence.

If you want to find out more in Nottingham contact Rosemary: 07415 378857.

Free sessions are held at Riverside Natural Health Centre 1-3 The Embankment every Saturday morning and Monday evening.

Shri Mataji considered Sahaja Yoga a great way to be socially active, personally focussed and religiously integrated.

It has been criticised as having the characteristics of a cult but the benefits of its practice have been recently researched with positive results by Sergio Elias Hernandez, Roberto Dorta, Jose Suero, Alfonso Barros Loscertales, Jose Lis Gonzales-Mora and Katya Rubia in their study ‘Larger whole brain grey matter associated with long-term Sahaja Yoga Meditation: A detailed area by area comparison‘ Published in PlosOne Dec 2020 Niels Bergsland, Editor and shown to have real benefits. The abstract and links to the original article are below:

Our previous study showed that long-term practitioners of Sahaja Yoga Meditation (SYM) had around 7% larger grey matter volume (GMV) in the whole brain compared with healthy controls. 

However, when testing individual regions, only five small brain areas were statistically different between groups. 

Under the hypothesis that those results were statistically conservative; with the same dataset we investigated in more detail the regional (brain) differences in grey matter volume associated with the practice of Sahaja YogaMeditation, with a different statistical approach.

Design

Twenty-three experienced practitioners of Sahaja Yoga Meditation and twenty three healthy non-meditatorsmatched on age, sex and education level, were scanned using structural magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). 

Their Grey Matter Volume was extracted and compared using Voxel Based MorphometryVBM is a measurement of volume, like a three dimensional pixel that can measure concentrations of brain tissue.

Using a novel ad-hoc general linear model, statistical comparisons were made to observe whether Grey Matter Volume differences between meditators and controls were statistically significant.

Results

In the 16 lobe area subdivisions, GMV was statistically significantly different in four out of sixteen areas: in right hemispheric temporal and frontal lobes, (the area we think is responsible for attention, memory, reasoning and problem solving) left frontal lobe (language related movement) and brainstem (controlling breathing, consciousness, heart rate and sleep).

In the one hundred and sixteen Automated Anatomical Layer (AAL) area subdivisions, (this is how we look at different areas in the brain), GMV difference was statistically significant in 11 areas. 

The GMV differences were statistically more significant in right hemispheric brain areas.

Conclusions

The study shows that long-term practice of Sahaja Yoga Meditation is associated with larger GMV overall, and with significant differences mainly in temporal and frontal areas of the right hemisphere and the brainstem. These neuroplastic changes may reflect emotional and attentional control mechanisms developed with Sahaja YogaMeditation. On the other hand, our statistical ad-hoc method shows that there were more brain areas with statistical significance compared to the traditional methodology which we think is susceptible to conservative Type II errors.

Definitely worth thinking about!