Just To Relax?

So, you just want to relax?
You're a reasonable person, right? As interesting as it might sound, let's say that you're not taken in by promises of supernormal powers. And you're also not tempted to add "advanced techniques" or "yogic flying" (hopping on foam) to the original plan of sitting down for 20 minutes, twice a day -- spending instead up to four hours per day "releasing stress." You also have no intention of paying for the opportunity to spend hours a day in "meditation" on weekend or weeks-long "residence courses," shown to have devastating effects on unsuspecting participants. (See Personal Stories and Research Demonstrating Harmful Effects from TM. )

No -- you just want a simple, no-frills method to relax. Isn't TM, then, a good idea?

Even under these circumstances, TM is not recommended for the following reasons:
  • Research shows that some people experience negative effects from practicing TM, ranging from mild to severe -- even at just 20 minutes, twice a day.[1] Why should someone risk negative effects from a relaxation technique, when other techniques are available, which don't demonstrate these negative effects?

  • If someone encounters problems or negative consequences from practicing TM, the TM Organization provides no real help in resolving these. They don't acknowledge the negative effects (except as "unstressing"), and are not prepared to address or help you resolve them.

  • Given the range of problems that have been demonstrated from TM practice, it's possible that someone could be experiencing negative effects, which they don't connect to their TM practice.

  • TM practice alters biochemistry. (See Biochemical Changes and TM & Serotonin: Model of Effects. ) Some of those effects are the increase in serotonin; change in secretion and release of several pituitary hormones "similar to the effects of synthetic anxiolytic and tranquilizing agents such as benzodiazepines"; increased AVP secretion; loss of normal diurnal rhythm for the hormones ACTH and beta-endorphin; and increased phenylalanine. Altering biochemistry has both short-term and long-term consequences. Depending on the biochemical make-up of the individual, these changes may be beneficial or detrimental. They could also be beneficial in the short-term, and detrimental in the long-term.

  • The TM Organization instruction and encouragement is to increase the TM and advanced techniques practice - both in time spent daily (TM-Sidhi Program and advanced techniques) and in time spent periodically ("residence courses" and "rounding"). Increased TM practice has been reported to significantly escalate the detrimental effects.

  • If you are going to treat the TM technique just as a relaxation technique, for the purpose of improving overall health, then there are other methods of improving health, which do not demonstrate the sometimes devastating effects associated with TM practice. Specific dietary changes and moderate exercise programs are proven methods of improving overall health.

  • We know that TM practice alters brain chemistry. We do not know all the ways that TM practice affects biochemistry. We see that TM practice appears to fit a model of trance effect, serotonin and phenylalanine increases. This model appears to explain most, if not all, of the most severe consequences of the practice (muscle twitches and convulsions, depersonalization, depression, nervous breakdown, etc.) It also appears to explain some of the subjectively reported benefits: "going deep" (trance experience) "feeling better" (serotonin increase) "increased alertness" (phenylalanine increase).

No one can tell ahead of time just what kinds of effects will be experienced in short-term TM and TM-Sidhi practice, or what might develop from long-term practice. Given the reasonable and effective alternatives, it certainly does not appear to be worth the significant risks.

Notes to text:

[1] See
Personal Stories , Research Demonstrating Harmful Effects from TM and Bensheim, Germany: (Institut fur Jugend Und Gesellschaft, Ernst-Ludwig-Strasse 45, 6140.) Institute for Youth and Society, 1980 (188 pgs).