This study demonstrates a skin temperature reduction on the palms of the hands during the experience of mental silence, arising as a result of a single 10 minute session of Sahaja yoga meditation. However when people (non-meditators) were asked to do a simple relaxation exercise, under the same conditions, their skin temperature increased which is the opposite of what occured for those using the mental silence approach to meditation.
The outcomes of this study therefore suggest that “thoughtless awareness” may be both experientially and physiologically different to simple relaxation. Interestingly, all other studies of meditation that have studied skin temperature show changes similar to that of relaxation (ie that skin temperature rises) and none show reductions, adding further scientific weight to the idea that the mental silence definition of meditation may well be the best way to differentiate meditation from relaxation, hypnosis, sleep and other forms of behavior therapy!
Manocha R, Black D, Ryan J, Stough C, Spiro D, Changing Definitions of Meditation: Physiological Corollorary, Journal of the International Society of Life Sciences, Vol 28 (1), Mar 2010
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Very interesting. I notice in your document that there is no record of this in regard to mindfulness meditation. In 2002 at a pain clinic with a psychologist I was doing mindfulness meditation with a group. I had complex regional pain syndrome (now in remission) and on each of many occasions started the session with very cold and pale hands. In every session my hands not only increased in temperature they became warm and rosey. In fact the psychologist and other participants would touch my hands before and after to see if this continued to happen. I remember being instructed to focus on breath and let go of thoughts. Each time thoughts would arise I was to be return to breath. I was wondering whether you established whether the hand temperature of participants was relatively normal for the room temperature. If, as in my case, the hands were very cold to begin, would they decrease as for your participants? If that were the case, for me this style of meditation would be most unhelpful. I was of the opinion that, as CRPS involves the autonomic nervous system that meditation was bringing about a balance between sympathetic and parasympathetic producing the vascular change. The pain in my hands was reduced with the warmth. Hope you don’t mind my comment.
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Interesting that there is such a difference… thanks for adding more evidence to the practice
That’s really interesting research.
I find that the positive effects of meditation change quite a bit with experience. In the beginning one strives to concentrate, which leads to physical and mental tension – and of course a certain degree of relaxation.
With practice, you learn to give relaxed attention to the meditation object, which results in soothing inner warmth. That is a truly beautiful state of mind.
This is encouraging. Thank you for providing more research that will help the western world take meditation seriously.
These are somehow expected results. In the case of relaxation mind is active and it consumes energy, therefor e the body temperature rises. On the other hand in meditation there is no mind no energy to burn,so the skin temperature is lower.