Meditation Research Institute

The Meditation Research Institute at Swami Rama Sadhaka Grama was created to bring together the ancient wisdom of the Himalayan traditions and contemporary science. It aims to present the former in a way that is appealing and comprehensible to all people today. The main objective is to document the various meditative techniques of these traditions and to test their effectiveness with scientific tools and methods.

We are currently offering programs in the areas of:

  • community services
  • research
  • education

The community services program consists of offering biofeedback training and meditation and relaxation tests to the ashram community and other visitors.

We are currently offering biofeedback training for:

  • lowering blood pressure by breathing more slowly
  • improving heart rhythm coherence
  • improving diaphragmatic breathing
  • reducing migraines by raising skin temperature
  • managing stress by lowering skin conductance
  • reducing muscle tension

We also provide comprehensive diagnostic tests to see the effects of relaxation and meditation on body and mind. The tests can measure the following parameters both before and during meditation:

  • electrical activity in the brain – the eeg provides brain wave values (such as alpha, beta and delta waves), which indicate levels of brain activity / relaxation
  • skin temperature
  • skin conductance of electricity
  • muscle activity
  • heart rate
  • diaphragmatic breathing volume and rate

Regarding research, our main goals are to document the different meditation techniques of the Himalayan traditions as currently taught by Swami Veda Bharati and to better understand meditation by studying different meditation traditions and techniques through advanced neurophysiological technology and methodology, which include a BioSemi 64 + 8 channel EEG device, other psychophysiological sensors, and softwares such as a ProComp Infiniti (Thought Technology), and a sound-reduced, partially electrically-shielded meditation room for the controlled acquisition of the data

Research projects

At present we are testing with the ProComp Infiniti device the EEG, skin temperature, skin conductance, muscle activity, heart rate, and respiration rate and volume of the ashram’s gurukulam students every 3 months as part of a longitudinal study to see their progress in meditation.  We are also testing with the BioSemi device some of Swami Veda’s advanced students before, during, and after their silence annual retreats at Sadhana Mandir Ashram.

We are also part of an international research project started by Dr. Arnaud Delorme, CERCO, Toulouse, France, with the collaboration of Dr. Rael Cahn, Psychiatry Department, University of California, San Diego, USA, and Dr. Delorme’s graduate students to compare attentional and affective states, among other things, of advanced meditators coming from diverse Hindu and Buddhist traditions. Our Meditation Research Institute at Rishikesh is serving as the main site for the acquisition of data.

For that, we are bringing meditators from different Buddhist (Tibetan and Vipassana) and Hindu (Ramakrishna, Isha Foundation) traditions as well as control subjects with no meditation experience. Meditators are exposed to auditory, visual, and skin stimuli while either meditating or engaging in a mindwandering task. Non-meditators or control subjects are exposed to the same stimuli while either engaging in breath awareness or mindwandering. The data is captured with the BioSemi device, measuring EEG, eye movement (EOG), heart electrical activity (ECG), breathing rate and amplitude, and galvanic skin resistance (GSR). The data will be analyzed in France and the USA and comparisons between meditative and non-meditative states of the different techniques and traditions studied and between meditators and non-meditators will be made. Then publications in top journals will follow.

The purpose of this project is to prove that all meditation practices decrease attentional engagement to distracting stimuli and reduce emotional reactivity in different ways. By better delineating the distinct neural correlates to meditative experience, as well as the correlation between brain activity changes and physiologic parameters such as autonomic tone, breathing, and heart activity, the idea is to arrive to a better understanding of the neural basis of consciousness. This might not only have considerable theoretical repercussions on the way we understand attention, but it also may contribute on a practical level to the development of more effective clinical interventions for people with attention disorders or excessive emotional reactivity.

We are currently working on the implementation of a new project on yoga research that will consist of measuring if mitrasana, sukhasana, and shavasana, as taught by Swami Veda, together with heart rate variability biofeedback, have a positive effect in reducing blood pressure and, ultimately, hypertension. Our hypothesis is that a therapeutic training that combines multimodality biofeedback with asana and diaphragmatic breathing, as taught by Swami Veda, may have swifter effects on BP reduction than the same training done without paying attention to position for people who suffer stress-related hypertension. Our objective is to find which of the three yogasanas selected are more effective for correcting hypertension. We will study 60 subjects with hypertension stage 1 recruited in Rishikesh. The study might be funded by the government of India for two years, but as of 31 July 2009 their decision has still not been made.

Education program

It consists of teaching the ashram’s staff and gurukulam students who are or will become yoga teachers about our biofeedback and tests available so they can refer their students, other ashramites, and visitors to our lab when deemed appropriate.