Since its beginnings in the first decades of the nineteenth century, the scientific study of meditation had a strong focus on physiological changes in practitioners. After a couple of initial electroencephalographic (EEG) studies of yogis and Zen monks conducted in India and Japan in the 1950s and 1960s, meditation research flourished in the 1970s with the popularity and spreading of Transcendental Meditation® in the West (a concise outline of major research strands can be found in the bibliography by Murphy et al. 1997). The observed calming effects on peripheral physiology – e.g., respiration and heart rate, blood pressure, muscle tone, skin conductance – and on the central nervous system supported the notion of meditation as a technique to evoke a “relaxation response” that could be employed in mundane and clinical settings to counteract stress. In addition, phenomenological analyses of...
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