May 1978

Psychophysiological Correlates of the Practice of Tantric Yoga Meditation

Author Affiliations

From the Psychiatry Service, Veterans Administration Hospital, Palo Alto, Calif, and the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Stanford (Calif) University School of Medicine.

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1978;35(5):571-577. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1978.01770290053005

• Autonomic and electroencephalographic (EEG) correlates of Tantric Yoga meditation were studied in three groups of subjects as they progressed from normal consciousness into meditation. Groups differed in their level of meditation proficiency. Measures of skin resistance, heart rate, respiration, autonomic orienting response, resting EEG, EEG alpha and theta frequencies, sleep-scored EEG, averaged evoked responses, and subjective experience were employed.

Unlike most previously reported meditation studies, proficient meditators demonstrated increased autonomic activation during meditation while unexperienced meditators demonstrated autonomic relaxation. During meditation, proficient meditators demonstrated increased alpha and theta power, minimal evidence of EEG-defined sleep, and decreased autonomic orienting to external stimulation. An episode of sudden autonomic activation was observed that was characterized by the meditator as an approach to the Yogic ecstatic state of intense concentration. These findings challenge the current "relaxation" model of meditative states.