The ancient tradition of Yoga and meditation began in Indian prehistory as a system of mental physical and spiritual exercises. In approximately 500BC the physician and sage Patanjali formalised this tradition into a science with four major and four lesser branches involving ethical restrain, self-discipline, mental focus, physical exercise and meditation. The entire system was used in an integrated fashion and directed at the attainment of a unique state of spontaneous, psychological integration (Neki, 1975). Modern psychologists have described this state as “individuation” (Van der Post, 1975) or “self-actualisation” (Maslow, 1964) and it has been traditional termed “self-realisation”.
Many studies of meditation and yoga have been conducted over the past 50 years with variable results (West, 1987). The advent of Transcendental Meditation in the 1960’s and 1970’s gave scientists an opportunity to study a standardised technique. Many interesting results were obtained in multifaceted studies however problems with methodology and interpretation of data have been noted (West, 1987). Similarly other techniques have been assessed giving results which are often remarkable, but unfortunately inconsistent and difficult to reproduce. The cultic connotations of many of these techniques and the organisations that promote them are also of considerable and justifiable concern and have, no doubt, hampered research in this area (Skolnick, 1992).
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