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Meditation Method a Matter of Taste

FRIDAY, July 6 (HealthDay News) -- People who want to learn to meditate should select a method that makes them feel comfortable, rather than choose a technique just because it's popular, a new study indicates.

Researchers from San Francisco State University report that by finding a form of meditation that works for them, people are less likely to quit. As a result, they will enjoy the personal and medical benefits of the practice, including reduced stress, lower blood pressure and help with addiction.

"Because of the increase in both general and clinical use of meditation, you want to make sure you're finding the right method," study author Adam Burke, professor of health education at San Francisco State and director of its Institute for Holistic Health Studies, said in a university news release.

In conducting the study, the researchers compared nearly 250 user opinions on four popular meditation methods: Mantra, Mindfulness, Zen and Qigong Visualization. The participants were taught each method and asked to practice at home. At the end of the study, they were asked about their preferences for each technique.

The two simpler methods, Mantra and Mindfulness, were preferred by 31 percent of the participants. Twenty-two percent chose Zen and 15 percent said they preferred Qigong.

The study authors said their findings show that people new to meditation would benefit from a simpler and more accessible practice. They noted, however, that there is not one technique that is best for everyone.

"It was interesting that Mantra and Mindfulness were found to be equally compelling by participants despite the fact that they are fundamentally different techniques," Burke said.

Mindfulness recently gained widespread popularity, and is usually the only form of meditation someone new to meditation knows about, he added.

"If someone is exposed to a particular technique through the media or a health care provider, they might assume because it's popular it's the best for everyone," Burke said. "But that's like saying because a pink dress or a blue sport coat is popular this year, it's going to look good on everybody."

The study authors said more research is needed to determine if certain meditation methods are better at helping to treat specific health issues, such as addiction. They added that more studies also are needed to explore if there are ways to predict which method of meditation a person should practice.

The study was published online July 7 in EXPLORE: The Journal of Science and Healing.

More information

The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine provides more information on meditation.

-- Mary Elizabeth Dallas

SOURCE: San Francisco State University, news release, July 6, 2012

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