Transcendental Meditation

Medically Reviewed by Zilpah Sheikh, MD on November 21, 2023
5 min read

Transcendental Meditation (TM) is a technique for avoiding distracting thoughts and promoting a state of relaxed awareness. The method became popular due to its association with the Beatles, but TM continues to be studied and practiced today for its health benefits.

According to supporters of TM, when you meditate, the ordinary thinking process is “transcended.” It’s replaced by a state of pure consciousness. In this state, you achieve perfect stillness, rest, stability, order, and a complete absence of mental boundaries. The end goal is to achieve a state of relaxed awareness.

Some studies have found that regular meditation can reduce chronic pain, anxiety, high blood pressure, cholesterol, and the use of health care services.

Meditation, both TM and other forms, is generally safe and may improve your quality of life. But experts agree that meditation shouldn't be used as a single treatment for any particular health condition, or as an alternative to conventional medical care.

Transcendental Meditation vs. mindfulness

TM uses a repeated mantra to focus your attention. Mindfulness is about clearing your thoughts and staying present in the moment.

While TM has its roots in Hinduism, mindfulness meditation comes from Buddhism. You can practice meditation in a nonreligious context, however.

An example of mindfulness meditation is focusing on your breath flowing in and out of your body. You learn to focus attention on what you're feeling, without reacting to or judging it. Overall, the goal is to experience thoughts and emotions with greater balance and acceptance in your daily life.

The late Maharishi Mahesh Yogi created TM based on a meditation technique from the text of the Hindu Vedas.

Maharishi was born as Mahesh Prasad Varma. He began his spiritual work as a disciple of Swami Brahmananda Saraswati (also known as Guru Dev), who was based in the Indian Himalayas. After his guru's death in 1953, he worked to develop his meditation style for all people.

By 1955, he changed his name and began presenting his method across India before going on tour across other continents. The technique was officially called TM when he brought it to the U.S. in 1959.

Maharishi captured the attention of celebrities, including the Beatles, causing interest in TM to grow. The Beatles traveled to Rishikesh, India, in 1968 to learn about TM from Maharishi.

Over the next few decades, Maharishi continued to tour around the world to spread his message, built TM centers, and trained TM teachers. He died in 2008 in the Netherlands, estimated to be about 91 years old.

Benefits of TM include:

Reduced stress, anxiety, and depression. One large review study found TM reduced anxiety in people who practiced it. Those who benefited included individuals with high anxiety levels such as people with chronic anxiety, veterans with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and prison inmates.

Lower blood pressure. Practicing TM has been shown to reduce stress and blood pressure, comparable with other lifestyle changes such as weight-loss diets and exercise.

Better sleep. In a study on health care workers under high stress, those who practiced TM twice a day for 3 months had less burnout, anxiety, and insomnia.


To practice TM, sit in a comfortable position with your eyes closed and silently repeat a mantra.

A mantra is a word, sound, or phrase that is used to focus your concentration. As you concentrate on the mantra's sound instead of its meaning, you allow your mind to fully transcend.

Unlike some forms of meditation, the TM technique requires instruction from a certified teacher.

The TM technique is available in the U.S. through Maharishi Foundation USA, a nonprofit educational organization. The group's website includes FAQs and other introductory information. Once you decide to take the course, it involves four sessions:

  • Session 1: You'll train one-on-one with your TM teacher during a 60- to 90-minute in-person meeting. Following a brief ceremony, you're given a mantra, which you're supposed to keep confidential. Some followers of TM liken the ceremony to a puja, or worship ritual common in the Hindu faith. But the Maharishi Foundation USA says TM is not a religion.

  • Sessions 2-4: Next, you'll have small group sessions with your teacher (1.5 to 2 hours per session). Maharishi Foundation USA offers these sessions in person or at home (using interactive digital content). In these sessions, the teacher does the following:

    • Explains the practice in greater detail
    • Makes corrections if needed
    • Provides information about the benefits of regular practice
  • Follow-up: About 10 days after the training is complete, the teacher will meet with you again (in person or remotely) for a small group session and a one-on-one to ensure TM is working for you.

You practice TM twice a day for 15 to 20 minutes. That usually means once in the morning before breakfast and once in the afternoon before dinner. TM does not require any hard effort, nor does it require concentration. Instead, students are told to breathe normally and focus their attention on the mantra.

The fee for the TM course ranges from $420 to $980, depending on your annual household income. The Maharishi Foundation USA offers scholarships for students, military veterans, and others in need.

According to the Maharishi Foundation USA, you can't completely learn TM on your own. They recommend that you work with a certified instructor. The instructor provides one-on-one guidance to teach you the method.

A few reports suggest that meditation can cause or worsen symptoms in people with certain psychiatric conditions. If you have a mental health condition, talk to your doctor or mental health professional before starting TM. Also, let your meditation instructor know about your condition.

To avoid any adverse effects of TM:

  • Confirm your TM teacher is trained. Ask about the training and experience of the TM instructor you're considering. 
  • Don't skip conventional medical care. Don't use meditation as a reason to postpone seeing your doctor about a medical issue.
  • Check the research. Review published research studies about your health condition and the effects of meditation with your doctor.
  • Talk with your care team. Tell all your health care providers about any complementary and alternative practices you use, such as TM. Being transparent will help you get quality and safe care.