Dr. H. Benson and his associates have found that mantra japa helped to reduce the systolic blood pressure of a group of 30 people with an average age of 53 years.*1 A control period of 6 weeks showed that their average systolic pressure was approximately 150 millimetres of mercury (mm Hg). After only 3 weeks this value fell to 142mm Hg, after 6 weeks to 140mm Hg, after 9 weeks to 135mm Hg, a normal level. However, there was no change in the diastolic pressure. These results indicate that mantra japa can help the heart to cope in hypertension, but for deeper and more successful reduction of blood pressure, stronger techniques may be required. 9 out of the 30 people who stopped meditating returned to their original values after only 4 weeks. Therefore, meditation practice definitely has something to offer people suffering from high blood pressure.
In a second experiment performed the next year in mild (borderline) hypertensives and using the same mantra technique, Benson achieved somewhat better results.*2 22 people (average age 43 years) took part, and none were on drug therapy. The control period of 6 weeks showed an average pressure of 146.5mm Hg systolic and 94.6mm Hg diastolic. After 25 weeks of meditation the pressures were reduced to 139.5 systolic and 90.8 diastolic. These are statistically significant and almost normal values. The longer period of meditation relaxed the autonomic nervous system, improving total body relaxation.
It seems then that if we can start to meditate as soon as we know that our blood pressure is increasing, while it is still at a low level, then we have a better chance of preventing permanent hypertension and its potentially lethal consequences.