SYMPATHETIC REACTIVITY DURING MEDITATION
Decreased sympathetic reactivity is one of the generally accepted standards in Western medicine to examine meditation’s benefit to health. This study investigated the research question: why did seven advanced meditators from an esoteric school who use an active meditation style with accelerated breathing reflect more variable sympathetic activation during meditation and recovery relative to baseline measures. A single-case study embedded design was used to analyze eleven psychological/psychophysiological measures. Analyses revealed meditators were characterized by thin boundaries, high absorption, high dissociation, and minimal self-perceived stress. They displayed significantly increased: electrodermal reactivity during meditation and recovery, heart rate during meditation, and bilateral hand temperatures during recovery. These outcomes are consistent with research demonstrating positive correlation between high hypnotizability and electrodermal reactivity, sympathetic increase with accelerated breathing meditations, and are inconsistent with decreased sympathetic activation in most passive meditation studies. Findings support other research that active meditation styles with accelerated breathing prompt sympathetic activation and minimize self-perceived stress. Discussion explores the implications for health and well-being in terms of autonomic reactivity and whether sympathetic reactivity during meditation and recovery are indicative of mind-body
incongruence or an outcome of meditation style.
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