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Mantras for Minors

Move Over, Medication, Meditators May Be Coming


March 2003

THERE'S NO SHORTAGE of problems in the New York City School system, what with violence, illiterate high school seniors and budget constraints, to name a few.

But a group of parents, educators and physicians, calling themselves the New York Committee for Stress-Free Schools, have banded together to try to introduce a novel course of study in the classroom that they say reduces stress, improves performance and could potentially lead to less reliance on medication: Transcendental Meditation, or TM.

The group is sponsoring an educators' conference in the city Wednesday, and plans to present a proposal to the Department of Education to recommend TM be offered to students -- either in class, after school or in a charter school.

Students in a Detroit middle school have been practicing meditation for the past six years, and one of the conference participants, Rita Benn, a director of education at the Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine at the University of Michigan, will present data from a recent study showing meditating middle-schoolers had more positive feelings, and were more positive and adaptable than nonmeditating peers. The results were statistically significant.

Though a number of studies have reported beneficial effects of the practice of TM in patients with heart disease or hypertension, a new study is due out next month in the American Journal of Hypertension that is called, "Decreased high blood pressure in African American adolescents practicing Transcendental Meditation."

Studies also are under way elsewhere to look at the effect of TM on children with brain disorders, such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Sarina Grosswald, who is director of continuing medical education for the American Medical Women's Association, is conducting a pilot study in a Silver Spring, Md., private school for children with learning disabilities, examining whether TM has beneficial effects on children with ADHD. Dr. Grosswald says that she was "astounded" by the effect of TM on several family members with ADHD. That could have implications for the growing market of drugs that treats that disorder.

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