Researchers at the National University of Singapore (NUS) recently measured the EKG and EEG activity of meditating volunteers practicing two different ancient techniques – Vajrayana, which is intended to excite the senses, and Theravada, which soothes and relaxes. They found that the physical response to these two practices were vastly different, Wired explains:

The team picked up increased parasympathetic activity in subjects practicing [Theravada] — the parasympathetic nervous system being associated with resting and recuperation activities. Conversely, there was little activation of this during or after Vajrayana meditation. Instead the sympathetic system — related to arousal and the “fight or flight” function — was heightened.

If you’re wondering why on earth you’d want to partake in meditation that makes you more anxious, NUS conducted a second study in which they had participants perform mentally challenging visual processing tasks before and after a twenty minute session. In this scenario, only Vajrayana practitioners gained a mental benefit, causing “an immediate dramatic increase in performance on cognitive tasks.”

Researchers are now looking to conduct bigger studies and to test the blood of meditators to see the real levels of parasympathetic and sympathetic system activity. (Photo: Wikipedia)