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OU on the BBC: Alternative Therapies - Meditation

Updated Tuesday, 11th March 2008
In the BBC/OU series Alternative Therapies, Kathy Sykes asks whether meditation can work in a definable, neuroscientific fashion

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Kathy meditating in Nepal

In a journey that takes her from Buddhist monks in Nepal, to brain labs in America - via yogic flying - Kathy investigates what cutting edge research can tell us about the ancient practice of meditation.

Having learnt some basic meditation for herself at a monastery in the foothills of the Himalayas, Kathy sets off to find out what science can tell her about the experiences she’s had. Her investigation takes her down two routes – can meditation improve your body, and can it improve your mind?

In the US she learns how her body responds when she meditates, and hears from a patient who believes the practice has given him his life back. From there, she journeys deeper into America, to a unique city which gathers together twice a day to meditate. She hears their claims for meditation’s health benefits, and is given a rare demonstration of yogic flying.

But can meditation really deliver what its advocates claim? Weighing up the evidence is a challenge, and Kathy discovers just how difficult it is to get any definitive answers. But, back in the UK, she finds a form of meditation that is gaining some acceptance as a treatment. It is used in a new therapy for depression - and is available on the NHS.

Kathy talks to researchers who believe meditation has amazing potential to change our brains. From a neuroscientist inspired by the Dalai Lama, to a Boston researcher who is taking measurements of meditators’ brains, Kathy meets mainstream scientists fascinated by the possibilities of meditation.

And in an intriguing insight into state-of-the art neuroscience, she hears how these scientists are investigating whether meditation can help improve our emotional wellbeing - and even change the structure of our brains. Their hypothesis is that meditation can make you happier, more compassionate and more in control of your emotions. So does meditation really have potential for us all?

First broadcast: Monday 17 Mar 2008 on BBC TWO


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