- Negative Thinking
- Emotional Intelligence
- Empathy & Compassion
- Defense Mechanisms
- Anger Management
- Coping with Loss & Grief
- Higher Purpose
- Meditation and Healing
How Sahaja Meditation Improves Sensory Perception, Dexterity, Coordination and Fine Motor Skills
What is perception?
It’s a broad concept that has many subtle forms and textures. Perception may be as simple as the process of seeing, hearing, smelling or becoming aware of something through one or more of our senses. Or it can be a more subtle process, such as becoming aware of and interpreting something through intuitive understanding or insight, a process by which information that is normally outside the range of conscious awareness is perceived by our psychophysiological systems. Intuitive perception ultimately evolves into perspective — a point of view, an attitude about something.
Whether we’re talking about perceiving the color blue, perceiving physical pain, or perceiving a singer’s change in pitch, perception always involves neurophysiological processes that makes us aware of — and help us interpret — external stimuli. These processes are influenced by meditation. For example, meditation can bring about complex changes in sensory perception, autonomic nervous system activity, brain chemical activity, and ultimately, cognitive functioning — all of which determine how well we function in the world.
Perception is not necessarily always true or accurate because it is easily influenced by other factors, such as our emotional state or our biases. Meditation helps sharpen and clarify our perceptual abilities, which allows us to develop more objective, more realistic perspectives of the world around us. Sahaja’s state of thoughtless awareness, in particular, has been described as pure consciousness that manifests itself like a mirror becoming bright when the dirt and dust are cleared. This sharpening of perception affects not only our interactions with self and others, but our physical performances, as well.
Specific Perceptual Benefits
Improvements in perceptual sensitivity, clarity and rivalry
Studies show that meditation can lead to improvements in perceptual sensitivity and perceptual clarity. Perceptual sensitivity is the ability to detect subtle stimuli in the environment. Perceptual clarity is the ability to perceive something clearly and accurately, even in the face of interfering, competing or confusing stimuli.
Several studies have found that Sahaja meditation improves flicker–fusion frequency — the ability to able to detect light flashes of very short duration (Manjunath & Telles, 1999; Raghuraj & Telles, 2003; Raghuraj & Telles, 2002; Telles, Nagarathna, & Nagendra, 1995). Sahaja training was also found to increase visual contrast sensitivity in a group of epileptic adults (Panjwani et al., 2000).
Meditation also has a positive effect on our ability to manage perceptual rivalry. Perceptual rivalry, such as binocular rivalry, occurs when two dissimilar stimuli (such as two different images) are presented to each eye simultaneously. In the brain, perception fluctuates between grasping the two different images. Rather than perceiving a stable, single blend of the two images, perceptual awareness — consciousness and attention — alternates as the two rival images compete for perceptual dominance. In a well-known study of experienced Tibetan Buddhist monks, meditation was found to help stabilize one of the images in awareness, thus facilitating better visual switching (Carter et al., 2005).
Improved dexterity, hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills
As perception clarity improves, cognitive functioning, as well as physical coordination, becomes smoother and better integrated, thus meditation can ultimately improve balance and dexterity. Dexterous or skilled actions depend on the speed of gross movements of hand and arms, manual rhythm, and coordination of eye and finger control. One study using a standard tweezer dexterity test (using a tweezer to place metal pins in evenly spaced holes in a metal plate within four minutes) found that 4 − 8 weeks of Sahaja training improved dexterity by 20.4 percent on average (Manjunath & Telles, 1999).
One recent study found that a sequential practice of asana (relaxed sitting postures), breathing exercises, meditation & relaxation significantly improved visual reaction time, sensory-motor performance, hand-eye coordination and joint flexibility, which helped participants respond more effectively and almost instantaneously to different situations in day-to-day life, from the simple to the complex (Dighore & Gadkari, 2013). (Motor skill was assessed by using the standard O’Connor Finger dexterity apparatus.) The 50 male participants, who were assessed as “mildly stressed” pre-trial, also experienced a clinically significant reduction in anxiety.
Enhanced stress management
Stress distorts perception. An inability to cope with stress distorts our perspective of events and impedes performance and productivity. Poor anxiety and stress management, for example, has been shown to contract forearm and biceps muscles during competitive musical performances, which negatively influenced fine motor skills and increased the risk of developing playing-related musculoskeletal disorders (Yoshie et al, 2009).
Sahaja meditation acts as a stress buffer, helping you manage stress, take control of your life, and sustain robust health and self-reliance. Regular meditation activates built-in stress management mechanisms that help your cope with stressors on an ongoing basis, enhancing long-term resilience. Sahaja’s state of thoughtless awareness strengthens your ability to self-regulate emotions, which reduces emotional reactivity and frees your mind to focus on the present, rather than dwelling on the past or worrying about the future. (For more on how Sahaja helps you manage stress, see Stress Therapy: How Sahaja Meditation Relieves Stress.)
Improved attention and cognitive functioning.
Meditation takes advantage of the brain’s natural plasticity to induce structural changes to the brain, thus lasting changes in cognitive processing. Accurate perception, as well as dexterity in fine motor movements, first depends on the quality of attention. Meditation can dramatically increase focus, alertness and attention span, even for monotonous tasks.
Sahaja meditation has been shown to increase activation of — and have “up-regulating” effects on — fronto-parietal attention networks (Aftanas and Golocheikine, 2001, 2002a, b, 2003). (For an in-depth look at how Sahaja influences attention, see: Attention: The Vehicle to a Higher Plane of Consciousness)
One 2016 Sahaja meditation study using the brain structure imaging techniques of MRI and Voxel-Based Morphometry found that long-term Sahaja practitioners (compared with non-meditators) had significantly larger grey matter volume (GMV) across their entire brains, a phenomenon that has not previously been found in practitioners of any other meditation technique. (No GMV increases were found in non-meditators.)
The study also found, in the brains of Sahaja practitioners, greater GMV in right hemispheric regions (insula, ventromedial orbitofrontal cortex, inferior temporal and parietal cortices) associated with, among other traits, sustained attention, cognitive control and interoceptive perception, as well as greater GMV in left hemispheric regions (ventrolateral prefrontal cortex and left insula) involved in attention, improved performance in cognitive tasks and emotional intelligence. Increased gray matter volume in these brain regions suggests that regular Sahaja practice may enhance the functions controlled by these regions (Hernández set al, 2016).
Meditation has been found to actually alter the fundamental electrical balance between the brain’s cerebral hemispheres (Cahn and Polich, 2006), increasing synchrony between emotional processing and reason, which leads to better decision-making.
The regular meditator’s brain is better connected, better balanced, better synchronized, better organized and more efficient. One beneficiary of this synchrony is improved sensory perception, dexterity, coordination and fine motor skills.
Aftanas LI, Golocheikine SA (2001) Human anterior and frontal midline theta and lower alpha reflect emotionally positive state and internalized attention: high-resolution EEG investigation of meditation. Neuroscience Letters 310: 57-60.
Aftanas, L.I., Varlamov, A.A., Pavlov, S.V., et al., Affective Picture Processing: Event-Related Synchronization within Individually Defined Human Theta Band Is Modulated by Valence Dimension, Neurosci. Lett., 2002, vol. 303, p. 115.
Aftanas L., Golosheykin, S. (2005) Impact of regular meditation practice on EEG activity at rest and during evoked negative emotions. International Journal of Neuroscience 115: 893-909.
Brown, D. P., Forte, M., & Dysart, M. (1984a). Differences in visual sensitivity among mindfulness meditators and non-meditators. Percep- tual and Motor Skills, 58, 727–733.
Brown, D. P., Forte, M., & Dysart, M. (1984b). Visual sensitivity and mindfulness meditation. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 58, 775–784.
Cahn, B.R., Polich, J., 2006. Meditation states and traits: EEG, ERP, and neuroimaging studies. Psychological Bulletin 132 (2), 180–211.
Carter, O., Presti, D., Callistemon, C., Ungerer, Y., Liu, G., & Pettigrew, J. (2005). Meditation alters perceptual rivalry in Tibetan Buddhist monks. Current Biology, 15, R412–R413.
Goleman, D. J. (1996). The meditative mind: Varieties of meditative experience. New York: Penguin Putnam.
Hernández SE, Suero J, Barros A, González-Mora JL, Rubia K (2016) Increased Grey Matter Associated with Long-Term Sahaja Yoga Meditation: A Voxel-Based Morphometry Study. PLoS ONE 11(3): e0150757.
Manjunath, N. K., & Telles, S. (1999). Improvement in visual perceptual sensitivity in children following yoga training. Journal of Indian Psy- chology, 17, 41–45.
Panjwani, U., Selvamurthy, W., Singh, S. H., Gupta, H. L., Mukho- padhyay, S., & Thakur, L. (2000). Effect of Sahaja yoga meditation on auditory evoked potentials (AEP) and visual contrast sensitivity (VCS) in epileptics. Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback, 25, 1–12.
Raghuraj, P., & Telles, S. (2002). Improvement in spatial and temporal measures of visual perception following yoga training. Journal of Indian Psychology, 20, 23–31.
Raghuraj P, Telles S. A randomized trial comparing the effects of yoga and physical activity programs on depth perception in school children. Journal of Indian Psychology. 2003;21(2):54–60.
Telles, S., Nagarathna, R., & Nagendra, H. R. (1995). Improvement in visual perception following yoga training. Journal of Indian Psychology, 13, 30–32.