The 12-min meditation that can improve your memory and release stress

You have probably already heard of the multiple benefits of meditation. Several studies show that meditating regularly can improve many aspects of our health, from our brain to our immune system.

However, some people find that just sitting in silence and focusing on our breath is not easy. Our monkey mind seems to take over (I really can understand that). The good news is that it gets better with time. The more you practice, the easier it becomes.

However, there is this type of meditation where you don’t need to be in silence nor be completely still….because you are actually singing (repeating a mantra) while moving your fingers. In addition, the health benefits of this meditation are really impressive (see below).

Let me introduce you to the powerful and easy-to-practice Kirtan Kriya meditation, a type of Kundalini meditation that has been practiced for thousands of years.

It combines focused breath work, singing or chanting, finger movements, and visualization.

 

Health benefits of Kirtan Kriya

Studies show that only 12-min of this meditation per day can successfully [1, 2]:

  • improve memory in people with subjective cognitive decline, mild cognitive impairment in highly stressed caregivers, which would be at an increased risk for Alzheimer’s disease.
  • reduce stress
  • improve sleep
  • increase energy levels
  • reduce depression
  • reduce anxiety
  • deactivate inflammatory genes
  • activate immune system genes
  • improve insulin and glucose regulatory genes
  • increase brain gray matter volume (in aging, people lose brain matterzzz)
  • increase blood flow to the brain
  • increase telomerase (an aging and longevity biomarker) by 43%!

 

A randomized controlled clinical trial found that practicing Kirtan Kriya meditation for 12 weeks, 12 min a day, improved participants’ cognitive function, stress, mood and general quality of life [3]. They also increased their telomere length and activity. Telomeres are DNA structures found at the end of the chromosomes and they protect the genome from degradation. Telomere shortening eventually leads to cell death. Shorter telomeres have been associated with increased incidence of diseases and aging. Telomeres normally get shorter with age, but diet and other lifestyle factors (namely, meditation) can prevent telomere shortening.

Many other studies had similar findings (for example, [4]).

Actually, an earlier study had also shown that only 8 weeks of Kirtan Kriya meditation already improved measures of mood, anxiety, stress, and fatigue in patients with memory loss [5].

Scientists are increasingly recognizing that spiritual practices, including Kirtan Kriya, are crucial for improving or maintaining brain health, and may help prevent and, in some cases, even reverse cognitive decline [2].

Kirtan Kriya meditation benefits may be due to several neurochemical mechanisms including improving synaptic activity by increasing important neurotransmitters, such as acetylcholine, norepinephrine, and gamma aminobutyric acid. In addition, two aspects utilized in this meditation, singing and touching the fingertips in sequence, stimulate several parts of the motor-sensory part of our brain that represents the tongue, vocal apparatus and fingertips. This, together with an increased blood flow has beneficial effects and may provide optimal protection against neurodegeneration [2].

Quite impressive benefits for only 12 min a day, don’t you think? 🙂

 

How to practice Kirtan Kriya

This meditation involves repeatedly singing the sounds Saa Taa Naa Maa along with repetitive finger movements (also called mudras). These sounds come from the mantra ‘Sat Nam’, which means “my true essence” or “my highest self.”

  1. Sit with your spine straight and close your eyes.
  2. Sing “Saa” while your index fingers of each hand touch your thumbs. Then sing “Taa” while your middle fingers touch your thumbs. Then sing “Naa”, while your ring fingers touch your thumbs. Then sing “Maa”, while your little fingers touch your thumbs. With each syllable, visualize the sound/energy flowing in through the top of your head, going down through your brain, and flowing out through the middle of your forehead (the “third eye”).
  3. Sing for 2 minutes in your normal voice.
  4. For the next 2 minutes, sing in a whisper.
  5. For the next 4 minutes, say the sounds silently to yourself.
  6. Then reverse the order: whisper for 2 minutes.
  7. Sing for 2 minutes in your normal voice.
  8. To finish, breathe in deeply, stretch your hands above your head, and then bring them down slowly as you breathe out.

 

You can watch here a video on how to practice Kirtan Kriya. The sound of the bells signals the changing between the singing tones (normal voice/whisper/silent). And here you find the music only. (Note that I have no affiliation with the people providing these videos. However, I find them very helpful and this is why I’m sharing them with you.)

 

Did you know about Kirtan Kriya?

Are you going to give it a try?

Let me know in the comments below 😊

 

zReferences

  1. Khalsa, D.S., Stress, Meditation, and Alzheimer’s Disease Prevention: Where The Evidence Stands. J Alzheimers Dis, 2015. 48(1): p. 1-12.
  2. Khalsa, D.S. and A.B. Newberg, Spiritual Fitness: A New Dimension in Alzheimer’s Disease Prevention. J Alzheimers Dis, 2021. 80(2): p. 505-519.
  3. Innes, K.E., et al., Effects of Meditation and Music-Listening on Blood Biomarkers of Cellular Aging and Alzheimer’s Disease in Adults with Subjective Cognitive Decline: An Exploratory Randomized Clinical Trial. J Alzheimers Dis, 2018. 66(3): p. 947-970.
  4. Eyre, H.A., et al., A randomized controlled trial of Kundalini yoga in mild cognitive impairment. Int Psychogeriatr, 2017. 29(4): p. 557-567.
  5. Moss, A.S., et al., Effects of an 8-week meditation program on mood and anxiety in patients with memory loss. J Altern Complement Med, 2012. 18(1): p. 48-53.

 

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