If someone told you that memory loss caused by Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia could be reversed without drugs, in less than 15 minutes a day, would you believe them?
Although it sounds like the opening pitch of an annoying infomercial, research has been able to pinpoint a specific kind of meditation that seems to bestow special memory-boosting benefits on dutiful practitioners: Kirtan Kriya.
Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania conducted a study that found that individuals with memory problems saw an improvement in their overall cognition after practicing Kirtan Kriya meditation once a day, for eight weeks.
The study was small (involving only 15 participants) but the findings were definitive—people with memory loss performed better on cognitive tests after incorporating Kirtan Kriya into their lives.
While the benefits of meditation are no secret to the millions of people who practice the ancient form of centering one’s thoughts, these results add further credibility to the ever-growing body of scientific evidence backing up what yogis have known about meditation for millennia.
According to the Mayo Clinic, some other advantages of adopting any form of meditation practice include: reduced stress levels, increased awareness and the ability to be able to concentrate more on the present. Science has also pointed to meditation as a way to manage or prevent certain health conditions including cancer, depression, high blood pressure, problems with sleep, asthma, anxiety and heart disease.
While the link between meditation and these conditions is far from definitive, it’s hard to deny that the practice has value that science is just beginning to understand.
A Kirtan Kriya sample practice
Kirtan Kriya meditation is a principle component of the Kundalini form of yoga. Kundalini yoga aims to enhance the physical energy and mental awareness of each practitioner by unleashing the power of the universal consciousness that resides within each person.
Here are the basic elements of a Kirtan Kriya meditation practice:
- Take a seat: You can sit on the floor or in a chair, anywhere you feel most relaxed. Try to sit up as straight as you comfortably can. Place your hand on your knees, palms facing up.
- Practice breathing: Practice slowly inhaling all the way down into your belly, and then, gradually exhaling fully.
- Start to chant: Kirtan Kriya meditation incorporates a specific syllabic chant—sa (birth), ta (life), na (death), ma (rebirth). Together they form a mantra that proponents of Kundalini yoga say helps practitioners tap into their spiritual center. There are also hand movements that coordinate with each aspect of the Kirtan Kriya mantra. On “sa,” touch your index fingers to your thumbs. On “ta,” touch your middle fingers to your thumbs. On “na,” touch your ring fingers to your thumb. On “ma,” touch your pinky fingers to your thumbs. Each of these gestures is called a “mudra,” a symbolic movement meant to facilitate the flow of energy throughout the body.
- Repeat: Kirtan Kriya meditation practices may last anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours. The typical practice is about 11-12 minutes long and involves cycling through several different ways of chanting the sa, ta, na, ma mantra; sometimes in a loud voice, sometimes in a whisper and sometimes silently, in your head. If you’re new to Kirtan Kriya, try this as a sample meditation: Chant aloud for two minutes, softly for two minutes, silently for three minutes, softly for two minutes and aloud for two minutes. You can play around with the times, but the important concept to keep consistent is the cycle—aloud, soft, silent, soft, aloud.
- End with an affirmation: While it isn’t necessary, some practitioners suggest concluding a Kirtan Kriya meditation session by placing your palms together in front of your heart and proclaiming the mantra, “Sat nam,” as a verbal acknowledgement of the sacred truth that lies within you.
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By Anne-Marie Botek, AgingCare.com Editor