How Kundalini Yoga can save our minds.
Throughout my Kundalini Yoga teacher training, there were many lengthy practices, but none were quite like what was in store for us on graduation day.
On the Sunday after our multi-hour exam, all 36 students and five teachers sat for two-and-a-half hours in Kirtan Kriya. It is a seated meditation during which the thumbs move from one finger to the next, hands rested on the knees, while chanting “Sa Ta Na Ma” at varying volumes. Surprisingly, I enjoyed the lengthy practice so much that I would love sometime to do the full two-and-a-half hour practice again, but typically it totals out at just 12 minutes.
I had practiced Kirtan Kriya (in abbreviated lengths) before, and even heard from world-renowned Kundalini Yoga Teacher, Guru Singh, that it has been studied for its effects on Alzheimer’s. But I assumed they were vague and general, like most of yoga’s more esoteric benefits. Now that I have done my research, however, Kirtan Kriya has become a regular part of my practice. The reason is that this seemingly simple practice has been proven by MRI in several controlled studies to both physically and psychologically help prevent and stop dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease.
While most of the United States is still unsure of what the heck Kundalini Yoga is, our medical universities have already begun to study its effects. In one of the world’s leading journals of neuroscience, it was stated:
“Overall, reviewed studies suggested a positive effect of meditation techniques, particularly in the area of attention, as well as memory, verbal fluency, and cognitive flexibility. These findings are discussed in the context of MRI studies suggesting structural correlates of the effects. Meditation can be a potentially suitable non-pharmacological intervention aimed at the prevention of cognitive decline in the elderly.”
There are many different styles of meditation, but Kundalini Yoga uniquely combines the use of mantra (chanting), mudra (posture), and focus (eye, breath, and mental), which is perhaps why Kirtan Kriya is so widely studied. “It is becoming evident that in the context of neurodegenerative disorders there is a lack of studies using methods other than Kirtan Kriya.”
An estimated 36 million people are currently suffering from dementia around the world, and that number is expected to double in the next 20 years.
It was the ancient practices of Kundalini Yoga that gave me all the answers I had searched too hard and long for throughout my life. All the books I had read, the workshops attended, every place I looked for the answers I needed, they were with me already—in me—always. And it was with meditations like Kirtan Kriya that, after divorce tore apart what I knew as my life, helped me climb my way up to a life so lovely I could have never imagined it. That is because I am better; I have tools now.
Meditation’s positive effects range from reductions in mental states such as stress, anxiety, depression, and addictions to physical improvements in blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, chronic pain, respiratory disease, and even the immune system.
From a physical perspective, the same study documented improvements in the human brain processes including:
>> Increased cerebral perfusion in prefrontal, parietal, and auditory cortex.
>> A protective effect on gray matter thickness.
>> Enhancement in attention driven areas of the brain.
>> Potentially enhanced cognitive capacity and circuit power.
>> Improved myelination of white-matter tracts.
>> Decrease in cortisol levels.
>> Higher hippocampal volume.
>> Decrease in oxidative stress caused by irregular lipid levels in the brain.
Practicing Kirtan Kriya is just one small way that I can take action from time to time for my current, and future, mental states. The combination of mantra, mudra, and focus keeps me engaged, making it a great meditation for just about anyone. My hope is that you will try it and find it beneficial to your life and mind.
Author: Kristen Campbell
Editor: Travis May