What is Kirtan Kriya?

With the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, all of us are living highly stressful lives. Life is becoming more and more intense. In such stressful times, a surprising technique that can help us deal with day to day stress is kirtan kriya yoga. Today, many people are turning towards the practice of yoga and meditation to benefit their physical and mental health. Not only is yoga a great spiritual practice, but it is also known to have many benefits for your brain, mind, and the entire body. So what is kirtan kriya, and what are its benefits? Let's take a look.

Kirtan Kriya is a form of Kundalini yoga. It is a form of meditation that is not new. It has been practiced by people for many years and is sometimes also referred to as singing exercise. This yoga practice is a well-researched 12-minute yogic meditation form known to have a wide variety of positive health benefits.[1]

This ancient form of yogic chanting meditation has been found to change how your brain works and is believed to prevent the onset of Alzheimer's disease, reduce cognitive decline, and even give a new lease of life to people having dementia.[2]

One of the most ardent supporters of Kirtan Kriya has been Dr. Chris Walling. He is not only an award-winning researcher but also a licensed clinical psychologist and a renowned yoga therapist. According to Dr. Walling, the daily 12-minute practice of Kirtan Kriya is known to enhance your brain and mental health, while also increasing your longevity and sharpening your mind. Such brain-related benefits can help alleviate several types of chronic illnesses and help people live longer and better lives.[3] 

Kirtan Kriya, often described as being a 'multisensory intervention,' brings together the concepts of breathing, finger movements, chanting, and visualization techniques to create the many health benefits it is associated with. Researchers have discovered a variety of brain health-boosting benefits from this yogic technique. Studies are being done all over the world about how this technique helps improve a range of measures, including cognitive performance, memory enhancement, and increased focus. Kirtan Kriya is known to not only improve cognitive functions but also help people with emotional impairment.[4]

See: Yoga Mudras Types and Benefits

Scientific studies in Kirtan Kriya

What does the Science Show?

A study published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease has shown that the regular practice of Kirtan Kriya is capable of improving brain functioning as it increases nerve connectivity, enhances memory, and also reduces mood swings.[5] The study focused on improving brain function in adults over the age of 55, who reported being anxious about their memory and were already showing signs of mild cognitive impairment. The participants practiced Kirtan Kriya meditation for 15 minutes every day for 12 weeks. At the end of this study, participants experienced improved communication in parts of the brain involved with language and memory. There was also more activity observed in the regions involved in the ability to focus and multitask. 

The Arizona-based Alzheimer's Research and Prevention Foundation has been a frontrunner in advocating the practice of Kirtan Kriya to improve brain activity. Through various studies, the foundation has found that 12-minute yoga meditation's daily practice can lead to the following benefits:[6]

·        Increased activity in the brain's frontal love (a region linked with sharper attention, focus, and concentration)[7]

·        Improved cerebral blood flow (this helps you think and focus better)

·        Better blood flow to the regions of the brain associated with memory retrieval, known as the posterior cingulate gyrus

·        Increased energy levels in participants, along with better sleep quality and reduced stress levels - all due to the lowered cortisol levels in the bloodstream)

·        Improvement in both short and long-term psychological health

·        Replenishment of critical neurotransmitters and brain chemicals including dopamine, norepinephrine, and acetylcholine (which help the brain run more smoothly)

A study undertaken by the renowned University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) found that this 12-minute meditation's regular practice can increase telomerase, which is the primary enzyme linked to the structures present at the ends of chromosomes.[2] Telomerase is believed to affect how our cells age.[8] Surprisingly, telomerase was found to have increased by 43 percent, which is the largest increase ever recorded in such research studies. Short telomeres are known to increase your risk of Alzheimer's disease and lead to a shorter lifespan.[9]  

Other studies on Kirtan Kriya have found that it effectively enhances the blood flow to the brain, helps reverse memory loss, reduces inflammatory genes, increases healthy ones, and alleviates depression.[10]

See: How to Lengthen Telomeres & Delay Aging

How to Practice Kirtan Kriya?

How to Perform Kirtan Kriya?

This yogic technique utilizes the primal vocal sounds, which consists of Saa, Taa, Naa, Maa. These sounds are meant to be changed repeatedly and in the same order, as written above. These sounds are derived from the mantra called 'Sat Nam,' which translates to mean 'my true essence.' Chanting Saa Taa Naa Maa is said to make you go through the complete cycle of creation. The regular chanting of this healing mantra is said to reprogram the mind and behavior. Since the subconscious is known to be responsible for 80 percent of human behavior, the chanting starts programming the subconscious minds to make the changes and help the practitioner gain a clearer view of the present moment.[11,12] 

While there are several variations to performing this meditation technique, here is a simple way of performing Kirtan Kriya:

·        Chant the Saa Taa Naa Maa sounds while sitting down with your knees bent and spine straight. While saying each syllable, imagine the sound flowing through the top of the head to the middle of the forehead. 

·        To begin with, sing the chant in your normal voice for two minutes.

·        For the next two minutes, chant it in a whisper.

·        For the next four minutes chant the sound silently in your mind.

·        Now reverse the order, whisper the chant for two minutes, say it aloud for two minutes, and then sing it for four minutes.

·        The chanting has to be done for a total of 12 minutes.

See: Yoga & meditation for natural stress relief

Summary

Do not be discouraged if the whole process feels awkward at first. Remember that it will take some time and regular practice to start experiencing the benefits of Kirtan Kriya. As you continue this form of meditation, your coordination will begin to improve over time, your memory power will improve, and you will feel refreshed in mind, body, and spirit. In these trying and stressful times, this form of meditation can help foster mental balance and courage to deal with your problems.

See: Beat Depression with Meditation

References

1. Khalsa, D.S., and Newberg, A., 2011. Kirtan Kriya meditation: A promising technique for enhancing cognition in memory-impaired older adults. In Enhancing Cognitive Fitness in Adults (pp. 419-431). Springer, New York, NY. 

2. Lavretsky, H., Epel, E.S., Siddarth, P., Nazarian, N., Cyr, N.S., Khalsa, D.S., Lin, J., Blackburn, E. and Irwin, M.R., 2013. A pilot study of yogic meditation for family dementia caregivers with depressive symptoms: effects on mental health, cognition, and telomerase activity. International Journal of geriatric psychiatry, 28(1), pp.57-65.

3. Innes, K.E., Selfe, T.K., Khalsa, D.S., and Kandati, S., 2016. A randomized controlled trial of two simple mind-body programs, Kirtan Kriya meditation, and music listening, for adults with subjective cognitive decline: feasibility and acceptability. Complementary Therapies in Medicine, 26, pp.98-107.

4. Ramirez, T.C., Boneu, G.B., Ramos, S., and Khalsa, D.S., 2019. Emotional and Cognitive Improvement with Kirtan Kriya Meditation: A Pilot Study for Mild Cognitive Impairment Patients in a Catalan community.

5. Larouche, E., Hudon, C., and Goulet, S., 2015. Potential benefits of mindfulness-based interventions in mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer's disease: an interdisciplinary perspective. Behavioral brain research, 276, pp.199-212.

6. Khalsa, D.S., 2015. Stress, meditation, and Alzheimer's disease prevention: where the evidence stands. Journal of Alzheimer's Disease, 48(1), pp.1-12.

7. Pomykala, K.L., Silverman, D.H., Geist, C.L., Voege, P., Siddarth, P., Nazarian, N., Cyr, N.M.S., Khalsa, D.S., and Lavretsky, H., 2012. A pilot study of the effects of meditation on regional brain metabolism in distressed dementia caregivers. Aging Health, 8(5), pp.509-516.

8. Kumar, S.B., Yadav, R., Yadav, R.K., Tolahunase, M., and Dada, R., 2015. Telomerase activity and cellular aging might be positively modified by yoga-based lifestyle intervention, The Journal of alternative and complementary medicine, 21(6), pp.370-372.

9. Panossian, L.A., Porter, V.R., Valenzuela, H.F., Zhu, X., Reback, E., Masterman, D., Cummings, J.L. and Effros, R.B., 2003. Telomere shortening in T cells correlates with Alzheimer's disease status. Neurobiology of Aging, 24(1), pp.77-84.

10. Kasala, E.R., Bodduluru, L.N., Maneti, Y. and Thipparaboina, R., 2014. Effect of meditation on neurophysiological changes in stress-mediated depression. Complementary therapies in clinical practice, 20(1), pp.74-80.

11. Horowitz, S., 2010. Health benefits of meditation: What the newest research shows. Alternative and Complementary Therapies, 16(4), pp.223-228.

12. Khalsa, D.S., Amen, D., Hanks, C., Money, N. and Newberg, A., 2009. Cerebral blood flow changes during chanting meditation. Nuclear medicine communications, 30(12), pp.956-961.

See: Beginning Meditation to Reduce Stress

Get a Consultation
(650) 539-4545
Get more information via email