You’d probably think I was running an infomercial if I told you about a simple intervention that:
- Reverses memory loss
- Increases energy levels
- Improves sleep quality
- Up regulates positive genes
- Down regulates inflammatory genes
- Reduces stress in patient and caregiver
- Improves psychological and spiritual well being
- Activates significant anatomical areas of the brain
- Increases telomerase, the rejuvenating enzyme that slows cell aging, by 43%, the largest increase ever recorded
- No side effects, no cost
…especially if I told you that the intervention takes 12 minutes of your 1440 minute day.
Can you imagine the media attention this treatment would garner?
What if I told you this is already in the published literature? If you’ve been following my journey, you’ve probably heard a bit about mainstream media’s advertising chokehold and why you might not be hearing about this treatment on the 6 o’clock news.
Since 2003, Dharma Singh Khalsa, MD and his team have been carrying out research on a kundalini yoga meditation called Kirtan Kriya. One of the foundational exercises of this ancient practice, I think of it like the magnum of kundalini. Feeling stuck? Feeling desparate? Feeling sick? Give this medicine 40 days.
In published trials catalogued here, they demonstrate changes in brain perfusion, decreases in inflammatory gene expression, and dramatic increase in telomerase (a longevity enzyme) that correlates with subjective sense of wellbeing, energy, sleep, memory, and even a 65% improvement in depression scales.
Beyond symptom resolution
In my practice, I want more than just symptom suppression for my patients. I want transformation. For many, the portal to transformation is a meditative practice. After years of following the literature on mindfulness meditation, all I was left with was a sense of frustration and guilt that I could never commit to “watching my thoughts”. It wasn’t until I began with 3 minutes of a kundalini yoga meditation that it stuck. My monkey mind had found the perfect hammock to chill out in.
Kundalini yoga is a one-stop shop for mental, physical, and spiritual transformation. It has literally turned me from a neurotic, controlling, agro workaholic into someone who experiences grace, bliss, and a trust in the process so deep that I no longer even relate to “stress”. It is, in a word, profound. In fact, Dr. Dharma Singh Khalsa states that these parameters are improved in as little as 8 weeks of daily practice:
Spiritual well-being involves 4 characteristics that enable you to achieve peace of mind.
- Patience: leads to persistence of a regular yoga and meditation practice, which brings with it the development of personal empowerment. When you develop patience you have the ability to slow down and enjoy life more because you’re in the “flow” and can let the Universe work for you.
- Acceptance: brings self-acknowledgment and self-appreciation. It also gives tolerance, which allows one to see the faults in themselves and others but yet to look beyond these faults and accept others and themselves as they are. This leads to forgiveness, which releases anger, which is toxic to brain, immune, and cellular function. It also conveys a higher state of mental awareness.
- Compassion: conveys kindness, which leads to empathy, which emboldens healthy feelings and communication. Compassion also fosters clarity and commitment and the courage to be yourself without fear and pass to the next level of spiritual growth, which is surrender.
- Surrender: Surrender to the stretch is said in yoga practice. In this case the stretch that we’re surrendering to is our soul; our spirit. When you surrender to your soul, you gain the strength to sacrifice and to serve others and give to them without thought of reward for yourself. This is called seva in yoga and brings with it a sense of true happiness and serenity. Serenity gives peace of mind and a sense of universal love where the One is seen everywhere. This is the ultimate in brain longevity and is what many people call enlightenment or illumination.
How does chanting do this?
We try to understand these non-linear effects, and we may touch on some aspects of their mechanism, but we undoubtedly fall short of capturing the web-like effects of these natural interventions. The best understanding around how Kirtan Kriya works its psychophysicospirutal magic includes these attributes:
Chanting these sounds in this order is thought to stimulate meridian points in the palate that reflex to the hypothalamus and pituitary the master gland.
Dense nerve endings in the fingertips and tongue are highly represented in the brain.
As evidenced by brain scanning, different areas of the brain including the occipital lobe are activated by different parts of this simple meditation.
I bet you want in on the details?
Here’s how you do it
I love the track by Nirinjin Kaur called Kirtan Kriya. It takes you through the meditation’s parts and you just follow along. Here are the components, from alzheimersprevention.org
- Repeat the Saa Taa Naa Maa sounds (or mantra) while sitting with your spine straight. Your focus of concentration is the L form (see illustration), while your eyes are closed. With each syllable, imagine the sound flowing in through the top of your head and out the middle of your forehead (your third eye point).
- For two minutes, sing in your normal voice.
- For the next two minutes, sing in a whisper.
- For the next four minutes, say the sound silently to yourself.
- Then reverse the order, whispering for two minutes, and then out loud for two minutes, for a total of twelve minutes.
- To come out of the exercise, inhale very deeply, stretch your hands above your head, and then bring them down slowly in a sweeping motion as you exhale.
The mudras, or finger positions, are very important in this kriya (see illustration below).
- On Saa, touch the index fingers of each hand to your thumbs.
- On Taa, touch your middle fingers to your thumbs.
- On Naa, touch your ring fingers to your thumbs.
- On Maa, touch your little fingers to your thumbs.
Some of my patients find that after the first practice, they inexplicably cry with a feeling of poignancy. What is it that is unlocked by these sounds? By the stillness. Only direct experience can answer that question with a wordless sense of remembrance for something we have forgotten. There’s a road back to your soul and it is paved with these ancient technologies.