How Kirtan Kriya improves brain function

2A Gyan MudraMeditation is now widely accepted as a tool to reduce stress and improve wellbeing, with some organisations offering regular meditation to staff, and some schools introducing meditation to exam-stressed teenagers. Plenty of objective research has demonstrated the many benefits of regular meditation, including the regulation of blood pressure, reduction of anxiety and depression, improvement of the function of the immune system, and the slowing down of the aging process.

Neuroscientists Andrew Newberg, M.D. and Mark Robert Waldman decided to conduct a new line of research into the specific effects of meditation on patients suffering from memory problems. They wanted to investigate whether meditation actually changed brain function and enhanced cognitive skills – and would therefore be a valuable tool for anyone suffering from (or hoping to avoid) dementia.

Of all the many methods of meditation available, the researchers chose Kirtan Kriya (presented by Yogi Bhajan as one of the most important practices in the Kundalini Yoga tradition) for their study, for the following reasons:

1) It involves regulation of the breath;

2) It involves the repetition of sounds – ie, the mantra sa ta na ma;

3) It involves specific movements of the fingers;

4) It is easy for a beginner to learn; and

5) Just 12 minutes a day is sufficient for an effective practice.

The results of the research were impressive. After just eight weeks of doing Kirtan Kriya once a day, the subject of the research (who was completely new to meditation) showed increased activity in certain areas of his brain (demonstrated with before and after brain scans). The researchers concluded that 12 minutes a day of practice improved emotional regulation, learning and memory, lowered anxiety and irritability and enhanced social awareness, and countered the effects of depression as well as slowing the aging process, and the deterioration caused by age-related diseases Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. In other words, the overall neural functioning of the brain could be improved after just two months. The researchers stated:

“This is amazing because it demonstrates that we have the power to consciously change our brains, and improve neural functioning, in far less time than scientists used to think….we can see permanent changes in single neurons in a matter of days.”

Whilst acknowledging that all forms of meditation improve cognitive function, they also stated that their research led them to believe that “movement-based meditations, more so than passive meditations, should strengthen the neural functioning of those parts of the brain susceptible to many age-related diseases.”

A link to the meditation that we know as Kirtan Kriya now appears on the website for the Alzhimer’s Research and Prevention Foundation:

If you are interested in learning more about this research, please see Newberg and Waldman’s “How God Changes the Brain”, published by Ballatine Books, New York (2010).

Love and light to all xx

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *