A study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease in April confirmed that yoga and a form of meditation known as Kirtan Kriya improved brain functioning by increasing connectivity, improving memory, and decreasing mood aberration. See an excerpt where I discuss Kirtan Kriya in Fire Up Your Writing Brain below.
Over the course of twelve weeks adults - age fifty-five+, who reported mild anxiety about their memory and showed some mild cognitive impairment - focused on improving brain function. For one hour a week, one group of fourteen attended a Kundalini yoga class, a beginner-level form of yoga focused on breathing exercises and meditation. For fifteen minutes each day, they practiced a form of meditation known as Kirtan Kriya, the repeating of sounds combined with repetitive hand movements (See Improve Brain Function excerpt below).
The “brain game” group of eleven attended an hour a week of classroom instruction in a well established brain-training program and spent fifteen minutes a day performing a series of mental exercises designed to bolster their brain functioning.
Both groups showed improved communication in the regions of the brain involved in memory and language, but those who practiced yoga also showed more activity in the regions involved in the brain’s ability to focus and to multitask. The yoga group showed a statistically significant improvement in mood and visuospatial memory performance, reflecting increased connectivity and improved verbal memory.
Here’s what I wrote about Kirtan Kriya in Fire Up Your Writing Brain:
IMPROVE BRAIN FUNCTIONING WITH KIRTAN KRIYA
The Alzheimer’s Research & Prevention Foundation in Tucson, Arizona, has been studying the effects yoga meditation has on the brain and discovered (confirmed, really) that a certain form of yoga meditation, known as Kirtan Kriya, can have immediate, long-term positive benefits for the brain. Practicing this simple twelve-minute yoga meditation has been shown to bring about the following benefits:
Kirtan Kriya is an ancient yoga practice that involves the combination of focused breath work, singing or chanting (and whispering), finger movements (called “mudras”), and visualization. To perform it properly, you use or activate all of your senses, awakening your brain and rejuvenating your energy.
According to yogi practitioners, Kirtan Kriya meditation stimulates all of your senses and the areas of the brain associated with them. The use of the tongue stimulates the eighty-four acupuncture meridian points on the roof of the mouth, sending a signal to the hypothalamus, pituitary gland, and other areas of the brain. The dense nerve endings in the fingertips, lips, and tongue activate the motor and sensory areas of the brain. Using the fingertips to accompany the sounds activates the occipital lobe of the brain, which improves vision (as in “having a vision”) or clarity of purpose—short- and long-term. Like all meditation, this practice can have powerful and positive effects on brain function.
Variations exist, but here’s a simple meditation you can do at home:
When you’ve completed the exercise, inhale deeply, drawing air into your lungs, stretch your arms and hands above your head (gently stretch your spine), and then lower them down each side, in a sweeping motion, as you exhale.
Don’t be discouraged if it feels incredibly awkward at first. Over time, your coordination will dramatically improve, and you’ll likely find yourself looking forward to these meditation sessions as a way to start, or refresh, your mind, body, and spirit.
Click on audio to download an example.
Susan Reynolds is the author of Fire Up Your Writing Brain: How to Use Proven Neuroscience to Become a More Creative, Productive, and Successful Writer. She also coauthored Train Your Brain to Get Happy, and Train Your Brain to Get Rich.