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Dharma Singh Khalsa: Why are yoga and meditation often overlooked for healthy brain aging?

Dharma Singh Khalsa, MD

Dhar­ma Singh Khal­sa, MD

What is your cur­rent job title and orga­ni­za­tion, and what excites you the most about work­ing there?
As the Found­ing Pres­i­dent and Med­ical Direc­tor of the Alzheimer’s Research and Pre­ven­tion Foun­da­tion (ARPF), what excites me lead­ing the way in cut­ting edge research on the ben­e­fi­cial, anti-aging effects of yoga and med­i­ta­tion on cel­lu­lar health, brain func­tion and, specif­i­cal­ly, mem­o­ry.

Please tell us about your inter­est in applied brain sci­ence. What areas are you most inter­est­ed in? What moti­vat­ed you to pur­sue work in your field?
What inter­ests me the most is how life style influ­ences brain health dur­ing aging. What moti­vat­ed me was my life­long inter­est in holis­tic med­i­cine and my 35 years of prac­tice and study of stress, med­i­ta­tion, and mem­o­ry. I’ve looked at it from both sides; I’ve stud­ied mind/body med­i­cine with Dr. Her­bert Ben­son at Har­vard and Kun­dali­ni Yoga with­Yo­gi Bha­jan.

What is one impor­tant thing you are work­ing on now, and where can peo­ple learn more about it?
Per­haps the most promis­ing area we fund and study is about the effects on brain and mem­o­ry of a sim­ple 12 minute yoga med­i­ta­tion called Kir­tan Kriya. Cur­rent­ly we have stud­ies look­ing at how this med­i­ta­tion may effi­cient­ly improve capac­i­ty and slow the pro­gres­sion of Mild Cog­ni­tive Impair­ment into Alzheimer’s Dis­ease. Best place to learn more is the research sec­tion in our web­site.

What are 1–2 key things you’d like every per­son to under­stand regard­ing his/ her own brain and mind, that you think is com­mon­ly mis­rep­re­sent­ed or not addressed in the pop­u­lar media?
1. Drugs are not the answer. 2. Yoga and Med­i­ta­tion are under­ap­pre­ci­at­ed as a way to keep your brain sharp with age. They belong in the con­ver­sa­tion with diet, exer­cise and so on. It has been revealed that med­i­ta­tion not only has mul­ti­ple pos­i­tive effects on your brain and help reverse mem­o­ry loss but is also the fastest and deep­est way to cre­ate psy­cho­log­i­cal and spir­i­tu­al well-being, a crit­i­cal­ly impor­tant fea­ture of healthy brain aging. It’s easy and more peo­ple must seek it out.

Where do you see clear “low-hang­ing fruit” to enhance behav­ioral and brain health based on neu­ro­science and inno­va­tion
It is actu­al­ly quite sim­ple: put your brain health first. We shouldn’t wait until a prob­lem aris­es to try and fix it.

What would you like the 2013 Sharp­Brains Vir­tu­al Sum­mit to accom­plish?
I expect the Sum­mit to con­tin­ue pro­vid­ing lead­er­ship and inspi­ra­tion cut­ting across many tra­di­tion­al silos,  help­ing dis­cuss and advance the many approach­es that are becom­ing avail­able to pro­mote brain longevi­ty.

Final­ly, what do YOU do to stay sharp?
I make my health my num­ber 1 pri­or­i­ty. I try and eat well with a plant based diet. I exer­cise 4–5 X a week; both car­dio and weights etc. I do yoga and med­i­ta­tion every morn­ing. I have a rich spir­i­tu­al life. I read what inter­ests me and share my work. I take var­i­ous sup­ple­ments. I spend time and give love to my fam­i­ly and friends and have fun with my grand­son.

And final­ly, I nev­er stop search­ing for mean­ing and pur­pose in life.

2013 SharpBrains SummitThis con­ver­sa­tion is part of a new inter­view series with Speak­ers and Par­tic­i­pants in the upcom­ing 2013 Sharp­Brains Vir­tu­al Sum­mit (Sep­tem­ber 19–20th). You can reg­is­ter with a 20% dis­count using pro­mo­tion­al code: sharp2020

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