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10 ways in which Yoga Meditation helps nourish Body, Brain and Mind

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An easy, low cost, nat­ur­al prac­tice can help us boost our brain pow­er, be health­i­er and more spir­i­tu­al­ly attuned as we age, and improve our qual­i­ty of life and hap­pi­ness. It could also reduce some of the stag­ger­ing health care costs seen today.

Curi­ous about what that prac­tice is?

For the past 12 years, The Alzheimer’s Research and Pre­ven­tion Foun­da­tion (ARPF), of which I’m the found­ing pres­i­dent and med­ical direc­tor, has orga­nized, helped design, and fund inno­v­a­tive research on a sim­ple 12-minute singing yoga med­i­ta­tion called Kir­tan Kriya (KK). This work has specif­i­cal­ly focused on reduc­ing risk fac­tors for Alzheimer’s dis­ease and the enhance­ment of total brain fit­ness. To deter­mine the ben­e­fits, these stud­ies includ­ed well-rec­og­nized meth­ods to mea­sure aspects of brain health and brain scans such as SPECT and fMRI, as well as sophis­ti­cat­ed mem­o­ry and blood tests.

What are the results so far? What are the doc­u­ment­ed body, brain and mind ben­e­fits from this type of yoga med­i­ta­tion?

1. Increased telom­erase: Telom­erase is the enzyme that con­trols the length of your telom­eres, the cap of your DNA. Longer telom­eres equal bet­ter health. Short­er telom­eres equal Alzheimer’s dis­ease and accel­er­at­ed aging and a short­ened life. An increase of 44 per­cent in telom­erase was shown in a study on high­ly stressed care­givers doing KK for 12 min­utes a day for eight weeks. To my knowl­edge, this is the largest increase in telom­erase ever seen.

2. Decrease in bad genes: 39 stressed care­givers uti­liz­ing KK for 12 weeks had what is known as down reg­u­la­tion of inflam­ma­to­ry genes, which sig­ni­fies a reduc­tion in the activ­i­ty of the genes that cause inflam­ma­tion. This is impor­tant because inflam­ma­tion is a hall­mark of many ill­ness­es, includ­ing Alzheimer’s.

3. Improve­ment of good genes includ­ing those that boost your immune sys­tem.

4. Improved Sleep: Sleep is crit­i­cal­ly impor­tant for opti­mal brain and body health. Dis­rupt­ed sleep is a risk fac­tor for Alzheimer’s. KK can help improve sleep.

5. Enhanced Brain Blood Flow (also called cere­bral blood flow or CBF): Patients with cog­ni­tive decline and stressed care­givers had increased CBF in crit­i­cal­ly impor­tant areas of their brain, includ­ing those well known to influ­ence atten­tion, con­cen­tra­tion, focus, mem­o­ry (hip­pocam­pus), depres­sion, trau­ma and resilien­cy.

6. Increased Healthy Brain Size: Com­pared to begin­ners, long-term med­i­ta­tors have a larg­er and health­i­er look­ing brain.

7. Improved Mem­o­ry: Peo­ple with mem­o­ry loss improved on impor­tant mem­o­ry tests. In a study of stressed care­givers, the KK prac­ti­tion­ers had a bet­ter mem­o­ry after KK med­i­ta­tion train­ing.

8. Reduced Stress: Stud­ies show cog­ni­tive decline caused by both acute and chron­ic stress sec­ondary to the hor­mone cortisol’s brain cell-killing effect in the mem­o­ry cen­ter of your brain, the hip­pocam­pus. Med­i­ta­tion reduces stress and low­ers cor­ti­sol lev­els and, as seen above, can help reverse mem­o­ry loss.

9. Less depres­sion: 65 per­cent of sub­jects showed improve­ment on Depres­sion Scales. Depres­sion may be a risk fac­tor for cog­ni­tive decline.

10. Clar­i­ty of Pur­pose: Med­i­ta­tors dis­cov­er clar­i­ty of pur­pose and oth­er aspects of psy­cho­log­i­cal well-being such as accep­tance, per­son­al growth, and pos­i­tive rela­tion­ships. This has been shown to improve over­all health and low­er Alzheimer’s risk.

In sum­ma­ry, stud­ies on Kir­tan Kriya singing yoga med­i­ta­tion, a sim­ple 12-minute prac­tice, reveal many pos­i­tive health ben­e­fits for our minds, brains, and bod­ies, includ­ing a sur­pris­ing­ly pro­found effect all the way down to the lev­el of our DNA.

I wish you all health, hap­pi­ness, and a soar­ing spir­it.

— Dhar­ma Singh Khal­sa, M.D., is the Pres­i­dent of the Alzheimer’s Research and Pre­ven­tion Foun­da­tion, a 501(c)(3) non-prof­it orga­ni­za­tion spear­head­ing dynam­ic research on the use of med­i­ta­tion and mem­o­ry loss pre­ven­tion and rever­sal.

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