By Chelsea Pyne
Meditation has gotten a big hype lately. It has sprawled its way throughout Asia and into the boardrooms of prestigious CEOs across America. In fact, it has become so mainstream you can download an app and get reminders to practice your daily mindfulness routine. Oprah has even become a meditation guru sending out her healing vibes across networks.
People are meditating, no doubt, and it makes sense since America is in such a politically tense landscape. The more people pull back, calm their emotions, and train their focus, the better relationship we will have with ourselves and with each other. Meditation is not just a cute fad either–it has recently been backed by science in a number of studies. In fact, there are many types of meditations and each has a different impact and benefit from the other.
One study looked at Kirtan Kriya meditation. Kirtan Kriya (pronounced KEER-tun KREE-a) is a type of meditation from the Kundalini yoga tradition, which has been practiced for thousands of years. This meditation also incorporates a singing exercise. It involves singing the sounds, Saa Taa Naa Maa along with repetitive finger movements, or mudras. Some meditations help calm and put you to sleep; others give you energy and vigor. Kirtan Kriya was found to be incredible for brain health. So much so that it reversed cognitive decline in the participants in the study “How Kirtan Kriya Meditation Benefits Adults with Early Memory Loss” findings from a randomized controlled trial.
Dr. Dharma Singh Khalsa, M.D. has been a pioneer in bringing holistic and integrative medicine to the US. His nonprofit, the Alzheimer’s Research and Prevention Foundation, has funded much of the research behind meditation and its effect on cognitive decline. Dr. Khalsa said, “Meditation reduces stress, which lowers cortisol and improves many other aspects of your mental function. Of course, stress management has many other positive benefits as well, such as improved performance, heart function, reduced anxiety, less chronic pain, and even increased longevity. Thankfully, research has shown that the benefits of regular stress-relaxation practice, such as meditation, can improve your health and prevent memory loss. It reduces some of the negative impacts of cholesterol, cortisol, and high blood pressure. A stress relaxation practice also has the added benefits of improving your focus, attention, and optimizing your overall mental performance.”
Resources and self-guided meditations are all over the internet. Most you can do for free or little to no cost. Would it be worth spending 12 minutes a day for yourself, and by doing so, substantially reducing your stress? Meditation has direct benefits on cognitive health, but also whole-body health as well. Healthline.com reviewed 11 benefits of meditation all backed by science:
- Reduces Stress (we already knew that)
- Controls Anxiety
- Promotes Emotional Health
- Enhances Self-Awareness
- Lengthens Attention Span
- Reduces Age-Related Memory Loss (Kirtan Kriya)
- Can Generate Kindness
- May Help Fight Addictions
- Improves Sleep
- Helps Control Pain
- Can Decrease Blood Pressure (also linked to decreased stress)
As we head into the New Year, you may experience some stress or uncertainty that comes with the changing year. It is important that you remember to relax your shoulders, take a big breath all the way to your belly, and slowly let it go. At the same time, release anything that does not serve you. Any worries, concerns, or anxiety that is hurting your body and mind. Breathe in and breathe out. Simply start with any of the simple meditations available and you will quickly begin to experience better brain function. Then, find the techniques you tend to enjoy the very most and you will begin experiencing a whole new and improved–and less stressed–you. Meditation is SAFE: Safe, Affordable, Fun and Effective.
For more information on reducing stress and brain health, visit AlzheimersPrevention.org, Mindful.org, or MayoClinic.org. Cheers to a healthy and fruitful New Year!