How to Practice Kirtan Kriya Meditation by David Webster and Aubree Kozie

Got 12 minutes? That’s all it takes to reduce one’s risk of Alzheimer’s disease! 

Kirtan Kriya, (KEER-tun KREE-a) is a form of meditation based in the Kundalini yoga tradition. This practice, which is intended to bring balance to the mind, body and spirit to enable emotional healing, . It has been practiced for thousands of years. The meditation involves the repetition of the mantras “Sa,” “Ta,” “Na,” “Ma,” with corresponding hand positions. The sounds of the mantra translate to “my true essence” which is designed to uplift the practitioner. Yogic tradition holds that the placement of the tongue on the upper palate of the mouth during the practice stimulates 84 acupuncture points on the roof of the mouth, causing release of a number of brain chemicals which enhance cognition. 

But much more recently, Kirtan Kriya has been discovered to have major cognitive health benefits. The Alzheimer’s Research and Prevention Foundation funded many studies at UCLA, University of Pennsylvania and West Virginia University that show the effectiveness of Kirtan Kriya for brain health. The latest studies by West Virginia University shows the Kirtan Kriya when practiced 12-minutes every day increases blood circulation to the brain, expands brain volume and improves cognitive function with statistical significance. 

Modern research demonstrates that the fingertip positioning involved in the practice of hasta mudras (hand positions) during meditation, when used in conjunction with sounds enhances blood flow in areas of the brain involved in sensory-motor functioning. Clinical research reveals that practicing Kirtan Kriya for just 12 minutes each day enhances cognition and stimulates areas of the brain that are central to memory functioning, as well as reducing stress, which is a major risk factor for all chronic disease. Further studies have revealed that the practice increases blood circulation to the brain, expands brain volume and improves cognitive function at levels of statistical significance. Practicing this meditation regularly helps to ward off aging and cognitive disease and helps to preserve brain health.  Interestingly enough, replacing the Kirtan Kriya sounds with other sounds, or replacing the meditation as a whole with other relaxing tasks, has not demonstrated similar benefits.

How to Practice Kirtan Kriya 

  1. Find yourself in a comfortable seat, cross legged on the ground or with legs straight forward hip width apart in a chair with the spine long and hands resting on the thighs.
  2. Breathe Deeply. Close the eyes or soften the gaze.
  3. Repeat the “Saa,” “Taa,” “Naa,” “Maa,” mantras;. As you do imagine the sound flowing in through the top of your head (crown chakra) and out the middle of your forehead (your third eye chakra).
  4. As you repeat these mantras, add the following corresponding mudras:
    1. On Saa, touch the index fingers of each hand to your thumbs.
    2. On Taa, touch your middle fingers to your thumbs.
    3. On Naa, touch your ring fingers to your thumbs.
    4. On Maa, touch your little fingers to your thumbs.
  5. Chant in your normal voice for two minutes.
  6. Then whisper for two minutes. 
  7. Teh say the sound silently to yourself, singing psychically for four minutes.
  8. Then reverse the order, whisper for two minutes, and say the mantra out loud for two minutes, for a total of twelve minutes.
  9. Release the mudras and the mantras. Take three deep full breaths to come back and stretch the arms over the head. Gently open the eyes and enjoy your more blissful state of mind and the cognitive benefits you have so carefully cultivated. 

Want to learn MORE about Kirtan Kriya for Brain Health?

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Innes, K. E., Selfe, T. K., Khalsa, D. S., & Kandati, S. (2016). A randomized controlled trial of two simple mind-body programs, Kirtan Kriya meditation and music listening, for adults with subjective cognitive decline: feasibility and acceptability. Complementary Therapies in Medicine, 26, 98-107.

Innes, K. E., Selfe, T. K., Khalsa, D. S., & Kandati, S. (2016). Effects of meditation versus music listening on perceived stress, mood, sleep, and quality of life in adults with early memory loss: a pilot randomized controlled trial. Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, 52(4), 1277-1298.

Innes, K. E., Selfe, T. K., Brundage, K., Montgomery, C., Wen, S., Kandati, S., … & Huysmans, Z. (2018). Effects of meditation and music-listening on blood biomarkers of cellular aging and Alzheimer’s disease in adults with subjective cognitive decline: An exploratory randomized clinical trial. Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, 66(3), 947-970.

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