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Friday, November 1, 2013

12 Ways Yoga Meditation Helps Nourish the Body, Brain and Mind

From SharpBrains

By Dr. Dharma Singh Khalsa
Alzheimer's Research & Prevention Foundation

October 31, 2013

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?

Recently The Alzheimer’s Research and Pre­ven­tion Foun­da­tion (ARPF), of which I’m the found­ing pres­i­dent and med­ical direc­tor, pre­sented a sum­mary of our inno­v­a­tive yoga med­i­ta­tion research at the Alzheimer’s Asso­ci­a­tion Inter­na­tional Con­fer­ence in Boston.

For the past 12 years, the ARPF 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: T
elom­erase 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.

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.

Improve­ment of Good Genes, includ­ing those that boost your immune system.

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.

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.

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

Improved Brain Chem­istry: It is well known that peo­ple who have a decrease in brain energy and func­tion have a reduc­tion in cer­tain brain chem­i­cals called neu­ro­trans­mit­ters. Hence, the devel­op­ment of drugs that tried to increase these trans­mit­ters. Unfor­tu­nately, they are not very effec­tive. KK, how­ever, seems to help increase neu­ro­trans­mit­ters in a nat­ural way and improve com­mu­ni­ca­tion between brain cells, thus enhanc­ing brain and mem­ory function.

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.

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.

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

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.

Spir­i­tual Well-Being: Prac­tic­ing KK cre­ates peace of mind and spir­i­tual well-being, which is some­thing we all can use more of in today’s incred­i­bly hec­tic and fast paced world.

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.

In the mean­time 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 (ARPF), a 501©(3) non-profit orga­ni­za­tion spear­head­ing dynamic research on the use of med­i­ta­tion and mem­ory loss pre­ven­tion and reversal.

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