What if we told you that you could think better and feel better, despite getting older, by investing just 12 minutes a day?
We bet you’d jump at the chance. But actually, you wouldn’t even have to jump—you’d get to sit.
Even better news: The technique we’re referring to involves no drugs…requires no formal training…has no negative side effects…is easily done at home…and costs absolutely nothing.
We’ve got good reason to be high on this technique—because we all shudder at the prospect of losing our memories and brain power as we get older. Those fears are well-founded. Among Americans age 65 and older, 13% show symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, such as memory loss, confusion, speech problems and personality changes…and an additional 10% to 20% have mild cognitive impairment, which can progress to Alzheimer’s disease.
Sadly, such problems often are accompanied by depression, anxiety and other mood disorders that can further aggravate cognitive decline and erode quality of life.
So it’s great to know about a simple way to offset some of these effects. Here’s the secret…
REPEAT AFTER ME
We’re talking about a form of meditation called kirtan kriya (pronounced KEER-tun KREE-uh), which involves repeating a mantra consisting of four syllables—Saa Taa Naa Maa—while doing a specific hand motion.
Don’t laugh—because this really works!
The proof comes from a recent study involving seniors who already had memory loss from mild cognitive impairment or mild-to-moderate Alzheimer’s disease. At the start and end of the study, all participants answered questions about their emotional states and underwent tests of their cognitive skills. They also had brain scans to measure cerebral blood flow in various areas of the brain linked to concentration, attention, decision-making, speech and emotions.
One group of participants (the control group) was asked to listen to classical music for 12 minutes per day for eight weeks. The other group was taught kirtan kriya meditation and asked to perform it at home for 12 minutes daily for eight weeks.
Results: Among the kirtan kriya meditators, researchers found significant improvement in the areas of tension and fatigue, and lesser but still notable improvement in depression, anger and confusion…whereas among the music group, scores worsened in all these areas. The meditation group also showed improvement in cognitive function—and interestingly, these effects were accompanied by corresponding changes in cerebral blood flow. In contrast, among the music group, there were no significant changes in cognitive function or cerebral blood flow.
More research is needed to confirm these findings and shed light on just how this form of meditation helps with age-related memory loss and mood problems. But in the meantime, there’s certainly no harm in giving it a try to see if it helps you.
HOW TO DO KIRTAN KRIYA
Sit with your eyes closed. You will be using the tip of the thumb of each hand to touch the tip of each finger in sequence. As you say Saa, touch the thumb to the index finger…as you say Taa, touch the middle finger…as you say Naa, touch the ring finger…as you say Maa, touch the pinky finger. Repeat the mantra in your normal voice for two minutes…in a whisper for two minutes…silently in your head for four minutes…in a whisper again for two minutes…and in your normal voice again for two minutes.
Are you musical? Instead of speaking (or thinking) the four syllables in a monotone, you can try chanting them in a singsong fashion, hitting the note A (on Saa)…then G (on Taa)…then F (on Naa)…and then G again (on Maa).
We wondered whether it would still be useful to do this meditation even without the finger touching—for instance, if a person had arthritis or for some other reason found it difficult to perform the hand motions. So we contacted study coauthor Andrew B. Newberg, MD. He told us, “This is an interesting question. The short answer is, we don’t know if modifying the practice will diminish its effectiveness. Our hypothesis is that the combination of the verbal part and the movement part work synergistically to add to the effect, but this has not been proven yet. And I would think that doing something is better than nothing.”