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A recent study of adults with early memory loss found that practicing a simple meditation or partaking in a music listening program may have multiple benefits for older adults with pre-clinical memory loss.

In this randomized controlled trial performed by a West Virginia University research team lead by Dr. Kim Innes, 60 older adults with subjective cognitive decline (SCD), a condition that may represent a preclinical stage of Alzheimer’s disease, were assigned to either a beginner meditation (Kirtan Kriya) or music listening program and asked to practice it for 12 minutes a day for 12 weeks.

As detailed in a paper recently published by the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, both the meditation and music groups showed marked and significant improvements in subjective memory function and objective cognitive performance at 3 months. These included domains of cognitive functioning most likely to be affected in preclinical and early stages of dementia, including attention, executive function, processing speed, and subjective memory function.

The substantial gains observed in memory and cognition were maintained or further increased at 6 months (3 months post-intervention).

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Both intervention groups also showed improvements in sleep, mood, stress, well-being and quality of life, with gains that were particularly pronounced in the meditation group and sustained or further enhanced at the 3-month point.

The findings of this trial suggest that two simple mind-body routines, Kirtan Kriya meditation, which is a Kundalini yoga-based practice, and music listening, may not only improve mood, sleep, and quality of life, but also boost cognition and help reverse perceived memory loss in older adults with SCD.

The Singing Meditation

The Kirtan Kriya meditation utilizes ancient sounds – and is meant to be practiced for greater attention, concentration, improved short term memory, and better mood. The four chanting sounds used are Sa, Ta, Na, Ma—and translate to: birth, life, death, and rebirth..

MORE: Five Soothing Guided Meditations to Aid Your Campaign Against Stress

The sounds are chanted repeatedly and in order and come from the Sanskrit mantra ‘Sat Nam’, which means ‘my true essence’.

If you would like to practice the Kirtan Kriya singing exercise, watch the video below and learn the basic steps…

Repeat the Saa Taa Naa Maa sounds (or mantra) while sitting with your spine straight and eyes closed. With each syllable, imagine the sound flowing in through the top of your head and out the middle of your forehead (your third eye point).

  1. For two minutes, sing in your normal voice.
  2. For the next two minutes, sing in a whisper.
  3. For the next four minutes, say the sound silently to yourself.
  4. Then, reverse the order, whispering again for two minutes, and out loud for two minutes, for a total of twelve minutes.

To come out of the exercise, inhale very deeply, stretch your hands above your head, and then bring them down slowly in a sweeping motion as you exhale.

RELATED: Meditation Produces Enduring Changes in Brain’s Emotional Processing

The finger positions, are also important and should be continued for the 12 minutes.

  • On Sa, touch the index fingers of each hand to your thumbs.
  • On Ta, touch your middle fingers to your thumbs.
  • On Na, touch your ring fingers to your thumbs.
  • On Ma, touch your little fingers to your thumbs.

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