Updated: Nov 9
Keywords: spiritual fitness, spiritual health, cognitive health, integrative health, meditation, Alzheimer’s Disease
As we approach aging with a concern for preventative practices in cognitive health, the latest research can equip us with tools with the potential to benefit us in the short and long term.
Intuitively, many of us feel that there must be a deep connection between our spiritual life and our overall health. Science is showing us what this connection looks like.
Study Indicates Spiritual Fitness as Alzheimer’s Prevention Tool
A recent study by Dharma Singh Khalsa, MD and Andrew B. Newberg, MD indicates that spiritual fitness should be emphasized as one of many essential elements to a robust Alzheimer’s Disease prevention plan.
Though this research contributes to the emerging body of “neuro theological” research, spiritual fitness does not solely refer to traditional religious practice or observance. Spiritual fitness is a more general term that includes secular as well as religious approaches to practices and elements of wellbeing that may typically be associated with religion. For many people, being by the ocean, or bathing in the forest, shinrin-yoku, can fulfill a similar need for spiritual fulfillment.
Spiritual fitness, and the practices such as meditation that contribute to it, may, according to the researchers, reduce stress and increase cognitive function.
Previous neuroscientific research has drawn connections between general cognitive function and prayer and meditation, as I have discussed on IleneNaomiRusk.com.
Practice At Home: Kirtan Kriya (Meditation)
Whether our goals are shorter-term — increasing joy — or longer-term — adding to our toolbox of Alzheimer’s Disease prevention — meditation is an important integrative health practice. There are many forms of meditation practice which each benefit brain health and nervous system wellness in their own way. These practices can be personalized to suit your preferences and personality. In their research, Dr. Khalsa and Dr. Newberg specifically observed that Kirtan Kriya practice can improve cognition, slow memory loss, and improve mood.
The authors share the following instructions for adding Kirtan Kriya to your meditation practice.
Repeat the Saa Taa Naa Maa sounds (or mantra) while sitting with your spine straight. Your focus of concentration is the L form, while your eyes are 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).
For two minutes, sing in your normal voice.
For the next two minutes, sing in a whisper.
For the next four minutes, say the sound silently to yourself.
Then reverse the order, whispering for two minutes, and then 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.
View a diagram and learn more here.
A regular spiritual fitness practice is one tool in an array of important practices to increase joy and boost brain health. Meditation practices have a way of connecting us more fully to the present moment and can help stabilize our emotions so that we can navigate difficult times more easily. Right now is the best time to start increasing your capacity for self awareness, peace and interpersonal health. To discuss how spiritual fitness is best integrated into your personal health plan, email me at info@HealthyBrain.clinic today.