The following article by Dr. Dharma Singh Khalsa, M.D. called Medical Meditations is very interesting to me because I am a TBI Survivor. Dr. Khalsa makes detailed references to Sa Ta Na Ma / Kirtan Kriya Meditation and the Relaxation Response.
After reading this article I had a very clear understanding from a medical perspective as well as kundalini yoga perspective why Dr. Daniel Amen recommends Kirtan Kriya meditation.
Dr. Khalsa writes:
Naad means the essence of all sound. It is the experience of how sound currents, often chanted and linked to breathing, affect health and consciousness.
The meditation techniques utilized in naad yoga employ sound waves and vibrational frequencies to target specific neurotransmitters in the brain, which induce a variety of changes in the physical,
emotional, mental and spiritual state of the practitioner.
Think of the human organism as a musical instrument
Think of the human organism as a musical instrument. By changing the patterns and rhythms of sound and breath it is possible to link all the systems of the body that regulate excitement, relaxation, action, reaction and intelligence. By tuning our inner vibration we can literally resonate ourselves to the heavens, thus creating that state where we feel divine and in touch with our higher source of healing energy.
As our brain, mind, body and spirit are fluid rather than fixed, this vibration can cause profound changes which are transmitted to our cells, reaching the level of our DNA itself, thus helping to maintain genetic integrity.
Our own natural healing state
The vibrational waves induced by chanting the specific mantras of naad yoga, which I call “medical meditations,” have the power to cut through the negative thought patterns which so often accompany illness, thus triggering the activation of our own natural healing state.
These innovative meditation techniques can cause healing energy and increased blood flow to be directed specifically to affected organs. This creates a more profoundly recuperating effect of a specific illness when compared to a basic meditation technique, according to many practitioners of medical meditation. Moreover, current medical research supports this notion by revealing the link between different meditation techniques and optimal functioning of the brain. Studies recently concluded at Harvard Medical School’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital show a graded effect between basic meditation and medical meditation. In basic meditation only a small area of the brain was engaged while the addition of selected sounds produced more pronounced levels of activation. This was evidenced by new activity in deeper anatomical structures of the brain such as the pons, amygdala and the hippocampus. Previous studies of medical meditation have looked at cardiac beat-to-beat variability and future research will examine specific breathing techniques including long deep breathing, rapid diaphragmatic breathing (breath of fire) and segmented breathing.
Physiology of stress
In order to appreciate more fully basic and advanced meditation let us first briefly examine the physiology of stress. On an academic level stress is defined as the point when your ability to perform is exceeded by the demand placed upon you, known or unknown, conscious or not. This is called the Yerkes/Dobson Law.
As demand increases, the ability to perform increases up to a certain level. When the ability to perform is exceeded by the demand, performance decreases and stress ensues. There may be a number of different events that can produce the same end point of the stress response. It may be physical, mental, emotional or spiritual stress. An unresolved conflict, an unhappy marriage or a difficult work situation may all produce similar changes in bodily function.
Stress, regardless of its origin, has a distinct physiology. Blood pressure rises, pulse goes up, respiratory rate increases, muscles tense, digestion slows, reproductive functions decline; moreover, the blood level of fight or flight hormones, such as adrenaline and the killer hormone, cortisol, rises. As an acute survival mechanism, this is the wisdom of the body at its best. But when unbalanced stress becomes chronic it is a good thing gone bad. Many leading researchers now agree that chronic unbalanced stress is the root cause of many illnesses. Stress decreases immunity, damages the cardiovascular system by accelerating atherosclerosis, raises blood pressure to unhealthy levels, causes cognitive decline and leads to anger, hostility and depression. A life devoid of joy, fulfillment or perhaps more importantly, a lack of spiritual fulfillment, often follows.
The Relaxation Response
The Relaxation Response, as studied for the past 30 years by Benson and others, has shown that when four requirements are met, the physiological state opposite to stress is produced.
This is that the blood pressure declines, other stress reactions are reduced and perhaps most importantly MVO2, or the cells’ demand for oxygen, is diminished. Furthermore, serum lactic acid levels plummet, signifying a shift to a more alkaline or healing state of being. Lipid peroxidase, a marker of dangerous free radical activity, also drops and, perhaps most importantly, cortisol levels go down for the next 8–12 hours. The body and mind thus return to a state of equilibrium.
The four requirements to elicit the relaxation response are:
- Comfort—Do not fall asleep
- Quiet—Make this your time
- Tool—Any thought, sound, short prayer or phrase
- Attitude—Favoring, focused, loving.
Studies have shown a number of key outcome measures to be enhanced when basic meditation is added to an integrative therapeutic intervention. Better medical results, many times exceeding both the patients’ and the physicians’ expectations, less trips to the doctor and fewer complications of health problems have all been reported.
Positive changes seen from the practice of medical meditation
Among the positive changes seen by physicians whose patients practice medical meditations when compared to basic meditation are:
- Faster recovery
- More complete response
- Less debilitating illness
- Less recurrence, relapse or recidivism.
I believe these outcomes are seen because medical meditation takes basic meditation to the next level. Notice the additional features of medical meditation.
- Breath (can be long, rapid, segmented or linked to a mantra)
- Posture (affects meridian energy flow, balances the five elements)
- Mantra or sound (raises energy, clears emotional pain)
- Mudra (hand or fingertip position and stimulates the motorsensory area of the brain)
- Focus of concentration (e.g., chin, tip of the nose, forehead. This controls hormonal secretions, especially from pituitary).
After a two-year study of patients with advanced HIV-AIDS, the chief outcome measure that was reported by Shanti Shanti Kaur Khalsa, Ph.D. was an increase in self-efficacy (the belief that what you do makes a difference) after only one session of medical meditation.
The three key principles of medical meditation
To summarize, the three key principles of medical meditation are as follows:
- Medical meditation is beyond the relaxation response
- In medical meditation different methods have different effects
- Among key psychological benefits are conscious awareness (the ability to change a negative thought to a positive one as it occurs) and the ability to more rapidly focus attention on healing.
Additional physiological effects of adding sound to meditation:
Adding musical notation to mantras has the following physiological effects:
- Reduced anxiety, heart rate and respiratory rate
- Reduced complications after heart attacks
- Increased immune cell messengers
- Lowered blood pressure
- Boost in natural opiates
- Drop in stress hormones.
Some medical authors and some yoga masters believe that mantras or meditations should be private and personal. I, however, do not.
Why promote isolationism when intimacy and connection are essential for healing and survival?
My teacher Yogi Bhajan came to America in 1969 and openly taught this ancient, sacred and formerly secret practice. He has said:
“If you were in the desert and needed a glass of water, wouldn’t I share it with you?”
Those of us who practice and teach medical meditation want to create the space where these powerful techniques are open to everyone and readily accessible.
As mentioned, the chief reason medical meditation is more advanced than basic meditation is primarily because of the use of different sound currents.
As a prototype, take the medical meditation known as Kirtan Kriya.
Kirtan Kriya uses the five primal sound Mantra SA, TA, NA, MA (AH is common to each and thus the 5th sound).
A well-known author on personal growth who includes meditation as part of his lecture to help his audience manifest their destiny, recommends using ahh, the fifth sound. This approach, taught to him by his guru, has proven effective. That is how powerful this technology is.
Imagine therefore how much more effective it is when the undiluted technique of the five primal sounds is used.
It is written in the original meditation texts and passed down via the “golden chain of teachers,” that all meditation begins and ends with the five primal sounds. Yogi Bhajan has said, moreover, that if one were to sincerely practice kirtan kriya for one year in a certain prescribed manner, that person would, “Know the unknown and see the unseen.”
Positive Effects of Kirtan Kriya
This meditation has a number of positive effects, such as helping one focus, concentrate, consolidate energy, change a habit or accelerate spiritual growth.
Sit with your spine straight, eyes are closed. Focus your energy on your brow or forehead. This will stimulate your pituitary. You can find the spot by rolling your eyes up to the root of your nose. As you chant the mantra, imagine the sound coming in the top of the head and out of that spot. With your hands resting at your knees, press the tip of the thumb of each hand firmly to each of the fingertips of that hand in sequence, starting with the forefingers, while chanting each syllable in turn. Be sure, as you chant each syllable, to press firmly enough so that when you release the pressure, the tip of the finger is briefly white. Keep your fingers moving throughout the entire meditation.
For two minutes chant in your normal voice, what I call the “voice of action.” For the next two minutes chant in a whisper, “the voice of the lover.” For the next three minutes chant silently; the yogis call this “the divine language.” Then reverse the order, whispering for two minutes, then chanting the mantra out loud for two minutes, for a total of 11 minutes. To come out of the meditation, inhale very deeply, stretch your arms up in the air, vigorously shake out your fingers and then bring them down in a sweeping motion as you exhale. In a short time this mediation may well increase your intuition, creativity and mental energy.
Practicing Kirtan Kriya is very easy as you will see from the step by step instructions in my blog posting Kirtin Kriya: Sa Ta Na Ma Meditation.
The mantra of Kirtan Kriya and other medical meditations, when chanted correctly, cause the tongue to touch the roof of the mouth where 84 meridian points are located. This is analogous to your fingertip touching a computer keyboard; although the act is simple, the effect is vast. When the upper palate is struck, vibrational energy is relayed to the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus secretes all of the necessary hormones, orchestrating a pituitary peptide cascade, which acts both locally and at a distance. The pituitary controls all of the glands. It is the command center for the entire glandular system and the glands are the guardian of health.
Natural Healing Response Activated
After being released, these powerful neuro-chemicals travel throughout the body/mind to activate a natural healing response in the cells of the immune system, in affected organs, within the five elements and the subtle energy meridians. These cells and organs, in turn, complete an information cycle by secreting similar chemicals back to the brain. Kirtan Kriya takes advantage of this well-known information network which links mind, body and spirit. As the elements are balanced and meridians opened by Kirtan Kriya, anger, hostility, aggression, obsession, depression, grief and loneliness are soothed. Physicaly this allows the energy of the GI system, lungs, kidneys, liver and heart to be brought into balance.
From a longevity medicine standpoint the work of Dillman and Dean has conclusively demonstrated that a lack of proper stimulation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis is, in part, responsible for the institution and acceleration of the aging process. Medical meditations, therefore, are antiaging since they initiate a mild physiological stimulatory effect in these glandular structures.