Rewire Your Nervous System With Kirtan Kriya Meditation


By Tara Magaddino

When was that last time you thought about your breathing? For many of us, it is something we do without much thought. What if I told you that it is your very breath that can shift how you move about your day, moment-to-moment? At these times, I’m reminded of a saying, “the body follows the mind, the mind follows the breath”. Breathing is part of your autonomic nervous system, which means that the way you are breathing directly affects the state of your nervous system. When our breath flows deep, our diaphragm relaxes downward, allowing our lungs to fill completely, triggering our parasympathetic (think paradise) nervous system. This action informs the body that all is well and that we are in a state of relaxation. In a calmer state, we are able to think more clearly, sleep deeper, and be more present in each moment. However, when our bodies are in a state of stress, our muscles tighten, our diaphragm contracts, and our breath becomes shallow. Shallow or rapid breathing sends a message to our sympathetic (fight or flight) nervous system to be alert. Many of us live each day in a state of low grade, but chronic stress due to our busy schedules. Over time, this negatively impacts our memory and health.

For thousands of years, Yogis have understood how the breath connects to our state of mind and how the practice of meditation can benefit one’s physical and mental health. Modern-day institutions like UCLA and The Alzheimer’s Research & Prevention Foundation have taken an interest, and are studying how meditation benefits one’s overall being. One particular meditation is called Kirtan Kriya Meditation. This meditation can have immediate and long lasting benefits for your brain. Studies conducted show that it can help with anxiety, sleep, depression, memory, and overall cognitive function. The best part of it all—you can complete this meditation in only 6-30 minutes! The Alzheimer’s Research & Prevention Foundation recommends 12 minutes a day, which is a happy medium. One could practice right before bed and not only have restful sleep, but a sharper, happier brain when you awake! This meditation involves three parts: breath, mudra (finger movements), and mantra (sound). In yoga, this is known as a bij (seed) mantra. Each sound alone does not translate into anything. However, when recited, the meditation results in the stimulation of 84 acupressure points on the roof of one’s mouth. In turn, different parts of one’s brain are activated.  The movement of the fingers stimulate nerve endings that connect to parts of your brain as well. So while you are meditating, the three parts combined work together to positively impact your brain.

How to practice Kirtan Kriya

There are different versions which exist, but here is one way you can start at home:


  1. Sit comfortably, either on a chair or cross-legged, with spine straight.

  2. Close your eyes, focus on your brow point

  3. Place hands palm facing up either on top of your thighs or loosely by your sides

  4. Take a few conscious breaths, feeling your breath slow

Finger Movements with Mantra Sound: The thumb is to touch each of the four fingers in sequence with each sound. Both hands move at the same time.

  1. On Saa, touch the index fingers of each hand to the thumbs

  2. On Taa, touch the middle fingers of each hand to the thumbs

  3. On Naa, touch the ring fingers of each hand to the thumbs

  4. On Maa, touch the pinky fingers of each hand to the thumbs

The Sequence: Decide how long you desire to practice and divide time up evenly. If you practice for 12 minutes, you can practice as follows:

  1. Two minutes, sing out loud

  2. Two minutes, whisper

  3. 4 minutes silently singing to yourself

  4. Two minutes, whisper

  5. Two minutes, sing out loud

  6. Sit silently for one minute, then stretch your arms up to stretch your spine

Guided meditation music and directions you can use: