To Improve Your Memory, Concentration & More
Julie Lusk, M.Ed., E-RYT-500
A sharp mind and a good memory are important qualities that all of us need and want. Concentration is valuable at home, work, and while pursuing sporting, artistic and other activities. Many of us get concerned when forgetfulness happens to us or to those close to us. This is particularly troublesome as we age and especially if we have a family history of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. Try Brain Yoga!
It’s never to soon to start taking better care of your brain. The brain, after all, is the most important and complex organ of the body. It controls everything that goes on, physically, mentally, emotionally.
Brain Facts: According to Piedmont Healthcare, the average adult human brain weighs three pounds. It has a texture like firm jelly and is made up of 75 percent water. The average person has 70,000 thoughts every day. Each time your heart beats, your arteries carry 20 to 25 percent of your blood to the brain. The harder you think, the more oxygen and fuel your brain uses from your blood – up to 50 percent. Every time you recall a memory or have a new thought, you create a connection in the brain. There are 100 billion neurons (nerve cells) in the brain, but they make up only 10 percent of the brain. These neurons branch out to 100 trillion-plus trigger points, forming what experts call a “neuron forest.” There are 100,000 miles of blood vessels in the brain. The distance around the world at the equator is 24,900 miles.
Lifestyle factors such as good nutrition, sleep quality, stress levels, smoking habits, alcohol and drug use, and exercise can either help or hinder brain functioning. It’s smart to wear a helmet to protect your head and brain. Good friendships and learning new things can have a positive effect. Yoga has much to offer. Its benefits extend well beyond gains in flexibility, strength, coordination, and increasing physical, mental and spiritual wellness. Yoga improves brain health.
Brain Yoga to the Rescue
Here are my suggestions for effectively improving your brain power – yoga style.
♥ Mudras / Meditation / Yoga Nidra ♥
- Mudras are yoga positions, gestures, and seals for your hands and fingers that facilitate health, healing, psychological balance and spiritual growth. They are effective, easy to learn, practical and powerful. Anyone can do them. Learn more about mudras here.
- Hakini Mudra is one of my favorite hand mudras. It’s good for the brain because both hemispheres of the brain are integrated and invigorated. Using this mudra throughout the day can help clear your mind. It boosts memory, concentration, and assists problem solving. Complete and full breathing is facilitated effortlessly, giving the brain the oxygen-rich blood it needs to perform optimally. It has a positive effect on the entire body by stimulating and harmonizing the first six energy centers (chakras). Learn how easy the Hakini Mudra is to do here. It takes no time at all.
- Meditation improves mental functioning. According to a study conducted at the University of Kentucky, subjects who took a late-afternoon test after meditating for 40 minutes had significantly better scores than those who fell asleep for the same period. Another study at Massachusetts General Hospital showed a beneficial thickening in the cerebral cortex that has responsibility for decision making, increased attention and improved memory. Increased activation in the left part of the frontal region was also demonstrated. This activity is associated with lower anxiety and a more positive emotional state. Learn more here.Here are a few meditation techniques to get you started.
- Mindfulness is the moment to moment awareness of inner and outer experience in the present time with a non-judgmental and non-evaluative stance. Research shows that a mindfulness practice helps develop all 9 functions of the Pre-Frontal Cortex.
- Kirtan Kriya Meditation – Sa Ta Na Ma: A research study by Dharma Singh Khalsa, MD shows Kirtan Kriya increased brain development for memory, concentration and focus using a simple 12-minute meditation and yoga mudras. The Sa Ta Na Ma meditation technique can stop the mental chatter, bringing about a clear mind. It’s calming too.
- Yoga Nidra is another highly effective method for brain-body integration. It improves memory and learning by producing specialized brain waves for maximum receptivity, increasing the ability to absorb, process and recall information.
The rotation of consciousness technique found on Yoga Nidra Essentials is especially effective. It’s simply done by mentally scanning the body using a specific order and duration based on the sensory-motor cortex, also called the homunculus. This creates a healthy synchronization of energy throughout the brain and body.
If you look closely at the diagram of the brain’s sensory-motor cortex below, you will notice that more area is devoted to certain places than to others. For instance, compare the relatively large amount of area dedicated to the hands and fingers with the small amount dedicated to the hips. Therefore, more time is intentionally spent scanning specific areas of the body than others during yoga nidra.
♥ Breathing / Pranayama ♥
Your brain needs blood and oxygen to think. Twenty to 25 percent of your blood is delivered to the brain with each heartbeat. Your brain needs up to 50 percent more oxygen the harder you think. It makes sense to oxygenate your blood supply and to use your full lung capacity by breathing deeply rather than shallowly. Follow these instructions to improve your breathing right now. Abdominal breathing produces increases in the “feel good” neurotransmitter serotonin as shown on EEGs. Alpha, theta, and delta brain waves also increase.
- Complete Yogic Breath: Dirgha Breathing for better respiration and brain waves
- Alternate Nostril Breathing / Nadi Shodhana creates a sense of physical, mental and emotional well-being. Here are complete instructions for alternate nostril breathing plus five breathing ratios to try.
♥ Postures / Sequences ♥
A well-rounded hatha yoga practice is ideal, especially done mindfully. Concentrate on postures that reduce physical tension to lower cortisol levels and improve circulation. Doing so helps clear the mind and calm the emotions. Postures that strengthen legs and improve balance are highly recommended. Scientists studied leg strength and cognitive skills in twins in a 2016 study published in Gerontology. The twin with stronger legs to start demonstrated better cognitive functioning by 18% 10 years later, “even when controlling for factors including fatty diets, high blood pressure, and shaky blood-sugar control.”
- Sequences such as the Sun Salute and Moon Salute
- Standing postures
- Gentle spinal twists
- Superbrain Yoga ® (with video) is a simple 3-minute technique to energize and recharge the brain. It can integrate and balance both brain hemispheres. In one study, an electroencephalograph (EEG) showed increased amplitude in the parieto-occipital region of the brain following the Superbrain Yoga. This indicates increased brain electrical activity following the exercise. It’s great for adults and children.
♥ Mental / Emotional Strategies ♥
Guided imagery is intentional and useful daydreaming that is multi-sensory (sights, sounds, smells, etc.) and practiced while in a relaxed state. It is used for relaxation, healing, increasing insight and intuition, making personal changes and for self-understanding. It primarily uses the mindbody connection. Start here.
- Gain from Guided Imagery & Relaxation and understand its benefits with how-to instructions
- Cultivate the Positive: Pratipaksha Bhavana is a simple meditation technique to improve your outlook and body chemistry
♥ More ♥
- Eye Exercises can benefit vision and the brain
- Sleep Solutions – Yoga Style to combat the negative impact of insomnia and sleep deprivation
- Multitasking is hazardous to one’s memory. Find out why and get solutions here
- Enjoy more brain power by having more creativity and beauty in your life
- Use the Best Yoga Mantras & Chants for clearing useless mental chatter, lifting energy, and serving as a shield against mental and emotional disturbances
♥ Books, Audios, Workshops, Training ♥
- Julie Lusk’s newest book, Yoga Nidra for Complete Relaxation & Stress Relief – Printed Book & Audio download is now available! Here it is in French and Italian. Spanish and Czech Republic editions coming soon.
- Julie’s current class schedule (greater Cincinnati area – Milford, Anderson, OH)
- Julie’s national and international workshop schedule
- Get Yoga Nidra Training & Certification
- Steves, C. J., Mehta, M. M., Jackson, S. H., & Spector, T. D. (n.d.). Kicking Back Cognitive Ageing: Leg Power Predicts Cognitive Ageing after Ten Years in Older Female Twins. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26551663
Julie Lusk, MEd, E-RYT 500, has more than 35 years of expertise in stress relief, yoga, relaxation training, guided imagery, and meditation as an international author, recording artist, and workshop leader. Julie is the author of Yoga Nidra for Complete Relaxation and Stress Relief, Yoga Meditations, two volumes of 30 Scripts for Relaxation, Imagery and Inner Healing, and Desktop Yoga®. Her audio downloads and CDs include Wholesome Relaxation, Power of Presence, Yoga Nidra Essentials, Blue Moon Rising, and many others. Learn more at WholesomeResources.com