Protecting the brain is an important part of our overall well-being and more people are finding yoga for brain health an effective route to take. It’s believed that over 20 million Americans practice yoga.
The brain is a muscle that requires exercise if it is going to function properly. Yoga poses for the brain are considered an effective form of exercise for brain functioning. As most people realize, stress and anxiety can cause brain malfunctions. Yoga can regulate the vagus nerve that deals with the body’s stress levels. Yoga for the brain helps facilitate good breathing patterns and can go a long way in calming the body, while also energizing the mind.
It’s important to practice yoga for brainpower on a regular basis. Research suggests that some yoga for brain health stimulates blood flow to the brain.
How Can Yoga Improve Brainpower?
Here’s what the latest studies are telling us about yoga poses for brain function:
Yoga encourages breath and movement
The brain uses 20 percent of the total oxygen in the human body and 20 percent of the blood circulating in the body. Through pranayama practice (yoga breathing), yoga can improve awareness of breath and the power of the lungs. Over time, the exercises can increase oxygen available to the brain. Yoga also encourages movement through asana (posture). Moving the body in different ways increases physical mobility and internal mobility of blood. This means you are increasing heart rate and blood flow to the brain.
Yoga promotes brain neurons
Neurons send nerve signals to and from the brain. The learning process sparks connections that are created between the neurons. Yoga pushes the mind to be more open and to learn more. Over time, yoga exercises strengthen new neurons and create new ways of thinking, which can decrease anxiety and depression.
Yoga encourages peacefulness
The average person has 50,000 to 70,000 thoughts each day, but a large percentage are negative. Slowing down and working on developing positive thoughts is really creating a peaceful mind, which can be really healthy.
Yoga teaches intuition
We all have a backup brain in our intestines and it contains about 100,000 neurons. Yoga helps this secondary brain by listening to the gut. While the “head brain” focuses on rationalizing, the “gut brain” simply trusts itself.
From a scientific perspective, yoga has been associated with the regulation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis and sympathetic nervous system. Research conducted by the Justice Resource Institute in Massachusetts shows that yoga can help regulate parts of the brain that have been affected by trauma.
Yoga Poses for Brainpower
Yoga experts say that there are just over 80 basic yoga poses, but when it comes to yoga poses for memory or brainpower, there are certain poses that seem to be particularly effective.
Padmasana or Lotus Pose
This is a cross-legged sitting pose in which the feet are placed on the opposite thighs. From a sitting position on the floor, you place one foot on top of the opposite thigh with its sole facing upward and the heal close to the abdomen. The other foot is lifted and placed on the opposite thigh in a symmetrical fashion. The knees maintain contact with the ground while the torso is in balance and alignment. Hands can rest on the knees with the arms relaxed and elbows slightly bent. This is considered a good morning pose to do for five minutes. It allows for a nice stretch of the ankles, knees, and hips and improves posture while calming the brain. It is also said to increase awareness.
Vajrasan or Diamond Pose
Some call this the kneeling exercise because it involves folding up the legs backwards, so you are sitting on your legs. Your spine, neck, and head are straight. Your palms rest on your lap with elbows in a straight line. Look in front of you as you inhale and exhale. This pose can be done for five to seven minutes. The theory is that this yoga pose can help your body become as strong as a diamond. It should be practiced following a meal. It is supposed to aid in digestion and increase blood circulation.
Ardha Matsyendrasana or Half Spinal Twist Pose
Named after the sage Matsyendranath, there are different variations of the half spinal twist pose. This pose helps relieve stiffness; it helps with digestion and promotes good circulation throughout the body. You sit with legs stretched out then bend your left leg so that the heel of the left foot lies next to the right hip. Place the right leg next to the left knee by taking it over the knee. Twist your waist, neck, and shoulders towards the right and look over your right shoulder. You can place your right hand behind you and the left hand on the right knee and hold the pose for 30 to 60 seconds while you breathe slowly. Relax and repeat on the other side.
Paschimottanasana or Seated Forward Bend
This is a classic Hatha Yoga Pose. It is considered a good pose for relieving mild depression and stress. It can reduce headaches, fatigue, and insomnia, as well as improve high blood pressure. You sit on the floor for this pose and press your thighs into the ground then lean forward from the hip joints. You can grab the sides of your feet with your hands but make sure your elbows are straight. As you bend forward you should feel your stomach touching your thighs. Stay fully stretched in this pose for one to three minutes before rising.
Padahastasan or Standing Forward Bend
The padahastasana is a pose that is supposed to energize the nervous system and increase blood supply to the brain. With this pose, you stand straight with your feet together. Lift your arm up over your head so that they are touching the ears. The next step is to bend down at the hips and reach your feet. Your torso and head should be hugging your thighs while your hands are placed on either side of your feet.
Balasana or Child’s Pose
This popular yoga pose helps reduce tension, stress and anxiety. You kneel on the floor. Touch your big toes together and sit on your heels. You then separate your knees about hip-width apart. Lay your torso down between your thighs. Lengthen your tailbone away from the back of your pelvis as you lift the base of your skull away from the back of your neck. You can lay your hands alongside your torso with palms facing up. This is a resting pose that you can maintain for anywhere from 30 seconds to a few minutes.
Tadasana or Mountain Pose
A simple standing pose that helps you focus on your mind and breathing can help with headaches and insomnia. This pose can help with sleep so that the brain is more alert. You stand with your feet together and arms by your sides. Roll your shoulders back and keep your chin parallel to the ground. The top of your head should spiral up to the ceiling as if you are lengthening your spine. Breathe in and out with a “ha” sound as you exhale.
Bhramari Pranayama or Bee Breath
With this pose you sit on the floor with your legs crossed and close your eyes as you breathe deeply then close your ear-flaps with your thumbs. Put your index fingers above your eyebrows and rest the other fingers over your eyes. Apply gentle pressure to the sides of your nose. Focus attention of the area just above your eyebrows. Breathe out slowly through the nose and make the humming sound of “Om”. Repeat this 5 times. Bee Breath relaxes the mind and relieves stress. It is also said to help with high blood pressure, heart problems, migraines, tension and concentration.
Savasana or Corpse Pose
Without any props, lay flat on your back for this pose. Close your eyes. Keep your legs apart and relax your feet and knees, while toes face to the sides. Your arms are at your sides but spread a little bit apart from your body while your palms are open and facing upward. Take your attention to different parts of your body one by one and slowly relax. The incoming breath should energize the body and the outgoing breath should relax you. Surrender your body to the floor but try not to fall asleep. This exercise should take anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes. The Corpse Pose is deeply meditative, which may help repair cells and relieve stress. Many people call it “rejuvenating”. It can reduce anxiety, blood pressure, and insomnia.
While these yoga poses for the brain provide multiple benefits, they don’t replace some of the treatments that people are already taking for serious neurological conditions. If you are being treated for any issue involving brain function, yoga is often considered a complimentary treatment and should be discussed with a healthcare provider.
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