So 20 minutes of a mindful movement practice can make your brain faster and sharper?
That’s what researchers from the University of Illinois at Champaigne Urbana proved in a recent study
They compared the 20 minute yoga session to a 20 minute aerobic walk / run and the yoga proved to be significantly better at improving working memory and the ability to stay focused and block out distraction. These are so called “executive functions” of the brain.
Neha Gothe, the lead investigator says many factors can be responsible for the improved brain function. “Enhanced self-awareness that comes with meditational exercises is just one of the possible mechanisms. Besides, meditation and breathing exercises are known to reduce anxiety and stress, which in turn can improve scores on some cognitive tests,” she said.
Here are 5 reasons I believe ALL contribute to this improvement:
1. Spinal movement is the windmill that powers the brain.
This is a quote from brain researcher and Nobel Prize winner, Roger Sperry. Chiropractors have known this for years. Your brain is dependent on good spinal movement in order to fire on all cylinders! When you’re a slug and sit or lay around all day, cognition suffers.
Movement is INPUT for the brain, also called “afferance”. And guess what good functional afferance blocks pain, relaxes tight muscles, and improves coordination to the brain. That’s what happens when stuck or blocked joints get moving again and explains a lot of the “side benefits” of chiropractic and a healthy mindful movement practice!
2. You’re not wasting all your brain energy fighting gravity
Going back to Dr. Sperry, he discovered that 90% of your brain power is spent relating your physical body to the gravitational field. He also said that the more distorted a person is, the less brain power is available for thinking, metabolism, and healing.
Since yoga is all about posture and keeping yourself in good alignment, then you’ve got more brain capacity for thinking properly. Hence better scores on the cognitive tests.
3. Stress reduction = better blood flow to the “processing area” of your brain
Mindfulness movement meditation has a long history of proving measurable stress reduction. And when you are more present and not thinking about the future and the past, the nervous system can relax.
When this “relaxation response” happens, blood then more easily flows to the higher brain centers for naturally easy cognition instead of rushing to the lower centers that are built for fight or flight.
4. Brain “Attention Center” is activated through intense focus
Norman Doidge’s excellent book, “The Brain That Changes Itself” really drives home this important point.
Placing focus and attention on a task like breathing and movement “flips the switch” on the part of the brain (nucleus basalis) responsible for making a clear “engram” into the brain.
“Opening up the learning center” gets the mind “ripe” for effective learning and processing. Practicing intense focus on other new tasks like learning a new dance or learning a new language can also open up this key brain area.
So in addition to focusing on nurturing movement, learn something NEW every day!
5. Good posture quiets a noisy brain
This one is my favorite and I’ve talked about it a lot in previous video posts. I refer to it as the “BUZZ”.
Your brain is constantly getting messages from your body…and your joint positions have a LOT to say.
If your joints are in a stressful position (think head poked forward at a computer screen with shoulders rounded forward and upper back hunched) then they are sending a noisy “BUZZZZ” to your brain. It is also referred to as the “central excitatory state” (CES).
When your brain is buzzing in this state, then you switch into “stress physiology”. And remember what happens to brain blood flow when you’re under stress? That’s right, it goes to your lower brain to help you run away from danger. Now your higher processing centers are running on empty!
The solution, of course is creating what’s called “joint centration”, which puts your joints in the most optimal alignment to be able to bear the most load with the least amount of energy spent.
That’s what I’ve been teaching for years here on my free blog and in my comprehensive Reverse Crossed Posture Syndrome Now! online course .
And that’s what Yoga helps you reawaken if your are fortunate to have a good teacher that knows how to keep you safe.
When the “BUZZ” is quieted, then you can think more clearly and with more focus!
In my own clinical trial after having 30 people go through a circuit of exercises to reverse Crossed Posture Syndrome (if you don’t know what CPS is then click here for more info, self tests, and fundamental exercises to reverse it), one of the biggest changes on the before and after medical symptoms questionnaire where in the “mind” area.
The ultimate trick is to develop a DAILY MOVEMENT PRACTICE that is just as important as brushing your teeth. Not only will you have less pain and more energy, but you’ll have a sharper brain, too!
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