We all realize that yoga asana can make us more limber and even stronger. We might even turn to yoga asana to lose weight or
reduce stress, but did you also know that yoga asana can help you to be smarter? It seems impossible, but there are several asana that increase blood flow to the brain and help to boost IQ scores. There have even been studies that point to yoga asana’s efficacy in increasing memory retention and in stabilizing focus and concentration, so why not try the following three simple yoga asana to help you boost your brain power?
The Yoga Asana of All Limbs
Salamba Sarvangasana or Supported Shoulderstand
This yoga asana comes from the Sanskrit words, ‘salamba’ meaning ‘with support’, ‘sarva’ which translates to ‘all’, ‘anga’ meaning ‘limb’, and ‘asana’ meaning ‘posture’. It is a perfect posture for those who are not yet able to practice Niralamba Sarvangasana (Unsupported Shoulderstand) easily. The yoga asana is often used in therapeutic or restorative yoga classes as a means to calm the mind without over-straining the neck and shoulder muscles. Though the yoga asana is supported, it gives all the same benefits as a Sarvangasana including a mind with more equilibrium, and less stress. This yoga asana increases the amount of blood flow to the pineal and hypothalamus glands (both located in the brain), increasing happy hormones such as Dopamine and Seratonin. Try practicing Salamba Sarvangasana correctly, and even advanced students can receive benefits when they don’t want to practice the more vigorous yoga asana of a full shoulderstand.
To practice this yoga asana you will need a yoga blanket or a flat pillow that is a few inches thick. It should be folded to be at least a few feet long in order to support the whole upper back and neck. Lie down on the blanket so that the shoulders are parallel to the outer edges of the folds.
The entire head, neck and shoulders should rest on the blanket. Let your arms rest alongside the torso with the palms of the hands facing down. Bend the knees and allow the heels to rest close to the buttocks. As you take a deep breath in and exhale in this yoga asana, press the arms and feet into the floor and bring the thighs closer to the torso. From here lift the pelvis from the floor and bring the buttocks toward the ceiling in alignment with the shoulders. The hips should stack right on top of the shoulder if possible so that the bones of the spine line up like the rungs of a ladder.
In order to keep this spinal alignment, start by placing the palms of the hands at the hip bones. You are now in Inverted Pose. In order to turn this yoga asanainto Supported Shoulderstand, begin to walk the hands up the spine, bringing them to the back of the rib cage, and moving them toward the floor. As you do so, lift the feet toward the ceiling, the core muscles gently inward and upward, and your pelvis and buttocks up toward the ceiling. You can gently wiggle the shoulders underneath the spine a bit to free the neck muscles and allow a full jalandhar bhanda ( Chin Lock) to come into use by bringing the chin right against the chest (sternum) in this yoga asana. Also, press the tops of the shoulders into the floor and allow the throat and back neck to stay soft. With every exhale, imagine lifting from the upper spine to the tips of the toes, bringing all parts of the body that are not on the floor into the sky. Beginning students can hold this yoga asanafor approximately 15 to 30 seconds to start and more advanced practitioners can hold the pose for up to tow minutes or more.
To release this yoga asana, take a deep breath and allow the knees to bend on an exhale. Slowly roll down through the spine until you are in a supine position on the floor once again. It is recommended to practice Matsyasana or Fish Pose after the release of this yoga asana to be sure to articulate the small bones of the cervical spine in the opposite direction that you just did in supported shoulderstand. You should feel peaceful and relaxed after practicing this yoga asana and definitely more focused.
Adho Mukha Svanasana or Downward Facing Dog
This yoga asana is not only good for boosting mental power but is also great for reducing mild depression. Begin on all fours, with your knee sunder your hips and hands under your shoulders. Spread your fingers wide on the mat. Your hands should be shoulder-length width apart in this yoga asana. Lift your knees off the floor and send your buttocks into the sky. Your back should feel open and free, and blood should begin flowing forward your head, but make sure not to let your shoulders shrug into your ears. Lift them, instead, toward your buttocks. In this yoga asana you should feel relaxed at all times.
Another point about Downward Facing dog yoga asana is that your body should resemble an upside down ‘V’ shape. Try not to arch the spine, but make it flat and long, stretching from the crown of the head to the tip of the tailbone. Your heels should start slightly off the ground, so if your stance is too narrow, and your heels easily touch the floor, you may want to bring your hands and feet slightly further apart. Push the heels towards the earth and breath deeply into the belly and diaphragm, encouraging oxygen to flow to the brain. In this yoga asana, keep your abdominals engaged, and if your neck feels tight you can glance toward your navel to stretch it out. Release this yoga asana by taking your knees back to the floor and sitting back into child’s pose.
Balasana or Child’s Pose
Take It Easy in This Yoga Asana
The Child’s Pose is a yoga asana you can practice all the time. There are no counter indications for it, except if you have knee trouble, in which case, you can fold blankets or pillows and place them under the knees. This yoga asana also reduces tension and anxiety and encourages blood flow that is freed along the spinal column to travel to the brain. It stretches out the sacrum and entire spine and gives you a sense of calm and introspection. The yoga asana is practiced by coming to all fours and simply sitting back as if in fetal position, but on your knees instead of on your side. You will be curled up in a rainbow-like ball, allowing your head and hips to sink heavy toward the ground. This yoga asana greatly enhances a calm mental attitude.