Improve Your Memory the Yoga Way

By Claire Diab and Dennis Boyle

Our brains are intricate and complex, comprised of a right and left hemisphere, grey matter, neurons, synapses, and so much more. Although scientists have made groundbreaking developments in neurology, many mysteries still exist about the inner workings of our minds. It is widely known now that exercise is essential not only for the human body but for the brain as well. If we fail to challenge our minds, through thinking critically, reading a book, or playing Sudoku, for example, we begin to lose our brain cells. The number one culprit for exacerbating this loss of brain cells is stress.

As firefighters, stress management is important for the nature of your job. You are exposed to highly stressful situations much more frequently than the average worker. If even small amounts of stress linger inside the body, they can lead to memory loss and forgetfulness. If the stress becomes more chronic, it could lead to diseases such as Alzheimer’s.

A great way to manage this stress and promote healthy brain function is yoga.  A recent study from the University from Illinois found, “… immediately after doing yoga …participants showed significant improvement on cognitive tests evaluating their reaction times, accuracy and memory. Surprisingly, there were no significant improvements from aerobic exercise directly afterwards.”

The unique combination of breathing, movement, and meditation within yoga allows stress to subside and promotes a feeling of peacefulness and clarity.  After you complete your next yoga routine, take a moment and see if you can notice the difference in your mind. Are you able to recollect everything that has happened that day? What about the day before? With a regular yoga and meditation practice, you will no longer have those moments of forgetting where you left your keys or what time your appointment is scheduled for.

Bridge Pose is a great pose for promoting oxygenation to the brain. Alternate Nostril Breathing helps to calm and quiet the mind.

 

Bridge Pose

  • Lying down, bend both knees with your feet flat on the floor. Breathe in and out 6-9 times. (Make sure ankles are under the knees.)
  • Exhaling, lift your hips toward the sky. Interlace your fingers underneath your gluteus, palms toward each other. Keep your head on your mat with your chin toward your belly. Breathe deeply 6-9 breaths.
  • Lower your hips down slowly and gently. Bring your knees toward your chest, rocking right and left, breathing in and out.
  • Repeat this sequence 2-3 times.

 

Benefits

  • Increases blood flow and oxygen to the brain and face.
  • Nourishes and massages the liver and kidneys.
  • Nourishes your thyroid.

Safety Tips

  • If your back bothers you, just rest with your knees to your chest, rocking right and left.
  • Avoid this pose if you have back or knee pain.

 

 

Alternate Nostril Breathing

  • Connect the middle and index finger, and slide your hand above the brow bone. You can rest your elbow on the other arm.
  • Use the thumb to close your right nostril and the fourth and fifth finger together to close your left nostril.
  • Start by Inhaling through the left nostril.
  • Hold the breath, closing off both nostrils.
  • Exhale through the right nostril, keeping the left nostril closed.
  • Inhale through the right nostril.
  • Hold the breath, closing off both nostrils.
  • Exhale through the left nostril, keeping the right nostril closed.

 

Notes

  • Alternate Nostril Breathing is performed with a smooth, steady, and subtle breath.
  • Relax into the rhythm and flow of the breath, without forcing or straining.

 

 

 

Claire Diab is an internationally recognized Yoga therapist. She is the director of the Yoga Program for the Chopra Center founded by Dr. Deepak Chopra and Dr. David Simon. She is an adjunct professor of Asian Studies at Seton Hall University. She is the author of several books and DVDs on Yoga including “Yoga For Firefighters.”

 

Dennis Boyle is a retired fire director and acting chief with the West Orange (NJ) Fire Department. He was the recipient of the 1999 New Jersey Deputy Fire Chiefs “Fire Officer of the Year” award.

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