by Angie Newson
A Yoga and Pilates Expert
We all know Suduko and crosswords can help boost our brain power, improving our focus and memory and enhancing our concentration, but did you know practising yoga for just 20 minutes a day can do wonders for our brain too? A recent study in the Journal of Physical Activity and Health showed that 20 minutes of being on the mat can in fact be better for our brains than jogging like crazy on a treadmill for 20 minutes. In cognitive tests, those who did yoga for this period performed faster and more correctly than the sweaty bunch.
Today we move through a busy world that's full of technology, air pollution, noise and 'stuff' that taking time out may need to be scheduled in the diary, so even if there isn't time to get to class, then this 20 minutes of daily practice will set you on the path to clarity. Yoga focuses on our breathing and staying in the moment. The flow of movement with inner grace and awareness can bring peace and, along with this quietness comes calm and mental awareness. The asanas, Pranayama and the various meditation techniques stimulate the blood supply to the brain facilitating the processing of sensory information, improving concentration and sharpening the static and the dynamic aspects of our memory. So yoga not only strengthens our body but our minds as well and it keeps our brains healthy.
Sirsasana, headstand, known as the king of poses, is very beneficial for brain health as freshly oxygenated blood is sent to the head reducing anxiety and stress bringing about clarity of thought and willpower. Sarvagasana, shoulderstand, the queen (or mother) of all poses, again sends freshly oxygenated blood to the brain sedating the nervous system, and poses such as Uttanasana, standing forward fold, and Pachimottonasana, seated forward fold, reduces fatigue, calms the mind and improves concentration.
The colon, which is known as the second brain, also needs to be healthy, so along with your daily yoga practice, a well-balanced and nourishing diet will boost brain power as well as aiding smooth digestion. Eating lots of green leafy vegetables and wholegrains - organic when you can - and foods that contain Omega-3 fatty acids like sardines and salmon, walnuts and flaxseeds helps demist any brain fog as well as keeping the colon healthy. Ginkgo Biloba improves circulation and the flow of oxygen to the brain, enhances good memory and may even prevent dementia. Studies of turmeric and coconut oil have shown to slow down the debilitating process of Alzeihmer's. Remember to always keep well-hydrated, and drinking lots of water with organic lemons will help flush out toxins so you feel fresh and clear, not only in your digestive tract but your mind as well.