It’s embarrassing I can’t remember most of the names in class. Sometimes it’s gone after a second. It’s scary when I can’t remember. It seems my memory is unreasonably bad. I wonder if I can do something to improve my memory. I am reading a book about brain power and I am studying an unit relating to memory. It’s encouraging. I can do something for that through yoga.
1. Activate different parts of the brain
When we can activate different parts of the brain at the same time, it helps our memory. For example, when you hear the cues of the yoga poses, it is a verbal task of your brain activating the left temporal cortex. When you see the movements of the yoga teacher, it is a visual task activating the occipital and parietal cortex. When we complete both tasks at the same time, regions of the prefrontal cortex become active. We are able to hold the information temporarily in mind. We hold and then manipulate information, such as repetition, grouping things together, etc. Then we can bring it to our long-term memory. I know why I can’t remember names, because I am not familiar with Aussie names (including so many different cultures). I start remembering names when I hear of it from greeting, then read it from attendance sheet and meet the student a few times.
2. Stretch the mind
Yoga (exercise) stimulates the growth of new neurons, especially in and around your hippocampus, which plays a key role in your memory. It’s the quantity and quality of neuron connections that appears to determine your mental performance. Brain development is ongoing throughout adult life. I’ve realized my brain is actually still developing, not just declining, and I am so happy. All the links between your hippocampus and all the other parts of your brain require the formation of many new neural pathways. If these many new neural pathways are then used repeatedly, then the initial connections between the neurons become much stronger. Physical and mental exercise is important to build new neurons. When we take new information, it helps makes connections between neurons for better memory. There are many levels to stretch, sink, strengthen, relax, inhale, exhale,…on the mat. Travelling to the heart through yoga keeps bringing me new experiences and stretching the mind.
3. Create space in mind
We have 50,000 thoughts a day. When we have too much information in mind, we can’t retrieve the information from the long-term memory. Yoga helps give yourself time to slow down, stay away from distractions and focus on yourself (body, mind and breath). It helps create space in mind and take new information. Are you able to stop thinking something you don’t want to think of, say the person annoying you? Do you have the mental strength to direct your mind? When emotions run over your head, change your posture, or change the scenery, or start practicing yoga straight away. That’s how we create space for the mind. Also, don’t feel bad when you forget things. Forgetting is one of the 7 sins of memory according to psychologist Daniel Schacter. It’s important to forget so we have space in mind. In adult life, we do not only learn, but also un-learn, then re-learn.
If we remember everything, our mind is full of unnecessary information. It’s important to forget so we have space. The only thing is we need to pay some effort to keep us well. Activate different parts of the brain and stretch the mind. If we don’t use it, we will lose it.
I am teaching the following classes.
Yoga for grownups
Chair yoga for seniors
Burton, L., Westen, D., & Kowalski, R. (2015). Psychology (4th ed.,). Brisbane,
Australia: John Wiley & Sons.
Wootton, S., Horne, T., (2015). Build your brain power. Hodder Education
Rachel is the founder of VAI YOGA and an occupational therapist. Her yoga teaching focuses on blending two powerful healings, yoga and occupational therapy solutions, to help people face practical aspects of life.