Brain Fitness and Yoga
The more complex the yoga posture, the more complex the synaptic connections. Just as yoga postures and exercises reverse the decaying process of the muscles, almost in a similar way they slow or reverse the process of brain’s physical decay. Yoga influences the brain on numerous ways. Yoga postures releases a plethora of hormones, all of which participate in aiding and providing a nourishing environment for the growth of brain cells. Most yoga postures increases heart rate, which pumps more oxygen to the brain.
During yoga and stretching process we feel good as we get our blood pumping in our brain. Normally, toxic levels of stress erode the connections between billions of nerve cells in the brain. Conversely, yoga exercises set free a cascade of neurochemicals and growth factors that can reverse this process. It turns out that moving our muscles produces proteins that travel through the bloodstream and into the brain, where they play pivotal roles in the mechanisms of our highest thinking processes.
When you complete a yoga posture, the brain and its many cortices begins to reorganize and rewire it. Over time, this circuit becomes better and better refined, making the transmission of the neural message more efficient and making you better at the new task.
How Yoga and Meditation Improve BDNF?
What IS BDNF? BDNF stands for Brain Derived Neurotropihc Factor. It is a cascade of proteins, produced in the brain, which promotes neuron growth and saves neurons from dying. It is directly linked with our thoughts, emotions and movements. It acts not only to generate new neurons, but protects the existing neurons and promotes synaptic plasticity in the brain.
At the cellular level, it is possible that the mild stress generated by yoga postures and breathing exercise stimulates the activities of the hippocampus neurons and generates BDNF. Yoga also aids the release of a plethora of hormones, all of which participate in helping and providing a nourishing environment for the growth of the brain cells.
Acetylcholine and dopamine are the two important neurotransmitters produced during vipassana (mindfulness) meditation. These two neurochemicals prompt the growth of new nerve cells in the dentate gyrus, and create conditions under which the brain can change its structures and functions. Concentration, focus and attention stimulate the nucleus basalis to produce acetylcholine, which in turn instructs the brain to repair the memories that are damaged. Soft mental challenges yield a sense of satisfaction or reward, which causes the brain to produce dopamine, the second ingredient required for plastic change in the brain. These two neurotransmitters assist the brain to maintain an intimate and healthy relationship between body, mind, muscles and memory.
Meditation helps us to solve the unresolved issues of our subconscious mind. If the issues of the subconscious mind are not resolved, they will come back in the dreams or in the form of illness. Yoga along with vipassana meditation activates the healing energy, BDNF, in the deeper levels of the brain and eliminates the past impressions and negative habit patterns. In the book, ‘Yoga and Vipassana: An Integrated Lifestyle’, Dr. Amit Ray explained several meditation and yoga techniques which stimulate the neural growth process.
Many of our day to day activities excite neural growth and help us stay mentally fit; – For example, studying a new language, tackling puzzles and brain teasers, learning a new skill etc. helps brain fitness. But such minor changes aren’t as successful as that produced by a carefully designed brain training exercises like yoga and vipassana meditation.
Brain Fitness for Kids and Students
Most of the brain’s cells are formed before birth, but most of the connections among cells are made during infancy and early childhood. Early experience and interaction with the environment are most critical in a child’s brain development. A 3-year-old toddler’s brain is twice as active as an adult’s brain. Almost 90 percent of a child’s brain is developed by the age 5. An infant’s mind is primed for learning, but it needs early experiences to wire the neural circuits of the brain that facilitate learning. When students are exposed to light yoga exercises early in their lives, it definitely has a positive impact on their brain growth. Also, the teen age is a time for massive growth.
Like muscles our brain is a use-it-or-lose-it organ. Meditation and yoga postures help to integrate different regions of the brain in youngsters that stimulates brain fitness. The youth that are exposed to yoga and meditation in their early age, are less prone to depression or other side-effects of the modern hectic lifestyle. With the improvement of brain fitness the issues such as learning disability, behavioral disorders, and poor coordination or memory problems can also be overcome. Yoga and meditations are the easiest ways of improving brain fitness.